This is going to be a bit of a different post than my usual rambling updates about life.
Today in one of my fitness groups, I mentioned that I think social media has created women who post online for validation, especially those who were teens after Facebook and Instagram became big (and iPhones made it easy to post everything immediately to social media).
Somebody called me mean and jealous because it was on a comment somebody left on a photo of a girl who consistently posts her progress (and she is pretty and fit).
Now- a lot of you who have been long-time readers know this about me, but let me take a trip into the past for a few minutes.
Back when I was 20, my boyfriend that I was so in love with broke up with me. I was emotionally unstable already and quite a disaster mentally, but break ups always threw me for a huge loop. I already had tons of suicidal thoughts in my late teens/very early twenties, but break ups had me convinced that life wasn’t worth living.
So when my ex started dating a girl who loved to party, I decided I needed to love to party. Of course, I knew the new girl loved to party because this was right around the time that Facebook was starting to boom, so this girl had tons of drunken/fun photos of her. So I did that too. But then they fizzled out and my ex found Kristine (yep, that’s really her name- and she actually popped up on my IG news feed and is a fitness pro now). Then I needed to be just like her because that was clearly what men wanted. Long blonde hair, fitness obsessed, partier, lots of make up.
And so that’s what I strived for. To be like Kristine. Again, I saw photos of her so I knew what she looked liked and dressed like.
So everything I bought, I literally thought, “Would Kristine wear this?” I bought hot pink heels and wore them because Kristine had them. I was so annoyed when my friends laughed at me because this was the new me! The girl who loved pink heels! Hello, THAT IS ME NOW! I grew my hair out and started wearing more make up. I kept up with the party photos. I wore revealing clothes like Kristine.
I wasn’t happy with myself at all. I thought I was unloveable, because I had been broken up with twice in a row by people that I loved so much. So I just did everything I could to be like somebody else and tried so hard to convince others that this was just the new me.
Thankfully, I got into fitness (12 years ago now) because Kristine was into fitness. Since guys (/my ex) liked fit girls, then I needed to be fit too. After time away during a deployment and actually getting into fitness, I found myself. And over the years, I have ended up being pretty stable mentally and now I absolutely know my own worth (flat shoes, jeans, v-necks and all!).
But… Here’s the thing… Young women have now grown up with social media and with the instant gratification of posting and receiving likes. I’m sure some can do it seamlessly and remain confident, but most of the women? I don’t think so. I even have friends now, in their 30s, who say that social media is hard for them because they play the comparison game. So can you imagine if you were literally raised playing that comparison game? Teens are pretty emotionally disastrous and extremely easily influenced by peer pressure, so how detrimental is it to be exposed to social media during that time? I literally cannot imagine. I can’t tell you how many teens in the pediatric ER we had come in for suicidal ideation and nearly every one of them mentioned social media. And had social media been as prevalent in my teens as it is now, I don’t know that I would have made it out alive- as dramatic as that sounds.
So when women constantly post photos of themselves doing that butt pose or showing off their boobs or belly or other “sexy” parts, is it really because they are confident? Some, absolutely. I know some women are truly proud of their progress and share! Some are selling products and that is part of their business! Some do it to be motivational. I know there are plenty of reasons to post those photos…
But to act like I’m mean or jealous because I bring this up as a possibility is sad. I’m not mean. I’m not jealous. I mean, not to toot my own horn, but I’ve got a pretty banging body for a 32 year old (and I feel like the sexiest woman ever at 19 weeks pregnant- not even kidding). And I’ve created a pretty awesome life for myself so no… I’m definitely not jealous of women who post their physical progress online.
I mentioned the need for validation via social media because I’ve been there. When I was trying to show the whole world that I was this new woman who wore make up and revealing clothes and hot pink heels, I broadcasted it on social media. I posted my “fun” life all over because I needed everybody to know how much fun I was having and social media was the way to show it! I wasn’t really having fun if I didn’t document it online, was I?! (I’ve since deleted all of those photos because quite frankly, they were embarrassing and I wouldn’t want to portray myself that way anymore.)
I think women need to dig deep and figure out what their motivation is. Is it that you’re insecure? Do you need the validation? Are you finding your worth in the feedback? There have been studies showing that social media can light up the same parts of your brain that cocaine does. Think about that! Maybe you are genuinely just proud of your progress, or maybe you’re proud in the same way that the new me wore hot pink heels (as in, you’re going to cling to the lie that you’re proud because it’s easier than just accepting that you’re actually insecure).
I’ve been there. I’ve needed social media to show me girls I needed to be just like. I needed to be somebody more worthy than the person I was. And plenty of women today are seeking their worth from social media. Just because you were insecure and not fit in the past, doesn’t mean you can’t be insecure and fit now. But nobody is giving the chubby girls validation online- they’re only loving the fitness posts and feeding that need for validation for the original poster.
I know social media is a highlight reel of our lives. If you look at my Instagram, most of it is pretty visually appealing. Yep, I still fight with my husband and some days I lay on the couch because I feel so down. I don’t really post about that because I don’t care to air my dirty laundry, especially because my life is truly good. But I don’t use social media for validation or to prove anything to myself. Somebody else’s highlight reel doesn’t make me feel bad about my life, and I definitely don’t post for likes or to feed my worth. I have felt content with my own life despite social media for years, but it took a long time to get there. I say these things because if you are using social media for validation, it is so worth it to recognize that and move on from that so you can actually be truly happy in your own life.