A 5 Minute Read
The influence of social media on our self-esteem by Carrie Jones, MA, LPC
It is pretty likely that many of you found the PLT Nutrition & Fitness group through social media. I know I did. I creeped on a few Cross Fit and weightlifting athletes on Facebook and Insta, from there I experimented with a few other online nutrition programs and even tele-coached with a well-known athlete from Texas. Late last year I stumbled across PLT, and boy am I forever grateful I did. No one else out there rises to this level. NO ONE. The positivity in this community is infectious…complete strangers love on and support one another.
Our world needs more of this…
However my stumbling into PLT resulted from years of trying to lose weight, get fit and “feel good about myself in my own skin”. I lost days and weeks and years scrolling social media and being focused on a number on a scale, someone else’s weight loss progress and what their abs look like, what products they were or weren’t using. I fell for fads and lose weight quick schemes. I have been a group fitness instructor since I was 19 (my hobby profession) and spent years comparing myself to other instructors, trainers, exercise methods and even hating on Cross Fit to now being completely obsessed with it (in a good way).
I was nervous, anxious, depressed and distracted. Most of this was fueled by messages on social media.
This loss of time and obsession with “what everyone else is doing”, not to mention my mood instability, caused me to step back and really look at what was happening to my relationships and in my life. I started to research a bit into social media and its effects on our well-being, particularly our emotional well-being. The School Counselor/therapist (my real profession) in me began to find some staggering statistics.
We are now referred to as “The Anxious Generation”. Why? Because of technology and our inability to form quality relationships with others. We are lacking love, respect, and human contact. We are inundated by social media messages telling us we need to have more, do more and be more. 40 million people in the US alone are diagnosed with some type of anxiety disorder. This increase is not due to something in the water or food or genetic malformations. It is because of our constant need to check our phones and see what Suzie is doing and how perfect her house is, how much weight she has lost, her new outfit and how successful her kids are…
All while not realizing that Suzie is probably suffering too.
See, the images we see are just that…images. They are not always real. They are open to interpretation. And most of the time people are only posting the good stuff. So all we see is the good stuff and our brains are hard wired in a way that when we see these things over and over again, we begin to believe that no one else has any bad stuff. Then I think about our kids and how all this affects them. Their brains (specifically the prefrontal cortex) are not fully developed and reason goes right out the window with them, so how do they handle these messages? Well, for the 8% of children diagnosed with anxiety, most develop symptoms before age 21, 1 in 5 college students have anxiety (diagnosed or undiagnosed)
Because of the messages they are getting, most kids tell me that looking at other peoples stories, makes them feel they can never live up or be good enough.
So how do we cope with all the messages we are getting? We need to use what we learn from THIS group every day: eat right, drink your water and exercise. Exercise itself is actually a behavioral intervention used to treat anxiety and depression, and it also helps to release the “feel good” endorphins in our brains. Additionally, it helps to take our mind off of our worries while we are moving. We need to love the number on the scale RIGHT NOW. We need to appreciate how far we ran or how much weight we lifted today even if it was not our best or as heavy as someone else. We need to appreciate the journey of our own progress and get real: with ourselves and with our friends, family and loved ones. We need to talk to the people in our lives in real time and with a loving heart. If that is not enough, seeking our professional help is okay. Finding a good therapist is worth its weight in gold.
Teddy Roosevelt said “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
We need to put our devices down and separate ourselves from social media and stop comparing our lives to those of others. One of the first things I did to separate myself was track my usage (like my food) and reduced my number of minutes by 5 minutes each day until I had a reasonable amount of time. It was a struggle at first, but I was able to re-connect with my husband and children in those extra minutes every day. And in those precious minutes, I began to realize that my life was better than those I was watching. I got real, I stopped comparing myself to everyone else and started to love who and what I am.