FaceBreaks and the Comparison Trap

I’m signing back on after a week-long “FaceBreak.”  I realized recently how toxic social media was getting for me so I just decided to get rid of the worst of it (FB) and spend less time on the rest of it (IG). I’ve taken many FaceBreaks in my decade-long relationships with social media channels and I’ll be the first to tell anyone just how good they are for your soul.

I have a tendency of falling into the proverbial “comparison trap” on social media.  It’s no secret that people present what they want to, and can even create who they want to be on social.  But this heightened sense of “self” on social has often created a heightened “self-focus” for me.  While self-focus, or awareness of your own being, feelings, and such isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it can spiral into a negative dissatisfaction with yourself.  Social media has often been a bolster of exactly this for many of us.

In the past, this has manifested in several different forms for me… And perhaps I’m more susceptible to this comparison trap with a history of mental health challenges.  Depression and anxiety, peppered with a bit of PTSD that rears its head every now and then create a vulnerability that makes it very easy to begin that slippery slope into negative self-talk/focus.  While it’s often hard for me to understand, it’s even harder for me to explain to others – but hopefully, this resonates with someone.

I recently shared that our family is growing and I’m due to have my second child in January 2019. My first born, total adventure buddy Landon, is a brilliant eleven-year-old boy from my first “marriage” (and I use that term loosely as it took longer for us to get divorced than our marriage lasted).  I remarried four years ago and my husband has been a pivotal role-model for Landon and a solid support system for our family so I’m beyond blessed and excited to enter this new phase in our relationship.  We’ve been through so much, with plenty of ups and downs, and everything in between.  Chad has seen the ugliest sides of my mental health journey and remains a steadfast rock when I feel like I’m crumbling.

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In case you missed it…

Along with Chad’s support, I’ve often used and relied on physical activity (running, yoga, weight lifting, etc) as therapy.  This concept is not unique, exercise as medicine has long been a therapeutic tool and ask many runners why they do it and they’ll half-jokingly state “I run to burn off the crazy.”  There’s often more truth in that statement than many of us are willing to publicly admit.  So with pregnancy comes “complications.”  I’ll use this term lightly because nothing is medically wrong with me and I don’t necessarily have any “complications.”  What I do have are typical symptoms of any healthy pregnancy: higher heart rate, shortness of breath, increased blood volume, diminished mental capacity (aka pregnancy brain), extreme exhaustion.  All of this so far has just made it extremely difficult for me to continue or maintain most of my fitness and health regimen.

So take a normally very active person, who is used to working out 5-6 days a week, in addition to just being physically active anyway… and then screech to a complete halt.  Like, full brakes skidding to a stop.  That’s where I’ve been at for the last 2.5+ months.  Around this same time, several of the influencers I follow on social media are pregnant as well and several of my real-life friends started making plans and goals that brought out some of the “FOMO” in me.  (Ya’ll know that FOMO… Fear of missing out… it’s a real thing) So I started to feel a little left in the dust.  Couple that with the extreme fatigue and the challenges of a higher heart rate and shortness of breath which makes running feel IMPOSSIBLE, then I literally was left in the dust.

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What this translated to for me was more time spent on social media wishing and comparing myself to others instead of focusing on myself and my personal health.  Not to mention, not really fostering a healthy mind for baby… I know I’m not the only one and I’ve had conversations with several friends over the years who I know can relate! Additionally, in 2013 New York Magazine identified six different types of anxieties that promote a sense of inferiority when it comes to social media. I can only imagine how that has perpetuated over the last 5 years… For me, it was things along the lines of:

– Well she’s MORE pregnant than me and barely breaks a sweat on her runs…

– I can barely workout twice a week and she did 40 miles PLUS cross and strength training!

– She only gained 4 pounds during her entire pregnancy?  I saw a positive pregnancy test and instantly blew up 10 pounds overnight!

– I can’t keep up on group runs so I’m just not going to go anymore.

– How come I was able to run a marathon a month and a half ago, and now I have to take breaks on my DOG WALK because I’m out of breath!

– My clothes don’t fit, but no one even knows I’m pregnant yet.  They probably think I’m getting fat.

– OMG I’m getting fat! (there’s this phase where you’re getting fluffy and gaining weight, but you don’t look pregnant yet and it really does a number on ya!)

– Why can’t I run faster than 11mm?  Will I ever be able to run faster than 11mm again?

– I don’t deserve to go to the Grand Circle Trailfest, I’ll just slow everyone down anyway and feel guilty for ruining their hikes.

– never good enough, fast enough, mom-enough, fit enough, clean enough… Just never all of the “enoughs” enough…

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And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Add in the additional pressure (that I’m sure I put on myself…) of not being able to keep up with housework (helllooooooo exhaustion), planning to redo our basement while Landon was in Minnesota and failing on that, feeling like I’m between a rock and a hard place with work-life balance and constantly panicking about what to do when baby comes (daycare? drop to part-time? nanny?) which ultimately becomes a constant stressor of money and support and feeling like we don’t have enough of either… Anyway, I’ll spare the complete spiral, but if that glimpse hasn’t terrified you enough to quit reading this, then perhaps you can empathize or you’ve been there yourself.  Any of these thoughts would probably be normal pregnancy anxieties but having mental health struggles on top of that, which are then heightened by increased vulnerability and that constant reminder of what you are not or what you’re missing on social media – it was really just a terrible place to end up.

So I pulled the plug.  I took a complete week off of Facebook entirely and tried diligently to spend less time on Instagram.  And even though I felt like I was still missing out on things, it was immediately clear that was the right decision to make.  Sometimes ignorance is bliss, and while this was far from “bliss,” it was certainly better for my mental state than continuing to slide that slippery slope into “woe was me” land.

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I took this time to reset, focus on myself, and remember that my goals just have to be a little different for the next few months (or year?).  I have to remember that there’s a little nugget that’s running the show for now, and aside from having to remember these things, I needed to find a way to be okay with it.  Okay with being fluffy. Okay with having less aggressive goals.  Okay with myself.  I spent the entire last weekend bobbing around my sister-in-law’s pool eating beef and watermelon while sipping sparkling water.  That’s a GREAT reset for anyone! I think it also helps that I feel like I’m turning that corner of not looking just fluffier, I feel like I’m looking pregnant.  It’s not much, but psychologically, that’s a big thing.  And finally, I felt the little nugget move for the first time WHICH IS SO FREAKING COOL!  I’ve also spent the last few days poking around trying to feel it again, but it seems as though the nugget went back into hiding.  I’ve been able to work out a bit, following my Beachbody On Demand LIIFT4 program and doing some yoga.  I also started meditating daily with the Calm App… Total game changer!

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Look, whether you’re pregnant or not, Facebook and social media breaks should be taken regularly – whether you deactivate the accounts for a while, or whether you find you have enough self-control with just hiding or deleting apps (I do not… I had to go for the deactivate).  When you’re feeling sane and good about yourself, it’s not hard to see the perfection or at least the version that is posted for the public to see.  It’s all too easy to fall into the spiral of “not enough” when what is presented is the version of that person, that company, that account even… It’s just a version or a wish of what reality could be that’s being presented on a platform with carefully chosen filters, hashtags, and captions.  It’s not reality – and even the few that are actually real and presenting themselves authentically (which is what I *hope* RunningYogiMom does) is still just a version of that person or account.  And that separation of self and social is easier said than done!

When was the last time you took your social media break?  What tips and tricks do you have for a healthier overall relationship to social media channels?  And what did you do during your pregnancy to chase away the crazies when running may not have been an option?

2 thoughts on “FaceBreaks and the Comparison Trap

  1. Having a baby, raising a child, is so clearly one of your gifts to the world, but there’s a reason the saying goes, it takes a village… I appreciate you so much; your willingness to take responsibility for who you are and what you do never diminishes. There is also wisdom in letting go and a faith you can discover by doing so. Sending lots of love!

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    1. Awe, thank you Howard! I sure do miss our intensive weekends diving into yoga and forgetting everything else for three days. That was such a special part of my life and I’m grateful to experience that with you! Hope to see you soon!

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