I hear it on the radio. I hear it from my friends. I hear it in my own mind. Social media has caused me to feel inadequate. I want to have more, be more, and envy those who appear to have better lives than mine. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized the problem wasn’t with social media. The problem was with me.
During lent last year, I decided to fast from what I considered to be a bigger problem in my life than doughnuts or red meat— I decided to fast from Pinterest. The purpose of my fasting was a spiritual one. I found myself, first thing in the morning, sitting down with a cup of coffee and scrolling through Pinterest— beginning my day with feelings of inadequacy. It was something I was doing as a fun, stress-free start to my day, but the daily habit had turned into a distraction from the enjoyment of the life I had, and definitely sucked me into a materialistic mentality. I thought if I completely cut it out of my life for 40 days I would be free to replace that time with reading and meditation, which I decided to be disciplined in doing, lest I replace my Pinterest habit with another equally pointless one.
In addition to redeeming the time I lost on Pinterest, I had hoped that breaking from Pinterest for a time would help me with a problem I had noticed was stealing the joy from my life. I found myself constantly planning what new thing I would buy for our home or my wardrobe. My Pinterest boards were a reflection of what I wanted my home or body to be, which caused me to feel a bit shabby about the home and body I actually had.
So I fasted. I replaced my use of Pinterest with words of wisdom from the Bible and authors I respected. I spent time praying and considering how I could better engage in the lives of my friends, family, and community. When those 40 days were over, I felt refreshed and actually didn’t really have a desire to jump back in to my old Pinterest habits, though I had required a fresh perspective that showed me that my issues weren’t even about social media all along. My issues came from deep in my heart and weren’t solved by just choosing not to open a particular social media app.
It might seem difficult to take a step back from whatever social media outlet you enjoy, but really, stepping away is kind of the easy part, and actually won’t solve your deep-seated feelings of inadequacy. Maybe walking away from whatever social media outlet that you think negatively affects you the most is a great jumpstart to begin some healing in your heart, but long term, if you want to fix the real problem, you’ve got to look in the mirror.
It’s easy enough to blame social media for our issues. “Social media has caused us to have an unhealthy view of what is normal.” It’s a good conversation that we’re seeing more and more in the media. But in reality, we are the ones who decide what is expected of us. We set our own standards. We decide what we will work for and deem important in our lives. Don’t blame the big time blogger who always wears new clothes and perfect makeup, and don’t pin your problems on the stay at home mom who only shares pretty pictures of her seemingly care-free days. Look deep down and consider what is in your heart that causes you to respond with these feelings of inadequacy.
Once you’re able to take responsibility for these unwanted feelings, it’s easier to identify negative self talk that comes from within. Sure, this mental self-talk often begins when you’re looking at social media (or magazines, or whatever it is in your life), so perhaps it is a real trigger, but the important thing is to notice when that self-talk begins. As soon as you notice it happening, turn it around and replace those thoughts with healthy ones. Speak words of truth and encouragement over your self, because chances are there isn’t someone beside you who will do it for you.
I am enough, do enough, and I have tremendous value. My home, cluttered or simple as it may be, is my haven and where my friends and family experience a togetherness. My children are treasures and infuse my days with laughter and excitement. My single life gives me tremendous opportunities for travel and experiencing the world. Whatever it is that you are feeling in those weak moments of inadequacy, they are most likely lies and should be replaced with truths. Truths can be much more elusive than lies, so you’ll need to look harder for them. Speak those truths over and over again, in your head, or preferably out loud. Talking to yourself out loud might feel weird, but it’s a really useful way to retrain your brain.
You may find it exhausting to combat the feelings of inadequacy that come from within you when scrolling through social media, and if that’s the case, it’s probably a good idea to step away for a period of time. If you do step away, I encourage you to do so with a fasting mentality— where you replace that time with something positive in your life instead.
Do you feel inadequate about your home? Spend less time sulking at pictures of professionally styled homes and think about simple projects you can do in your own home to enjoy it more. Maybe it’s as easy as giving the place a good cleaning and purging things you don’t need or enjoy. Do you feel dissatisfied with your body? Maybe you’re ready to make a healthy change in your life to eat better food or to become more physically active. If you spend less time on social media, you’ll be more available to work through these goals— just make sure you’re doing it for you, and not in response to jealousy or self-hatred. What about feeling dissatisfied with your life or even your family? Take time to invest in relationships in your life that are suffering. Shift your feelings from selfish thoughts to instead consider things you can do to enrich the lives around you. Take time and save money to travel and explore more with your friends or family. Once you start replacing social media time with these positive changes, you’ll find that you are enjoying life more than you thought you could, and your thumbs probably won’t miss scrolling through posts on Facebook or Instagram.
When I returned to using Pinterest after lent last year, and when I more recently returned to using Instagram more frequently, I had to really be watchful of my heart. I didn’t want to fall back into a materialistic mentality, or a pattern of thought that considered the appearance of my life more than the actual quality of my life. I also had to be careful about how I viewed others on social media.
Yes, we all know we’re usually only shown only the best of the best on many social media outlets, but it’s easy to forget about that. Like I said, truth is more elusive than lies— especially on the internet. Instead of just observing the beautiful lives of those I follow on social media, I have made a concerted effort to engage with these women I admire. Engaging in their lives, considering their hearts, and taking part in their passion pursuits (whether it be their blog or businesses) allows me to be their ally and friend, rather than a competitor or envious observer.
We all have our struggles, our shame, or our feelings of inadequacy. Even those who appear the most perfect of all! We need to remember that and decide to encourage each other through our participation in social media, using it as a tool for building community rather than a tool for materialistic dream building. That’s when you’ll notice a perspective change in your heart when you log on and see the lives of those around you.