Recently I’ve found my self feeling frustrated at the increasingly polarised opinions and messages on social media. I feel like every post is telling me “do this, not that” and everything is an extreme opinion. Today I wanted to talk about the importance of finding a middle ground and how blocking out the extremes has helped me find a way out of my yo-yoing mental health.
There’s currently a very forceful backlash against images of overly filtered images, very skinny bodies, obsessive clean eating and extreme exercise regimes. But this is countered by influencers proudly displaying their rolls and wearing their booze and takeaway habits as a badge of honour. The obsession with wellness and body image has seemingly been replaced by a complete disregard for it?
Because of this, for quite some time I’ve been feeling confused and anxious because social media has made me feel like I’d be letting the side down if I admitted that I wasn’t happy with my body. I’m a size 12 and not medically overweight. Does that mean I have to be happy with my current body even though I know that a sedentary lifestyle is unhealthy and I snack too much? If I express a desire to change, it feels like I’m bowing down to pressure to conform to a particular body type. If I don’t, then I’m bowing down to the alternate pressure to just accept myself exactly the way I am regardless of how healthy my lifestyle is.
The posts that are supposedly trying to liberate us from one set of imposed ideals are inadvertently imposing another set on us.
And then there’s the content that makes me feel bad because I’m not vegan enough, I’m not eco enough or I’m not hustling enough professionally.
It’s no secret that I’ve had an up and down year with some shaky mental health. When I’ve been “up” I’ve set myself rules of all organic food, superfoods at every meal, zero caffeine, obsessive list making and organisation, unbroken streaks on the meditation app. But when I’ve been “down” it’s been crisps for breakfast, Deliveroo, late night Netflix binges and staying in the house for days at a time.
When I look back, it’s obvious to me that this flip flopping between extremes was a problem. It’s easier to set yourself clearcut rules rather than to allow yourself scope for choices but it’s unsustainable in the long run because you trap yourself in a loop of success and failure.
When I think about it, a lot of the pressure I place on myself originates from social media. In order to break out of the cycle, I had to curate my social media feeds. Anything that made me feel anxious or bad about myself had to go.
In particular I had to get rid of:
- Anyone who says eating healthier and wanting to exercise to lose fat is anti-feminist, anti body positivity or somehow letting the side down.
- The vegan accounts making me feel bad for the odd bit of food containing a sneaky bit of milk or eggs that sometimes creeps in when trying to cater for a family of four on a reasonable budget. I’m doing my best and there is no hypothetical “perfect vegan” certificate to pin to your fridge.
- The social media freelancer powerhouses – one day I’ll be among them, I don’t doubt! But right now I don’t need to be feeling like I’m constantly falling short every time I scroll the ‘gram.
Next, I knew that all roads were leading me to getting fit so as I mentioned in my last post, I’ve started a fitness program from home. It’s not 6am Crossfit, squatting 70kg or running 10km a day in the rain. It’s half an hour a day, done at home while the kids are eating breakfast. No calorie counting, no food group restrictions but just a focus on eating healthy food in appropriate portion sizes.
Starting each day with a workout leaves me feeling absolutely buzzing and so energised. Even if the rest of the day is pretty sedentary I know I’ve put in the yards. Two months in and my jeans are looser and I can do more press-ups and more burpees than I could at the start. For the first time I feel like I’ve found a fitness routine that doesn’t trigger those extreme tendencies I have to obsessively log calories or notch up hours in the gym.
Lastly I’ve temporarily cut down my working days to one a week. I was feeling that familiar push/pull between work and family life where when I was with the family I felt like I wasn’t doing enough on my career, yet when I was working I felt guilty for not being with the children espcially when the money was barely covering the childcare.
So I’ve temporarily pressed pause on the hustle for more work until next Autumn when I’ll finally be free of the shackles of childcare fees and the money I earn will actually start to benefit us. Since my oldest has started school I’m really enjoying the rhythm and routine of school life and it feels good to be present in the moment. For now, I have one lovely client (and space for another if the right one came along) and suddenly now the (self imposed) pressure is off, ideas are flowing again for blogs posts and collabs seem to be landing left right and centre too.
If you’re feeling constantly like you’re not doing enough and yet simultaneously totally burnt out then I high recommend re-calibrating your expectations like this. Curate your social media feeds and switch off the extreme opinions – go with what feels right for you and remove extraneous pressures.