“Strong people don’t put others down, they lift them up.”

Think about how different our lives would be without social media. It’s a game changer. We can find out what friends are doing at all hours of the day, catch up on news, post pictures and memories, and share our opinions on everything happening in someone else’s world. No doubt this open, say-and-do-anything virtual world offers a lot of advantages – but has an ugly side too.

Social media has gotten a bad rap when it comes to bullying. In fact, “cyber-bullying” is now a legit term for bully behavior that goes on within the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram world. Just as anyone with a keyboard and internet connection can utilize social media with good intentions, the bullies can post hateful comments, unflattering pictures of others, even exclude people from virtual groups or events. Sadly, it’s now easier than ever to cut others down and be mean just for the sake of being mean.

There's lots of positivity to be had on social media

There’s lots of positivity to be had on social media

But on the flip side, social media is also a wonderful avenue for spreading positivity and lifting up others. For me, personally, social media has been a source of therapy. Allow me to explain.

I haven’t always had a healthy relationship with health and fitness. In fact, for most of my 20s (and I admit, still a little bit here and there today), I struggled with anxiety over gym life and real life. Like many, I put on a few extra pounds in college and was a far cry from being a good example of healthy. Right before graduation, I decided it was time to clean up my act, drop a few pounds and feel better about myself. Once I started getting into the habit of working out, eating better and not drinking so much, all that happened. I looked better and felt better. In fact, I started getting a lot of comments on my new fitter, trimmer appearance. People seemed so much nicer and friendlier than when I wasn’t as fit.

Then it struck me – was I not as well-liked or accepted by others when I heavier? Would people’s attitude towards me change if I didn’t keep losing weight, or worse, if I gained some back? I quickly became addicted to exercise. I had a massive fear of gaining back all the weight I lost if I took off even one day from cardio. I prioritized the gym over everything – and everyone – else. But it didn’t end with the constant need to break a sweat. I started skipping out on fun events with friends because I was convinced I wasn’t thin enough to be out in public and, worse, those extra calories from a night of drinking would instantly make me fat. I was so self-conscious and anxious all the time about how I looked and how people would judge me based on that, not my personality. I felt like I wasn’t good enough for the man I had in my life. I damaged some relationships. I was even advised by someone very close to me to seek therapy.

Fast forward to now and I’m starting to get to a balanced place in my life. I’ve been working hard on this the past few years and it’s a daily process. But I’ve learned that it’s okay to take a day off from cardio (rest days really are necessary!) and I know I’m not going to gain weight because of it. I no longer blow off Sunday brunches or decline weekend getaways with girlfriends because Saturday is long run day and Sunday is heavy lift day. I accept that I’m not skinny and, shy of completely changing my workouts and eating perfect all the time, I’m never going to be.

While I didn’t seek out professional therapy, I’ve found social media to provide it in a strange way. I’ve managed to surround myself with a circle of really good people. They’re people I don’t know and will never meet but I see them as “friends”. We share like-minded goals and interests, and encourage each other – often in 140 characters or less. I follow fitness journeys, and see others facing my same struggles. I see people with different fitness abilities and levels, yet everyone’s always doing the best they can. These are the people who aren’t striving to compete with or be better than anyone else, just trying to be a little better than they were yesterday, and be happy. I see a lot of positivity exchanged. I see quotes and memes that reinforce the idea that nobody’s perfect nor should they strive to be.

Yes, there’s a lot of fake and negative stuff that happens on social media but there are also a ton of real people, good people and positivity. Just as you would surround yourself with good people in real life, find these people in your social media life too.
They’re free therapists and cheerleaders!

Can you relate to any this? Share your story in the comments or tweet me @runlikeagirl311.

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