You guys, I’m so excited about this one. My sociology/psychology brain has loved researching ALL THE THINGS for this. Let’s talk about the relationship between social media and self-compassion.
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This topic is so important to me because I listen to so many women talk about their struggles like no one else gets it. It doesn’t matter how many times I tell people “YOU ARE NOT ALONE.” There still exists this pervasive feeling that they are the only one who struggles. I’ve realized this week that the mission of Blue Space Moms is to actively show members that they are not alone and to encourage each other as we struggle through life together.
Social media has lots of positive qualities (like offering a sense of community or a safe social space for introverts or people with social anxiety), but it can also have some drawbacks. It fosters a sense of self-promoting and self-comparison, which can lead to a feeling of isolation. Women in particular are susceptible to managing and maintaining their identities through social media. Interestingly, as we use social media, it becomes a part of our psyche, turning into something we can’t escape as it’s always in our head.
On a micro level, the self-promotion we engage in can lead to vulnerable narcissism, where we seek likes and comments to bolster our sense of self-worth. On a macro level, we find ourselves surrounded with similar ideas that reinforce what we already know and believe, bolstering our opinions and views of the world. Both lead to a sense of isolation.
It’s pretty obvious how social media can lead to self-comparison since humans tend towards comparison anyway. According to research, simply seeing pictures of people we feel are more attractive than ourselves makes us feel worse.
So, what’s the best way to tackle social media in a healthy way? Use the filter of self-compassion and work towards fostering a sense of social equality, both for yourself and for others.
You always have the option to leave social media or take a hiatus (which can be super helpful for recentering), but if you want to participate online regularly, here are some steps centered around self-compassion to make the experience better:
1) Unfollow or filter out people who make you feel badly about yourself. (You can do this without unfriending… the other person will not know.)
Maybe you don’t need to do this forever, but as you try to challenge your inner critic and work towards self-compassion, there’s nothing wrong with taking out a few hurdles.
2) This is the toughest one: Practice encouragement and a sense of community by liking or commenting positively to posts that activate your inner critic and make you want to compare. The more you can connect with a person… the more you can break down the isolation… the more you can recognize another’s successes as well as your own… the better off you’ll be. It’s hard to cheer someone on when you feel threatened, but the benefit of practicing on social media is that the more your practice it, the more it naturally becomes a part of who you are.
3) Be intentional with your posts. Think of your social media account as your legacy… what do you want it to say about you. Come up with some core values you want represented and evaluate posts in relation to that. I also use Brene Brown’s checklist from Daring Greatly before posting:
Why am I sharing this?
What outcome am I hoping for?
What emotions am I experiencing?
Do my intentions align with my values?
Is there an outcome, response, or lack of a response that will hurt my feelings?
Is this sharing in the service of connection?
Am I genuinely asking the people in my life for what I need?
Practicing self-compassion has so many benefits, and managing social media is certainly one of them. If you need some encouragement online… a safe place to pull back the curtain and get rid of the idealized image of others, I hope you’ll come hang out with us in Blue Space Moms.