We all know that comparing ourselves to others isn’t a healthy habit to have, yet we still do it anyways. Over the past decade, as social media continues to grow, it has become easier than ever to compare ourselves to others; the way we look, the way we dress, and our athletic achievements. While seeing others and their accomplishments can be inspiring at times, there is a fine line when this comparing becomes toxic. Being a part of the outdoor community has inspired me for as long as I can remember. Seeing other people complete epic adventures makes me want to, but in the past, I have found that I can easily begin to compare my worth to my athletic achievements. As if running another ultra-marathon will somehow make me a better person.
Maybe you can’t relate to this at all or maybe you know exactly what I’m talking about; mindlessly scrolling through social media and Strava to see what others are up to, only to end up feeling worse than when you started. Over the years I have learned how to use social media for good, to connect with others, raise awareness, and be inspired rather than tear myself down. Here are just a few practices I find most helpful:
Unfollow people who make you feel bad about yourself: This sounds pretty obvious but it is indeed necessary for both your physical and mental well-being. Often when I say this people think of others who are blatantly mean online, which to be honest I don’t see happening very often. Obviously if you are currently following someone who is constantly putting you down then unfollow them; ain’t nobody needs that in their life. However, you should also unfollow those who make you feel less than even if that isn’t their intention. Maybe there is someone who others find inspirational but you find quite triggering. It is completely okay to choose to unfollow them. This doesn’t mean that this person is a mean individual, it is about curating an experience that empowers you rather than leads to comparison. As you begin to put in the work and focus on yourself, feel free to revisit some of these individuals and re-follow them once you are in a space where you find their work empowering, inspiring, and uplifting.
Limit your social media time: I’ll say it a million times if I must, LIMIT YOUR SCREEN TIME. As someone who works online, I’ve found setting parameters for myself to be crucial for my well-being. It’s all too easy to mindless scroll and suddenly feel like you should be doing more, running more, hiking more, and just “being more” in general. Try taking the weekends off social media, not going on it first thing in the morning or right before bed, maybe set a daily limit for each app. Trust me, this does wonders for your happiness. Turn your Strava to private or don’t use it at all: Ever heard someone say “Strava it or it didn’t happen”? Don’t get me wrong, Strava is an amazing app. You can track your mileage, set routes, discover new routes, and follow along other people’s adventures. But if you find yourself constantly comparing your weekly mileage to others and equating your stats to your worth, maybe it is time to reevaluate your relationship with Strava. Turning your profile to private, or not following others, allows you to track your progress without seeing how you stack up against your peers. If even this feels like too much, skip the app altogether. Whether or not you “Strava” a run has no effect on your worth. Heck, whether or not you go for a run has NO EFFECT on your worth!
Focus on feelings: When we equate our athletic endeavors to our self-worth, we often forget why we are outside in the first place. Now this reason may look different for everyone. For me I love the way I feel when I am out in nature, I like moving through the mountains and making memories, seeing beautiful sites and being present in the moment. If we are constantly checking our watch, social media, or Strava, suddenly our adventures aren’t about being present at all. The next time you are outside, notice how this activity makes you feel and forget the rest. Finding inspiration from others can be a beautiful experience. However, putting yourself down or comparing yourself to others often leads to a negative relationship with fitness altogether. Know that your worth as an individual is inherent and has absolutely nothing to do with how “epic” your adventures are. You deserve to enjoy the outdoors and you deserve to enjoy this life.