Recently I’ve felt like there are a lot of triggers around me. Everywhere seems to be a breeding ground for comparison. Real life interactions, TV, magazines, the Internet. Where it’s really intense, though, is social media. Social media is a double-edged sword. As much as I love the idea of getting to see BTS of people’s lives, sometimes it’s just too much information. Also, a lot of it is fake. BTS…or BS?!
I’ve said it again and again, and I’m going to keep saying it until people actually process it and believe it. Listen to Instagram Lies on Actually Adultish – I rant about this problem on that episode. People lie about their meals. They lie about their workouts. They lie about their routines. Sometimes they don’t lie, necessarily, but they don’t show the whole picture. Other times we’re just so overloaded with information that we actually make up scenarios in our head and compare our own lives to what we assume someone else’s life is like. It’s all a big mind game.
I recently started feeling really overwhelmed with social media. Photo after photo, blog post after blog post, Instagram story after story, I just feel overloaded with information. We see what everyone’s doing, all the time. The more we see into each other’s lives, the deeper our fascination grows. Where’s she going? What’s she doing? What’s she eating? Who is she with?
The problem is this: the more we know and the more fascinated we become, the more we tend to compare. It’s a trigger. Some people trigger us more than others, and some people trigger us in different ways than others. Personally, I get triggered most with exercise. I see girls posting ridiculous workout routines and after awhile of seeing so many of them, I start to second guess myself. Well, shit. Is working out for two hours a day really necessary?! Is it even healthy?! No, definitely not. I have science and personal experience to back me up on that one. I know it logically, but it’s easy to fall into the comparison trap. It’s a constant battle between logic and the trigger.
Maybe it’s a food thing. People compare how much they eat to how much someone else appears to eat, and they start to feel bad about themselves. Am I eating too much? Am I eating too little? Should I eat more fat? Less fat? More carbs? Less carbs? Should I try that product? It’s like we’re looking for a black and white answer about what the “right” thing to do is…but I can tell you, that’s not the place to find the answer, if there even is one.
It might be a growth thing. Comparing followers or numbers or likes or comments. She’s doing this, and her numbers are growing, so should I do the same thing? What about success? Should you copy the successful person’s morning routine?
Maybe it’s a lifestyle thing. Maybe it seems like she has the perfect relationship, but you just keep facing heartbreak after heartbreak. What do you do to be more like her? To find a guy like him?
All of these questions are the wrong questions for so many reasons, but the most important thing I can tell you to do is to remove the triggers from your life. Immediately. These triggers can lead to crazy, obsessive, unhealthy thoughts and behaviors. You do not need that in your life.
The first step is to actually identify the triggers. This is the hardest part. There are so many. It might be a TV show, a book, or a magazine. Maybe it’s a friend or a family member. Maybe it’s a social media account. Maybe it’s a blog. Often times we don’t even realize the things or people who trigger us to compare or to feel poorly about ourselves. Sometimes it’s painstakingly obvious, yes, but other times it’s more insidious. Think long, hard, and deep about it. Be aware of how you feel when you see certain things or surround yourself with certain people. Be brutally honest with yourself. Don’t pretend like something isn’t triggering you just because you don’t want it to. Usually the things that we don’t want to trigger us are the worst offenders. It’s like loving the bad boy. You always want what’s not good for you, right?
Whatever it is, you have to distance yourself from it. It might sound silly, but it takes serious courage to do that. Sometimes we don’t want to distance ourselves because it makes us feel weak. Like, do I really have to get rid of it to get over this? To stop comparing? Or sometimes we don’t want to get rid of it because we’re afraid we’ll miss out on something – information, entertainment, friendship. The secret magical key to success. I can assure you, you’re not going to miss out on that. No one actually knows. Sometimes we don’t want to make a mistake or deviate from what we’re used to. Sometimes we don’t want to admit to ourselves how much someone or something is triggering us.
If you want to improve your life, you have to find the courage to remove the triggers. It doesn’t matter how uncomfortable or difficult it is – it’s not good for you to be around it. If that means unfollowing the most famous, interesting people on Instagram, do it. If that means breaking up with your best friend, you still need to do it. Do not sacrifice your own health and well-being for the sake of FOMO. If that person is triggering you, they don’t deserve your support. If something is triggering you, it’s probably triggering someone else, too. Doing nothing is essentially being a bystander and enabling that person to continue to be a trigger. Unless we stop buying the magazines that tell us we need to have “perfect bikini bodies” and eat 1200 calorie diets, they’re never going to stop publishing those lies. You can do something about it by removing the trigger from your life. Don’t let your curiosity or the fact that you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings overshadow what’s best for you. No one and nothing is worth mental turmoil, self-consciousness, and an unnecessary roadblock to being content and happy.
This is much easier said than done. Trust me – I have an incredibly hard time with it. Recently, I’ve started going through and unfollowing accounts that I never thought I would unfollow. Those accounts were putting bad thoughts in my head. Thoughts that I wasn’t good enough or doing enough. I was comparing myself. I had to block people who were emotionally draining me. I felt burnt out every day dealing with messages from people who were saying things that made me constantly feel inadequate, and it took me months to do that because I was worried about hurting anyone’s feelings. I’m slowly learning my boundaries. For some people, I can read their blog, but I absolutely cannot look at their Instagram account. There are people who I can talk to in real life, but I can’t read their blog. I have to shift my relationships as wisely as I can.
Speaking of relationships, those are the hardest. Real life people. We make excuses for why we can’t cut them out of our lives. Sometimes we give people a pass because of something they’re going through, sometimes we just feel like we can’t cut ties because they’re family, or sometimes we just don’t want to cause drama or hurt their feelings. Sometimes we’re afraid to cut them out because we are used to them being there, and we don’t know what we would do if things were different.
If I’m learning anything each and every day, it’s that none of those excuses are good enough. Moments when I let go of certain people in my life who were triggering me are the moments that stand out the most in my mind. It took months for me to build the courage to cut ties, but when I did, I felt like a 50 pound brick fell off of my shoulders. Then I felt guilty because I felt so much relief. Although I felt better, I had hurt someone else’s feelings. This is why it’s not easy. While it’s important to think of others and care for them, that can’t be at the expense of yourself. It’s fun to be interested in other people’s lives and follow along on social media to see what people are doing and get inspiration, but it’s not okay when that crosses a line and accidentally morphs you into a comparison monster.
It can be very dangerous to see what people are up to, to start an endless Google search, to look at What I Eat in A Days and fitness routines and even recipes. It’s a very bad idea to compare followers and credentials and accomplishments.
In terms of health, especially, it can be extremely dangerous to copy someone else. Just because someone else is doing something doesn’t mean that they should be, and it definitely doesn’t mean that you should be either. We can all post whatever we want and say whatever we want. How do you know that person is being truthful? How do you know they aren’t actually feeling like crap every day? How do you know it’s not just for money? You don’t. And you’re not that person. Not even close. So instead of comparing their life to yours, focus on you.
Remove the triggers, even though it’s hard. Let’s be real – we all like to bandwagon. It makes us feel like part of the group. But it doesn’t mean we should. More than that, though, be aware of how other people are making you feel. I don’t care if it’s your doctor, your favorite blogger, your favorite actress, your best friend, or your mom. If someone is triggering you to feel like you’re not good enough, like you should engage in a behavior that’s potentially unhealthy, or like you should engage in a behavior for the wrong reasons, get that out of your life. You’re brave enough. I know you are.
They say that you’re a combination of the five people you spend the most time with. In today’s world, we “spend time” with a lot of people – whether or not that’s in real life and whether or not we know them personally. Thanks, Instagram! So, figure it out – who do you want to be? From there…who should you really be spending time with?
Remove the triggers. Put your effort and time into people and things that make you feel good. People who aren’t triggers for the comparison trap. Who makes you feel happy? Who makes you feel safe? Who makes you feel like you’re enough? That’s where you’re meant to be.