Social media can be a dangerous place for one’s self-esteem, especially when you are on a healing path and putting yourself out there with openness and vulnerability – the way I think many of us do in this community.
The other day, I posted a picture of myself in a bathing suit. It was a happy moment for me, and one I wanted to document and share with all of you.
I think that my sharing of it conveyed two things: first, that I am healthy enough to swim with fins on, a fact that after many months of being hurt I wanted to celebrate and hoped that by sharing I would be an example and give hope to the currently injured that they will get better, too. And second, that I am healthy enough and comfortable enough with my body to put a picture “like that” of myself on the internet. I am very aware of the fact that this may not have been the most flattering photo of me, but I am also extremely proud of and grateful for my body, and for the health and strength (physical, mental and emotional) I have worked and continue to work – and will always work – SO VERY HARD to achieve.
I am happy in that picture. I am strong in that picture. I am real in that picture.
I am me in that picture.
But still, because of that picture I was judged, shamed and criticized for the way I look and for how my body has changed in recent years. And even though deeply in my heart I KNOW that these changes have been so necessary and so good and so healthy for me in nearly countless ways, the things that were said about me hurt and had me questioning my choice to share myself and my life on social media.
I realized … NO WONDER there is so much that feels fake on social media! No wonder so many people look for the most flattering angles and the best filters and comb through their words to make them “just right” – and in a sense hide their true selves – when they share online. No wonder people, and maybe especially women (though I believe men go through this, too!) feel that they have to restrict their eating or workout several times a day or push themselves so far in order to meet a possibly unattainable – and definitely unsustainable – “ideal” standard.
It’s so messed up that being real exposes us to getting hurt, so we often do what we can to avoid that.
I wish I could change that.
I have not “let myself go” for those of you who are wondering why I have gained weight (and I have gained weight – about 25 pounds, slowly over the last three years). Gaining weight was something I needed to do along my path to getting healthy. I talked a little about this when I shared my story with overtraining last year, and am happy to elaborate and share more if it would be helpful to others. In fact, my weight gain is quite the opposite of letting myself go. I have discovered myself. I have embraced myself. I have taken myself in and with the help of an amazing husband and family, an incredible circle of friends, a compassionate therapist and a nutritionist who has firsthand experience in helping female athletes recover from overtraining and disordered eating, I have learned to love and care for, forgive and nourish, celebrate and BE the person I am – heart, soul and also body.
And I’m not going to hide. I know that this choice opens me up to more ridicule but I believe I am strong enough to handle that if it happens, and that I will stay my course. I hope that by not hiding and by living and sharing my truth here and in my daily interactions, I am doing my small part to make a change. That I will somehow, even in the smallest of ways, inspire others to also not be afraid to be true to themselves and to show up in their lives, in their relationships – and yes – also on social media – just as they are.