If you open your Instagram app for a 'quick look' and are still scrolling hours later, you’re not the only one. We’re spending more time on social media than ever before, and there’s lots to love about it – it helps us stay in touch with friends, keeps us motivated with lots of healthy living inspiration and #fitspo, and lets us stalk our favourite celebrities. The downside? When we start to compare our own lives or bodies to those of the #fitspo models and celebs in our feed and it makes us feel worse about ourselves, not better. Here are six ways to stop playing the comparison game and start loving your own beautiful bod.
1. Do a social media audit
Consider the types of accounts you follow, and how they make you feel. Do you feel self-critical or insecure after reading their posts, or motivated, inspired and armed with useful information? “I got one of my clients to think about how the people she was following made her feel, and her job was to replace everything she unfollowed with something that made her feel good,” says Louise Adams, clinical psychologist and founder of Treat Yourself Well. “Now, she’s got a social media feed that’s filled with inspiring women who are doing things in the world, not just people who look a certain way.”
2. Skip the comparison
“You can look at people, find them attractive and think you’d love to look like them, but that doesn’t mean you have to feel bad about yourself in comparison,” says Dr Vivienne Lewis, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Canberra and author of Positive Bodies: Loving The Skin You’re In. It’s worth remembering that many high-profile #fitspo accounts use professional photography, Photoshop and filters to make their images (which are often sponsored by brands) look flawless.
3. Focus on the positives
Often we focus on our perceived flaws, when in fact there are countless things we should be proud of. Dr Kate Mulgrew, lecturer in psychology at the University of the Sunshine Coast, suggests taking a few minutes to reflect on the positive aspects of your appearance (your eye colour, or the fact you can style your hair nicely), as well as positive points about what your body can do (for example, it allows you to play with your kids, or go hiking). “Come up with as many positives as you can, then keep that list somewhere you can refer to when you feel low,” she advises.
4. Check in with yourself
Your favourite #fitspo experts may have great ideas and information, but what works for them may not necessarily work for you. “People want clear rules about what to eat and how to move, but health and fitness looks different for everyone,” says Adams. Similarly, it’s far more powerful working towards your own personal version of wellness than trying to emulate someone else’s. “Have your own ideal standards that you aspire to, like the time you were on a really good fitness kick,” suggests Dr Mulgrew.
5. Tweak your self-talk
If you find that #fitspo unleashes your inner critic, practice being more mindful of your self-talk. “I encourage women to treat themselves like their best friend,” says Lewis. “What sort of things do you say to your best friend? Do you compliment her and speak kindly to her?” Easing up on yourself (known as self-compassion) isn’t just better for your self-esteem – research shows it’s linked with a greater intrinsic motivation to exercise. In other words, getting fit for the sheer love of it. Now that is a fitspirational attitude we can buy into!