In school, we need to be enough
In sport, we need to be better
Our lives need to meet certain social criteria
When is enough, enough?
Having grown up in the 80's (best times) we had no social media, no flashy materialistic standards to keep up with. No internet, we spoke to people, we trusted people, we felt safe out and about and were very physical. All we had to live up to were family expectations, getting good grades and pursuing a great career. This was done through nothing more than good old hard work. Whatever you wanted you worked for or went without.
OH, HOW THINGS HAVE CHANGED
As with everything in life, there is an equal and opposite reaction to every action.
The role of the internet brought so much connection with other people from around the world, help and information at your fingertips in the blink of an eye but in turn, brought with it cyber attacks, stalkers, public hate, and anxiety-filled teenagers. Years ago kids played sport for social interaction, physical stimulus and a bit of healthy competition. Nowadays some kids are forced into sport because they sit at a screen all day. Why do we need to socialise with others when we can play games with each other by chatting and never leaving the comfort of our own home?
Another issue the technology era has brought us is social media. We all know too well the impact it has on young vulnerable kids when used incorrectly. What we see is the world others have, or perceived to have. Our peers showing off the latest gadget or clothes and seeing "likes" explode over a selfie with the latest Iphone that costs half the earth. Feeling left out and resenting our parents because they can't afford to buy a BMW for our first car. What social media has done is opened our eyes to a world that appears to be PERFECT. That miss insta-famous booty make up guru is what we all need to strive for - which is 90% unachievable anyway because a lot of it is fabricated to suck us all in for likes and #goals We spend hours of time and money trying to obtain the perfect image and life so others can push that little red love heart.
Why do we need that like? Why is it so important to us?
Because it makes us feel good. It makes us feel seen, validated and worthy. It makes us feel connected and cared about. Don't get me wrong I check my likes and who has been a post, it is natural to be curious. It doesn't change my energy, view or mood if no one likes a photo or a post.
What gets misconstrued on social media is inspiration vs perceived perfection. We see people posting "OHHH I lost 50kg by drinking celery juice look at me, my skin is clear, I've dropped 6 dress sizes and my life is perfect, I feel good about myself" Reality:
Great, you starved yourself or weeks drinking only celery (how sad is your social life because you are not drinking celery juice while out on the town with friends) you fit all your clothes because your body is wasting away and you feel like %$#& but you look good in a photoshopped filtered pic. Self-esteem is at an all time high because you have 43 comments saying #goals #inspo OMG your hot 🔥, #stunner . So what happens next? A young impressionable child looks at this and goes "OMG if I loose 50kg and look like a walking celery stick people will accept and love me and my life will be perfect!" They do everything they can to achieve this. They lose weight, they get attention, the #tags, the #❤️, the validation. That feeling is a rush and almost like a drug they need more, so they go further doing everything they can to lose weight, to get that perfect validation. They have 100's of likes, they are tired, they have developed a negative relationship with food, but it is ok because 150,000 likes makes everything ok right? Wrong.
Not all social media is not bad. #inspo is actual real life inspiration. Real unenhanced pictures, real stories that connect and resonate with you, people you admire, people that have achieved success by hard work not by a filter. When young people see healthy food, active lifestyles, good mental health and self care practises, encouraging messages to speak up or seek help for dealing with issues, they are more inclined to achieve this way of life for themselves. This type of social media exposure can be very positive.
Unfortunately, it is hard to tell the real from the fake or the good from the bad. if we turn to social media for acceptance, validation and love it is very clear we may have a toxic relationship with ourselves.
We don't always get it right, we don't always post things that everyone will love but I believe we have a duty of care to at least THINK about what we post before we post it. As role models or peers ask yourself a few questions:
How will this look to others?
How might this influence someone else?
Would someone see this as a negative or an unachievable goal?
How could this post be taken by a young impressionable child?
We can't control how others think, perceive or react but at least we have done our best. If we want the world to love us by counting little love hearts or even views, maybe start by loving yourself first! Maybe start by showing a truthful vulnerable side to yourself that others can relate to and start a chain of, "it is ok not to be ok", "it is ok to make mistakes, to not be perfect, to lose and to not be ok with it", "it is ok to be content with what you have, it is the simple things in life that give us the most pleasure right?"
We are always trying to search for the next thing that makes us "enough" but when is enough, enough? When you have $1million dollars? No because if you make that you will want more. When you reach a goal weight? No because you can always be leaner, slimmer, more muscular. When you have that gold medal? Well if you get it once can you get it twice? We are only enough when we are in full acceptance of ourselves and not trying to please others, gain views, gain likes.
Teenage years are some of the hardest years in a persons life. They are trying to find their place in the world, searching for what brings them joy, what they are passionate in life. When we feel lost, confused, unsure we tend to look for imperfections in ourselves that may be the cause. So we judge ourselves, "Ohh I may be too fat, I'm not fashionable enough, I need a new phone because everyone else has one and I need to fit in. I am too tall, I'm too pale, I always say the wrong thing, I am not GOOD ENOUGH" But what actually is GOOD ENOUGH? You can't control what people think of you, you can't control your skin colour or your height (god knows I have tried #shortgalproblems) But what you can control is where your power lies.
You can control your lifestyle. You can control your thoughts, your decisions, your actions. You control your ability to keep growing, learning, developing, and experiencing life. Why are we so scared to make mistakes? Because it shows we are not perfect? NO, it shows we are human!
At school I was always the one who was picked last for teams due to my skin colour and height. At first I stopped joining in and didn't participate at all. I knew I would be last and I would be the "pity" pick. As I got older I developed my competitive streak. I made sure I was the one people wanted on their team. But the "pity" pick still hurt so I threw my energy into doing something only I was good at. Yes it was Aerobics. When kids at school saw what I could do I was all of a sudden seen, heard and accepted but it was too late. I didn't need to be accepted by these people, these peers. I had already made my first NZ team at 16 and I was spending my time around my team mates who supported me, helped me through the tough times, inspired me to be better, stronger, fitter, faster. I didn't need to be accepted by anyone but myself!
When you cross that thought, "I am not enough" ask yourself, what does enough look like? Is it achievable and will it make me happy?
Social media is a great tool when used well. Make sure you are connecting with people who inspire you to grow, be healthy, be human and enjoy the journey of life. We only have one shot so let's enjoy it together.
This is my view on the pandemic as an ex-athlete and coach.