Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
I love my friends. Who doesn’t love their friends? That’s why they are your friends. They pick you up when you fall, they push you when you want to quit and, if they are my friends, they text you incessantly about their latest fitness endeavors.
What’s another thing your friends—well at least a lot of my friends and acquaintances—do? They post on social media. They post about their runs, their workouts, their training, their nutrition, their location, their new gear, their #fitspo, their GPS watch, their messy post-run hair, their bathroom breaks…the list goes on. In short, most of the newsfeeds I follow, mine included, are cluttered with the latest gear, #fitspiration, mileage reports, inspirational quotes and countdowns to big fat goal races that have taken over social lives for the last year. It’s what we do, it’s who we are, it’s how we gauge if we are winning life or totally sucking…
This isn’t to say that I now hate everyone. I don’t. Quite the opposite actually; I recently had a close girlfriend hit a major PR goal and overall race goal, and I texted her multiple times to congratulate her and liked all of her posts all over Facebook and Instagram. I’m over-the-moon stoked for her. That’s huge, and I hope she celebrated appropriately. What I mean when I say that I “had to turn it off” is that I realized something, something that scared me, startled me and caused a hard stop on my Instagram scrolling game: I was about 99 percent married to what other people were doing instead of focusing on what I was or wasn’t doing.
RELATED: How Social Media Killed My Run
Some might call this type of sick obsession a side effect of being hyper competitive, which it can be. But it can also be a side effect lack of confidence, and for me, it was a mix of the two. I stared at myself in the mirror and realized that the reflection was only a positive one if my time beat her time, or if my miles were harder than hers, or if she had a shitty run and I had a killer one. What’s the heck is that? Who is that? That’s not me. I was so busy being so obsessed with everyone else I forgot to obsess about my own accomplishments, ones that I worked hard to reach. Instead I was giving my scrolling thumb a hard workout, scrolling through perfectly filtered images. That insecurity had secretly morphed this unwarranted annoyance and anger toward many of the people I follow on social media; they are doing exactly what I do with my photos—who knows who stares at my account and has the same reaction?
I took a step back and ended up getting a coffee with a friend to discuss my predicament, among other things. As I shared how I was frustrated with myself for not having the energy to keep up with all the activity happening in my newsfeed (I don’t do 5 a.m., #sorrynotsorry), inquiring if she is familiar with the feeling of watching someone who seems to always go, go, go without tiring or needing a break like the rest of us mortals. My friend looks at me and says, “Well, yeah, that’s how I look at you, Caitlyn.”
Mind blown. How could…how can she…I don’t think I am…what? In reality, she’s probably right. As I—who else does this?—sit here, sighing over people who seem to do it all with an endless, zestful energy, I seem to forget that they do not share their downers on Instagram. I’m seeing a highlight reel of a larger story. Social media can ruin you in that way. For me, it took several scrolling breaks and absences on Facebook to refocus my energy on me, on what I can do in a day, in a week, in a month, and recognize I’m doing a kick ass job at stuff.
In the end, the simple moral we often forget is to stop comparing to what others seem to be doing or not doing. If you want to run fast, run fast. If you want to run slower, run slower. If you want to sleep in and eat bacon, invite me over. When you’re constantly, 24/7 surrounded by gurus and enthusiasts of your sport, I venture to say it’s probably impossible never feel worthless at least one time. So if it takes a break from being totally in with the hashtag game and the “Sunday Runday” updates or the post-run #bRUNch mimosa shots, so be it. Sometimes unplugging is the best thing to do if you need to plug yourself back in with reality.
The reality? You’re a badass in whatever you do, because as the old saying goes: You’re still lapping everyone else on the couch.