Spare yourself some pain and madness – stop taking in messages that aren’t meant for you.
I finally felt good and strong, and thought maybe I should compensate for lost time. 1
One day at the gym I decided to see how strong my legs really were. Instead of gradually working up to my max, I foolishly loaded a bunch of weight onto a bar, got underneath it, unracked it, and squatted down. I tried to pop back up – really I did – but all that popped was my knee.
For months, I hobbled. And though I kept lifting weights, squats – especially heavy ones – were out.
At the same time, heavy squats were getting lots of love on social media. I took in the memes and the squat challenges, and soon I let myself think I was a fraud if I didn’t start doing squats again.
My monkey mind said “I’m a personal trainer! I’m supposed to be an expert! I should be able to do it all! Gotta do squats!”
I bet you know where this is going.
One day, full of insecurity inspired by the messages I’d taken in on social media, I tried to do a big, heavy squat. It was too soon. My fear of looking like a fraudulent personal trainer destroyed what remained of my busted knee.
Mommy Needs a Drink
Once upon a time, if I was awake and not at work, I was drinking. Mind you, I didn’t get shitfaced every day – few drunks do. I just drank to manage my stress, and to mark “me” time.
Every. Single. Day.
Drinking to unwind meant I woke up most mornings with a headache, bitter and desperate to get the day over with so I could take the edge off with another glass of wine.
After a couple decades of that miserable crap trap, I stopped drinking.
Free of morning headaches, global resentment, and the constant craving to “relax,” I managed to start a successful business and a family.
I had a 1-year-old and a newborn and was in the depths of postpartum depression. I felt isolated and incompetent, disconnected and stressed, when the Mommy-Needs-a-Drink trend began on social media. Vintage photos with clever, pro-alcohol text started popping up in my news feed:
“Mommy needs a timeout. (And a tequila.)”
“Motherhood: Powered by Love, Fueled by Coffee, Sustained by Wine”
“Please excuse Mommy while she goes and has a nervous breakdown in the closet with a very large glass of wine.”
These Mommy-directed pro-drinking battle cries were so… appealing.
They reminded me that I wasn’t alone in this insanity.
They reminded me that there was a quick fix.
All this, despite decades of data showing me that drinking made me feel worse, not better. The dark, self-sabotaging voice in my head briefly whispered…
“Maybe you were overreacting with the not drinking thing.”
“A glass of wine really would take the edge off.”
“Other mommies have a drink at the end of a rough day and their lives don’t fall apart. Your life is different now. You deserve a break. Have a glass of wine!”
But this time, unlike during the whole squat/knee fiasco, I set and decided to hold a healthy, loving boundary.
I made a conscious decision to notice that these messages were not meant for me. I chose not to let them in.
Because a message encouraging drinking simply isn’t meant for someone with drinking problem.
Just like a message encouraging heavy squats isn’t meant for someone with a knee injury.
It sounds so simple, but it took me a long time to grasp:
To live and feel well I must accept who I am and what is true for me, and set and hold healthy, loving boundaries around any messages that put me at risk.
When I’m pretending to be someone I’m not, or when my boundaries are weak, any idea can seep in and wreck my whole day (or knee). When I let myself be who I am, and my boundaries are strong, I can be safe and feel well no matter what the world – or the internet – throws my way (including big, fat, juicy bottles of Merlot).
If I Could Do It In Moderation, I’d Do It ALL THE TIME
I’m a formerly obese addict whose primary addictive relationship is to certain foods.
How I’ll get them. When. Needing certain foods at certain times to quiet the craving. Scheming to get more. Hiding. Lying.
You know, standard-issue addict thinking and behavior.
As the scientific and academic communities wrestle with what food addiction is, what it looks like, or if it’s even a thing, the All-Foods-In-Moderation movement has grown in lockstep opposition.
Moderation is a popular idea, as it should be. It’s sensible, accessible, and effective.
You know, unless you’re an addict.
I want to fit in. I want to believe in the easier sell. I want to believe that I am capable of safely and reasonably eating anything I want while still feeling well in my body and being present for my life.
Just like I want to believe I can drink and still have a successful business and a healthy family…
…and do heavy squats like someone who’s never completely destroyed her knee.
But this is not my truth.
Trying to moderate – while continuing to live and feel well – doesn’t work for me. Trying to act like I’m honestly capable of having just a little of this and a little of that kept me trapped like a rat in the grips of self-sabotage for years, wasting precious time obsessing about food that I might have spent dancing, having sex, or knitting. 2
But today I love my life and feel great in my body in part because I accepted that I have an addictive relationship to certain foods. Embracing my truth empowered me to set and hold healthy, loving boundaries around messages that promote all-things-in-moderation.
I Am Responsible
If mental or physical illness, limitations, and/or addiction are part of your story, the messages that trigger you online may not be right for you, but they’re just right for someone else.
Squat memes help folks without lower body injuries get stronger.
Wine-drinking Mommy memes help teetotaler mommies feel connected, and normal.
Pro-moderation messages help folks who don’t struggle with addiction develop a healthier relationship to food.
But if we have these or other limitations, illnesses, or challenges, it is our responsibility to own it, to accept it, and to take in only those messages that are meant for, that are right for, and that support us.
This is how we practice self-love online. By picking and choosing what messages we take in, and which we leave behind.
While you’re online, ask yourself “How do I feel?” If you feel self-conscious, anxious, on-edge, resentful, ashamed, or embarrassed, odds are you’re taking in messages that are not meant for you.
Practice holding a healthy, loving boundary. And if that doesn’t work, you can always unfollow.
In my experience, most folks sharing content on the internet have good intentions. It’s not their responsibility to water down their message to keep us comfortable, because nothing kills the share-ability of a meme or a message like a prose-bloating caveat. 3
The next time you see something online that doesn’t support you, try just scrolling past with a laugh. If it helps, you can say out loud “Well, that’s clearly not for [Your First Name].” Do whatever you need to do to set and hold a healthy, loving boundary, including spending some time to thoughtfully curate who and what you follow online. This is one way to practicing self-love when you’re online, which, if you’re anything like the rest of us, is probably a lot of the time.
- What can I say? I’m a work in progress. We all are. ↩
- I’m kidding – I don’t knit. ↩
- Mommy Needs A Drink!* (“*This message was designed to be consumed by mommies whose “need” of a drink is really just a preference brought on and/or fueled by a particularly gnarly day of parenting, because if Mommy “needs” a drink – and particularly if Mommy “needs” to drink every day – then Mommy may be an alcoholic or pre-disposed to developing alcoholism, and we would never intentionally encourage someone who does now or who may in the future suffer from alcoholism to drink because we’re not angling to ruin people’s lives here, we’re just trying to make mommies smile. This message is also not intended for mommies operating machinery any heavier than a breast pump, or mommies on antibiotics.)” ↩
- Contrary to what you’ve just read, everything I have to say applies to everyone – no exceptions. Kidding! Kidding! God, I’m laugh riot. ↩