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July 21, 2014

#Selfie Shame

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a few months now since I’ve been experiencing a bit of an internal battle, and I thought since my 10-Week Mindset Makeover sign-up is open, that it would be a good time to share a few really raw inner thoughts I’ve been having lately. Maybe this is just one woman’s struggle for clarity and personal development as she matures, but like most self-realization insights, I’m sure many of you can relate.

Warning: If you don’t want to listen to the ramblings of someone who uses their personality, expertise and ‘look’ as part of the brand of their business, don’t read any further. This is getting into a lot of mental minutiae, which, as evidenced my this post’s existence, I think is an important discussion to have, but you might just be like, “Jill, there are starving children in Africa and this is bullshit.” If so, stop reading right now. I am 100% aware that this is #firstworldproblems. Anyway, considered yourself warned :)

Okay. Now let’s talk about the psychology of #selfies.

For me, this discussion started with this #selfie I posted on Instragam last April:


I actually post quite a few selfies–not an insane amount–but usually one every couple weeks. I will post and say, “Loving my new necklace from @Bevello!” or “Got a nice pump during my shoulder workout at the gym, here’s the workout I did…” or “Here’s me drinking wine, which I believe is okay on your diet because x, y, z…” In other words, if I post a selfie, it’s usually to educate or share some insight.

This one above? I just liked the way I looked.

After I took it, I thought, “Gee, I look pretty in this one. I like my hair and my eyes are popping. Let me put this up.” But there was really no education to be doled out or insight. I just think … I wanted other people to say that I looked pretty, too.

On one hand, I’m like, way to go, Jill! I like the confidence and self-love! But on the other hand, this revelation here on my blog is kind of mortifying. Pretty embarrassing in a way because …. HOW EGOTISTICAL. How self-centered. How arrogant am I to even bring up something as tiny and irrelevant as this on my site? Also, I don’t know that I like how vulnerable it makes me feel. Because I want to “have it all together” and “be the expert.” And though I feel like that 90% of the time, I am human and I struggle. I am at the point now that I believe my struggles make me better and I actually like them and value them because they help me grow, learn and improve. And though this is such a small thing in the grand scheme, I believe this is an important discussion to have, because it’s bigger than a selfie:

This is a discussion about affirmation. The good, the bad and the ugly of wanting approval, love and praise.

But I digress, let me first explain what happened…

It was fairly late at night when I posted my selfie, and I was about 50/50 on it. I thought, “Well, what can I say about this so that it’s not just a blatant selfie?” And nothing came to mind, so I just posted it as is. It didn’t fully sit right with me, but I went to sleep. THEN, I woke up around 3am and had a mini-freak out moment: Would people think I was self-centered? Would it look so obvious that I was just blatantly fishing for compliments? (Of course that’s exactly what it was) And I went to Instagram with the intention of deleting it (BTW, I’ve never done that before–I usually just own that shit). BUT, there were already like close to 100 Likes and if I took it down at this point, IT WOULD LOOK EVEN WORSE. And so I didn’t. And I got a few comments about “Nice selfie!” and stuff like that, which was fine. But I dunno. Never sat with me right.


But then…

But then I justified it: “It’s important for JillFit that I am seen “in shape” and not hiding behind a computer.” (I know plenty of internet fitness pros who have not been seen in the flesh for years)–Any of you fitness pros reading this understand the pressure of feeling like you have to stay lean and fit, or else who are you to be doling out fitness and nutrition advice? There’s pressure there, but even much of that I’ve even gotten over. I am happier in my body than I ever have been, and I am the most confident of my adult life.

But more to the point, I do feel like it’s important that if I am going to be touting wine and bacon all over the place that I also don’t look out of shape. If I am going to advise moderation and “relaxing” the reigns a little bit when it comes to nutrition, then I have to show that it actually works, don’t I? And yes, I believe I do.

And so while I do think that’s important, I don’t think you have to post bathroom selfies of your abs daily to show you are “in shape.” Maybe only a couple times a year ;)

But this whole episode got me to thinking: What’s up with the psychology of selfies?

Jade and I have had many in-depth convos about it. He thinks it’s a “young person’s game” and the only reason one would do it is because they “want to be seen”– and I actually agree to a certain extent. Besides, I built my early fan base by putting up pic after pic of myself modeling and on stage nearly naked (granted, my early “Myspace” fan base was mostly dudes)–and I have always seen (and used) the value in aesthetics for my business. I’m in the business of getting people into great shape for pete’s sake!

BUT. As I’ve grown, and the fan base at JillFit has shifted along with me, our content has moved to more mindset, food obsession and body esteem insights (which I love) but I do think the justification of using selfies in that arena is running thin.

Which brings me to…

The Dynamics of Social Media

The posts that get the most traction on the JillFit Facebook page, far and away, are photos. Specially of physiques, like this one and this one. We love looking at bodies and then judging them or comparing ourselves to them. Which, intellectually we know is a huge trap, and makes us often feel WORSE about ourselves, but social media has made it so easy. Sign in to Instagram and immediately feel less-than because a fitness model you follow is in “show shape” in her off-season. Cue not-good-enough-ness.

The Normalcy of Wanting Affirmation

Look. This shit is normal. You wouldn’t be human if on some level, you didn’t want affirmation for something. It might not be for your looks or your body. But maybe it’s for your work ethic, or your business savvy, or the beautiful and intelligent children you raised, or the amazing article you wrote, or for your intellect, or ability to be a good friend, or get straight A’s. Whatever. WE ALL WANT SOMEONE TO TELL US WE ARE GOOD ENOUGH.

And so, on one hand, it’s all totally fine. It’s fiiiiiiiine.

Except when all that praise STILL isn’t enough.

For example, if I feel like on some level my husband doesn’t love me, does him saying it 10 times or 1000 times make a difference? No, because it doesn’t have to do with him. It doesn’t have anything to do without outside affirmation. True affirmation is an inside job. 

The Problem with Searching Out Affirmation

Because can we ever get enough affirmation, round up enough compliments, harness enough praise to feel worthy, if, on the inside we don’t feel like we deserve it? We still feel like a fraud or an impostor or a fake or someone who doesn’t have it all together, unlike how we would like it to seem, especially on social media.

Again, it’s a normal human drive to look for others to give us approval. It starts at a young age–we take a test in grade school and get immediate feedback in the form of a letter grade. Are we smart (A)? Or do we suck (F)? If we’re smart, then we want to KEEP BEING SMART so we find ways to develop our talents and skills so we can keep getting the proud-parent response or the doting-teacher response. Again, all fine, but what about what we think of us? Do we really need a grade (or person) to tell us we are smart? And what about if we get poor grades (or feedback)? Does it affirm that we are indeed not intelligent and we should just give up now? Outside feedback is often assimilated subconsciously.

And I don’t know what the answer, is considering this is just the nature of how things are. But the alternative I go to is to look inward and ask, “Is this true? Is the outside feedback I am getting true for me?” This is hard (and of course children don’t really have the wherewithal to do this). But as adults, are we still acting according to outside affirmation? Are we still letting other people tell us our truth? Whether it’s great feedback or feedback that we’re no good. In a sense, we can’t *really* take anything personally, even the praise and affirmation, can we?

I know this is going a little deep, but think about it. In The Four Agreements, Miguel Ruiz says, “Don’t Take Anything Personally,” and we usually think about this when it comes to negative feedback. With people who challenge us, we say, “It’s on them,” and wipe our hands of it. But likewise, isn’t it just as valid to say, don’t take praise personally either?

Aaaaaah! This is hard, but when we are fully okay in our skin, praise and compliments are nice, but we don’t *need* them to feel affirmed and loved all on our own.

Here’s the thing: your MO is perfect as it is right now. Mine is too. It’s perfectly fine for me to continue posting selfies to garner the praise and affirmation that I do indeed look good. Ha! BUT. The question to ask is: “Why? Why do I need this?” And then, once I know why (because I want someone to tell me I am good enough), I can ask, “How do I help myself feel good enough without any feedback from outside of me?”

THIS is what this process and journey is about. How do we feel good enough? How can we be okay without the constant Likes and Shares and Comments that social media so conveniently primes us to now need?

For me, it’s all about mindset work.

It’s an inside job and I use a few tools to help me get my headspace in the right place for self-acceptance feeling good in myself regardless of what feedback I am getting (good or bad):

1) Gratitude. I try to find at least one thing inside myself that I am grateful for. Something that I don’t need anyone to tell me I’m good at–I just know it, own it and kill it.

2) Benefit of the doubt. I try to remember that I am human and I am just doing my best. Do I have days where I feel less-than? Sure. But it doesn’t mean I am not worth anything and might as well give up now. I try to take the long-view and show myself compassion. All I can do is my best, because what else is there?

3) The Alternative. This is one of my favs and it’s so super simple. It’s just this: asking, “What’s the alternative?” and then finding the miserable alternative to NOT deciding I am okay. For example, “I’m not lean enough” turns into “I’m fine right now because the alternative is thinking I suck and when I think that, I’m miserable.” OR “I’m not having any success in the business!” turns into “I have to keep striving because saying a suck at business (the alternative) only makes me feel less motivated and more helpless.” NO THANKS. Guess what? The alternative is always MISERY. Not feeling good enough is misery. And I am done with that emotion, byyyyyeeee!

And one final thought: if you want to be miserable, just judge yourself nonstop for not being perfect.

Or for judging your actions. Or for not having it all together. We do this. It’s human. It’s fine! And this discussion only serves to bring awareness to it, to have the insight and to learn from all of it. There’s nothing “wrong” with any of it. It’s just a discussion to continue.

Finally, just own that shit. 

Jade told me, “Look, if you’re going to post a selfie, just post a selfie, get the likes and comments you’re looking for and own it. But don’t pretend like it’s something else.” I have to agree. #awarnessFTW :)

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