Compare Less, Live More: Social Pressure + T1D
As I am sure most of us have realized by now, social media is not all sunshine and rainbows. It can take a toll on our egos, in more ways than one. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as a whole is a sneaky wolf in sheep’s clothing. We want to connect with others by sharing the things that make us happy, and to connect with others on levels that would not have been attainable in any other decade that came before.
The upside is that we get to share in the joy of our friends and family, as well as get helpful guidance on various topics from those that we now know as “influencers.” In the type 1 diabetes (T1D) realm, I have made so many incredible friends that dedicate their lives to giving advice on nutrition, exercise and other diabetes management tools via social media. Although we all gain a lot of knowledge and inspiration from fellow T1Ds in this way, the darker side of social media can rear its head—even in a predominantly supportive community such as ours.
The objective of people with type 1 who make a name for themselves on social media platforms is to showcase what they are doing right, so that we can follow suit. However, the consistent posts about their successes—whether it be with blood sugar management during a workout, food choices, or A1C results, makes it easy for us to fall into the habit of comparing ourselves to others.
If we are not getting the perfect results that other people are seemingly achieving, almost effortlessly—it becomes easier to view our own day-to-day management as something of a failure. Here are some ways that have worked for me when it comes to battling the instinct to compare myself to fellow T1Ds while scrolling through those daily Insta stories.
Realize that the “story” is never the WHOLE story.
Most people’s human nature is only to share the moments that bring them joy, rather than the moments that cause them any sadness or frustration. Many of us want to keep it to ourselves on those more difficult days in fear or judgment, or only share it with those who are very close to us. So, it makes sense that most people’s Instagram or Facebook posts are going to appear as if they’ve got the perfect life, and the perfect management. Their meals look insanely delicious and miraculously low carb. Their bodies are as chiseled as a marble sculpture in the Met. Their Dexcom graphs are steady as a rock. What I can promise you is that none of these things will ever be a constant for anyone, and things appear very differently at certain angles. Yes, these people also have days where they are struggling to get their blood sugars down from the 200s, and they have days where they eat three donuts and feel bad about how far their stomach hangs over the waistband of their jeans. A lot of these people are not likely to reveal that to you. But hey—some do! And one of those people could be you. Don’t be afraid to vent about the tougher days. Life is a balance. Seek out those people that do want to connect on more levels than solely the type 1 “wins.” They are out there.
They mean well!
It is important to keep in mind, particularly when it comes to “influencers,” that their primary goal is to empower us. They are proud of certain things that they have learned or achieved themselves, and they will never know for sure whether or not it will work for others, but they can certainly share their experiences in the hopes that it does. If a notable figure on social media is in it for the right reasons, they will always be open to questions and/or suggestions. If you follow someone that you feel could benefit from sharing something in particular, or could be approaching certain topics in a different way—just reach out! Social media is all about interaction, after all.
Remind yourself that nobody (and no body) works the same way.
Nothing is foolproof. Especially when it comes to an autoimmune disease. Yes, we all have one thing in common: our pancreases are useless. But, the human body with all of its moving parts is so supremely complex that there could never be one “right” way to manage our T1D. Just because a certain nutrition plan, exercise routine, CGM model or pump vs. multiple daily injection (MDI) works for one person does not mean that it is going to jive with you, your body and your lifestyle. Don’t let what everyone else is doing dictate your decisions. If necessary, take a giant step back from social media to give yourself some space to explore and learn what is going to be best for you, in the absence of any outside influence.
Know that some things won’t resonate with you, and that’s okay.
In a similar light, we shouldn’t be so quick to judge others and their unique choices and beliefs. If something that someone is posting about in the T1D management sphere doesn’t align with you, just accept that it has worked for them and move on. Live and let live!
You get to define your successes.
Everyone has a different definition of success, and it can take many shapes and sizes. Just because someone that you admire has a certain goal, does not always mean that it should automatically be important to you. Success can be as easy as not getting as big of a blood sugar spike as you usually do after breakfast. It doesn’t always have to be something as big as a significant A1C improvement or placing first in a race. Success with regard to T1D is whatever makes you feel like you’ve done your best that month, week, day, or moment. Not unlike our blood sugars, everyone is on a different level when it comes to our T1D management—and “different” does not mean “lesser than” or “superior to.”
All we need to do in order to thrive via social media and in the real world, is to honor where we are individually in each moment, and equally honor the places where our friends are.