There is always something desirable in life. It might be a status you want to rise to, the new makeup line that you find yourself coveting or the simple fact of wanting to meet your weight loss goals. It’s your drive and your motivation, getting you closer to a way of living that you are comfortable and happy with.
Whether your goals are long or short term, it’s incredibly useful to be able to inspire yourself. It’s a necessary part of meeting the way you want to be, in fact. How can you properly form a daydream that you work into making a reality without knowing that your end goal is attainable? You can’t – so you need to see photos, ideas, read the writings of, all the people who have trodden the same path before you. And hopefully along the way with that inspiration, you can pick up a few ideas about making the situation a reality for you as well.
In the age where the internet – and particularly social media – dominates our lives, you don’t have to look far to find inspiration for a goal you are seeking to attain. While this can sometimes be nefarious – such as the “pro-anorexia” communities that have existed since the dawn of the internet – mostly, it’s benign and potentially helpful. Perhaps the most well-known of all is Instagram inspiration, with the most popular topics to seek and find inspiration on being weight loss (healthy weight loss, that is…) and fitness.
Scroll through the associated hashtags and it won’t be long until you can feel the fires burning to do more, especially if you have weight and fitness goals. Frequently posted with “before” and “after” pictures, Instagram is a non-stop carousel of people who have envisioned their fitness desires and then reached the top of the mountain. Used right, it can fire your determination to follow in their path, make you push for that extra rep in the gym, actually try healthy recipes in your blender or run a 5K five seconds faster.
On the surface, this “inspo” seems to be a simple carrot rather than the stick – a promise of the future you can reach if you work hard enough. So what’s the problem? Don’t we all need a little nudge on our way, something to give us a goal to work towards?
- Camera and Editing Trickery
No matter how realistic the “before” and “after” pictures look, the simple fact is you have no idea how real they actually are. This is the age of PhotoShop. You can’t trust any standalone image and expect it to be a perfect representation of reality.
There are ways and means of spotting a PhotoShopped image, particularly by studying any lines in the background. But there’s plenty of old-fashioned camera trickery that can make a before picture look worse and the after picture look better.
So when you look at an image you’re meant to find inspiring, it’s worth pushing that to the side for a moment and focusing on the reality of the image. There’s nothing inspiring about someone’s body being pushed forward as inspirational when it is nothing more than a digital construct. Especially when…
- Unrealistic Expectations
If the above occurs and someone has used PhotoShop to improve the appearance of their body, then there’s only one way you’re going to react: unrealistic expectations.
Say someone is claiming to have lost a large amount of weight in a short amount of time – and what’s more, now they’re toned too. That’s meant to drive you towards achieving the same aim, but what if it’s not possible at all? If their claims are untrue, but presented as fact, then you’re in trouble – suddenly, you’re shooting for a target you’re never, ever going to be able to meet. You can’t digitally alter reality, after all.
The result of this is that after a certain amount of time passes and you’re not seeing the results, you can blame yourself. It could easily push you towards an eating disorder, as you just convince yourself that you need to try harder – after all, you have evidence that this is possible.. or so you will tell yourself, anyway. It could also make you want to increase your energy regime without the proper safeguards, putting you at risk of injury.
- You’ve Become A Customer
The whole idea of inspiration thanks to social media is supposed to be simple. You see an image and it makes you want to replicate it – what could be easier than that?
However, when you follow an inspirational account full of photos of someone’s finely-tuned, athletic and fat-free body, then you’re at risk of being more than an inspiration-seeker. For popular social media accounts, over time you will begin to be something else: a customer.
It happens time and again, from Bikini Body Guide to Girl Online, an online star begins to market to their following. There’s nothing wrong with making money of course, but it doesn’t quite add up to the pure idea of “inspiration”.
One of the best ways of protecting yourself from this situation is to refuse to become a consumer if all you were ever seeking was inspiration. Scroll through images and watch videos as much as you want, but don’t buy something just because it’s endorsed by a user you have watched.
The Golden Rules
So while there is no inherent harm in seeking inspiration for any area of life online (but particularly health and fitness), there are some golden rules you need to keep in mind.
- Be a skeptic. Don’t take anything as the cast-iron truth; always leave room for doubt in what you’re seeing and exercise your judgment accordingly.
- Don’t buy anything until you’ve researched it thoroughly. Some social media stars are experts and the things they recommend might be beneficial, but it’s important to do your own independent research before handing over any cash.
- If something seems to be too good to be true, back away. If anything about the image someone is presenting pings your suspicion, then don’t risk it – back away and trust your instincts.