Wednesday, May 08, 2013
I've been thinking a lot about the blog I wrote yesterday about mourning the loss of SparkFriends and want to add a few other thoughts to it. I know that people leave SparkPeople for different reasons and sometimes they're very valid ones. I also know that not everyone is comfortable putting themselves out there in an environment like this and that silently lurking works much better for them. In my last blog, I said that I've sometimes pulled away from my support networks and I think there are two different reasons why I felt compelled to do that.
The first, as I mentioned in yesterday's blog, was feeling ashamed when I started to backslide. It's hard to be around successful people when you don't feel like you're worthy. The second, which I've also seen happen with a number of people here, is feeling overwhelmed by the pressure to be perfect and the attention of being tagged as a success story. Things on this site like being named a Motivator, having your blogs featured, leading teams and being interviewed are all wonderful and exciting, both for the person who's being highlighted and for others to see and be encouraged by. However, the downside can be that sometimes you feel like you just can't keep up. Friend requests pile in and you find it difficult to respond to everyone who leaves comments, even if they're incredibly thoughtful and insightful. I've been in that position and have felt that pressure.
But for me to fade away from this community would mean leaving behind the one thing that's kept me successful in maintenance and I know what's happened in the past when I've withdrawn from my support networks. To still be active here and not feel overwhelmed by the pressure and the attention sometimes requires balance and prioritizing. I think it's fair to say that just about every person here joined and became active on this site to learn how to live a healthier lifestyle and get the support they need to do that--and I think it's critical to keep that in mind when we're prioritizing our activities here. When I feel overwhelmed, I find it helpful to break down my activities into the things that help me achieve just that. That means being selective about the teams I join and stay active on. I know what works for me and what doesn't at this point and where I can find the support to back up those efforts. I've been on teams in the past that have required a lot of time, but that I didn't get much out of. Those are the ones that I've had to leave behind, not out of shame or ill will, but simply because they weren't the right place for me at that particular time. And although I never turn down a friend request, it's impossible for me to personally be in touch with each of my SparkFriends on a regular basis. It's not a slight--I love reading each and every comment that people leave on my blogs--I just don't have enough time in the day to do that and keep my eye on my ultimate prize of maintaining my weight loss for life, along with my other life priorities.
When I look at things on balance, I realize that I can't and don't ever want to leave my support systems behind again. Yes, sometimes I feel like I'm not living up to the hype and, yes, sometimes I feel like I can't cope with the attention, but the alternative--fading away and submitting to what once seemed like my inevitable pattern of regain--is not an option. I also realize that this idea of perfection that I have is not one that's projected on me from other people, but one I've put on myself. No one here on SparkPeople or anywhere else in my life expects me to be perfect, so why should I expect perfection from myself? That's only led to me getting fed up and giving up in the past and I'm determined not to repeat that pattern. I know that I need support and I need a place like this to keep me on track and accountable. I love being able to help other people and am so happy that many others find my blogs and other activities helpful. But the bottom line is that I'm here and I keep on doing what I'm doing here so that I don't ever go down that terrible road of weight regain again. EVER.
Like so many other things in this process of living a healthy lifestyle, finding the right balance between staying connected here and not becoming fed up or overwhelmed can be tricky, but I think it is achievable. And staying connected doesn't necessarily mean the same thing for all people. Some people are content to silently observe and learn. Some are happy to dabble and make occasional contributions. Some are comfortable in roles where they're more out front. And sometimes our comfort levels change and we move from one group to another. But I think the important thing is not to pull away and to stay active, even if it's in a small way. There are lots of great groups here. If you're on a team that's not a good fit for you, try another one that better meets your needs. If life gets hectic and you just can't stay as active as you once were, let your SparkFriends know. If they're good friends, they'll understand. If you have a SparkFriend who's not supporting you the way you need or is actually being hurtful, lean on the ones who help and encourage you and who can benefit from what you have to offer as well.
One of the wonderful things about this site is how encouraging and positive it is and I don't think that should be something that intimidates or frustrates us. As with many things in life, putting yourself out there can be tough and it sometimes mean that you might get hurt. But it's our choice to wallow in that hurt or to move on something more positive--and there are plenty of places where we can be positive on this site. And just because you're determined to really live a healthy lifestyle doesn't mean that you have to be perfect. If we were, none of us would be here in the first place. We came here for support and that means identifying the kind of help we need and asking for it when we need it most. Being cheered on when we're at our most successful is great, but leaning on the support systems we cultivate will ensure that we'll continue to be successful even when we start to backslide and when we're not able to put our best faces forward. Pulling away has always meant that I'm not willing to ask for that help when I need it most. And that's why I worry so much when I see a SparkFriend disappear and why I'm determined not to pull away ever again.