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The Spark Community and that Pesky Pressure to be Perfect

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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leaving behind the one thing that's kept me successful in maintenance and I know what's happened in the past when I've withdrawn from my support networks.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.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    emoticon I've drifted away and only came back - three weeks ago. I couldn't do it without the wonderful network that emoticon provides. Thanks for your inspirational blog; for saying it like it is; none are perfect; even the ones that we look up to - be it music, the movies etc. All have challenges and some are better at handling these than others. I'm pleased to have read your blog and look forward to the future. emoticon
    1784 days ago
    1836 days ago
    1856 days ago
    Great blog! I have a tendency to put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself. The drive for perfection comes from inside, not outside.
    1858 days ago
    Wise words. emoticon
    1861 days ago
    Hey Tina,
    I am going to take your advice about finding a team that works for me. I belong to a few teams but I'm not really into them. I do like my zumba team, however.

    I will also take your advice about joining a maintenance team when I am at goal. I may actually do it before I reach my goal. It's funny, you mention the pressure of not being able to respond to all the comments on your blog. I have the opposite going on. I need more business on my blogs!! I enjoy writing them and being a motivator, but I'm not one of the "popular kids". ha ha. I guess it takes time to make a name for yourself on here. Not that I'm craving attention, I just like the whole idea of people helping me and me helping them, if I can. Oh, hell, who am I kidding, attention would be nice too!!! ha ha.

    It's funny, you are like a younger version of me. We think a like. Must be a Tina thing. I may have to check out some of the teams you are on, they may be up my alley as well. Oh, guess what, went shopping on mother's day. bought two pairs of jean capris....size 10!!
    1866 days ago
    emoticon very well said..... we are just happy to be on the journey with you... even if you aren't able to individually talk to your "sparkfriends" we are all here to support each other and share the journey. keep up the great work and motivation!!
    1866 days ago
    great way of putting it. emoticon emoticon
    1867 days ago
    emoticon Great advice and encouragement! I especially liked where you spoke about how we put the pressure on ourselves to be perfect more than others put it on us. So true!

    I plan to Never quit SP or tracking my food. I've worked too hard to get this weight off and even though I still have some to go, I never want it back! emoticon emoticon
    1867 days ago
    I haven't really explored the community side of SP as much as I'd like to. I hope that your post will inspire me to get on teams, etc. in a meaningful way to find positive interactions. Thanks for giving a perspective on needing to find balance in the SP community.
    1867 days ago
    To thine own self be true girl. You are en encouragement to us all and we admire you for not being perfect -- but just for being you and genuine -- and sharing your journey. That is all anyone can expect. Thanks for sharing!

    1868 days ago
    I have physical limitation so I just do the best I can. emoticon
    1868 days ago
    Thank you and know that you don't have to be perfect, in fact I think perfection becomes boring, after all what is there to strive for if you are perfect. The striving for something is what makes life interesting.
    1868 days ago
    emoticon great blog!
    1868 days ago
    You hit the nail on the head! Thankfully, I've not had the pressures of perfection... but I have been one to 'slip away' suddenly, unplanned, just a bit on the OCD side and something shiny this way comes! But, I come back... and to me, that's what is important! I do remember the help Spark and Sparkers provide, and when I 'wake up'... I come crawling back! I LOVE that so many of my original friend base are still around and active!

    But, so many are either inactive or just removed their pages... like you posted, I check frequently to see which ones might have snuck back as I do! Trying to not get overly OCD with it, however, because I find I'm spending more time sitting in my chair then actually getting out and movin' that tush. Definitely a test of 'moderation' for all things!

    So, while working on the moderation - I try to work my friend feed so that I don't miss things, rather than try to visit individual pages every day - that would be impossible! Been back almost 2 months now, and am still trying to find that 'balance'. Thanks for being out here! I look forward to seeing more of your blogs in my feed :)

    emoticon on your continued maintenance!
    1868 days ago
    good thoughts, thank you
    1868 days ago
    Many thanks for your awesome and so true blog! emoticon
    1868 days ago
    Very well said! We are all on journeys that take us in different directions. It can be unnerving to watch someone else succeed when we are struggling mightily. The best thing to do is to stay with the community and take motivation from others.
    1868 days ago
    Thank you for expressing what I have been ruminating about and unable to put into words. emoticon
    1868 days ago
    emoticon blog. I can really relate to this as I have been there. Thank you so much for putting it eloquently into words.
    Blessings and hugs,
    1868 days ago
  • CATE195
    1868 days ago
    Your blog as always has provided some great food for thought - and it is interesting that you think there is pressure to be perfect. I have found that this is the first weight loss and fitness resource that encourages me to be who I am, to love what I am, and this is made so much easier because you are surrounded by others who are in the same place or have been. For me the fact that people across the world are sharing experiences and thoughts, and I get the most amazing support from people I have never met, is just phenomenal.

    That said of course, I have not had a featured blog, so I don't have the pressure to respond to everyone as you have had!

    I love this blog for its honesty and whilst I didn't completely agree with everything you have said, I can understand your position - and I really hope you stick around - I enjoy your company emoticon
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    1868 days ago
    Loved your post-haven't been able to exercise due to being ill for the last three weeks due to bad luck. Part of me wants to just wants shut down, but I like reading all the blogs and tracking my food and reading all the interesting stuff on here. I actually love the site and was a member once before and did the same thing-not this time. Thank you for a timely one. emoticon
    1869 days ago
    Well said!
    1869 days ago
    Great post
    1869 days ago
    emoticon Thanks and well said!
    1869 days ago
  • DOTTY7267
    Wonderfully said!
    1869 days ago
    Ooooh....you have hit the nail right on the head! There seems to be a TON of guilt if you can't keep up with people - in an effort to motivate? Encourage? I don't know what it is, but I have the same perfectionist tendencies. AND - when I can't pull it off perfectly, well, then I pull away. Great blog for me to mull over. It's hard finding a balance on such a great site with so many great people!
    1869 days ago
  • CICELY360
    good blog
    1869 days ago
    very well said. Thank you!
    1869 days ago
    1870 days ago
    1870 days ago
    Thank you for a very good blog. Such good reminders for us all.
    1870 days ago
    Well done!
    1870 days ago
    I cant add anything of value to your superb blog. Thank you.
    1870 days ago
    I agree that we all have different needs at different times in our lives. When I first joined a couple of years ago with a different name, I blogged a lot, checked my friend feed daily and felt compelled to comment on most of their blogs as I wanted and needed comments on mine.

    This time I am here with a different name as the old one no longer fits who I am today. Today I am here to use the tracker, read articles, Spark Cafe, vlogs. Spark Teams of interests as that's what works for me today. I was not going to friend anyone as I knew I could not be a friend today as I was not going to read my friend feed. I wound up friending those that friended me. I comment on random blogs from the Spark community so people friend you and I friend back. They each are wonderful people as I felt compelled to leave comments on their blogs but I don't read my friend feed and may not come across their page again. Today I am not a good internet friend. I also didn't like giving so much to people who just one day disappear without a good-bye.

    I am here to reach my weight loss goal and doing it the way that fits me today that could change but we all have to do what works for us in real time. Thanks for this very thought provoking blog.

    1870 days ago
    Good solid reasoning to stay engaged. Thank you for sharing. Great Blog!!
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    1870 days ago
    I check in on SP daily (and always make sure to get enough points to be able to do the daily bonus spin as well, lol). I used to respond to each friend request and to each blog comment. But to be honest, I don't anymore.. It really just depends on how busy I am. If I have time, then of course I do, but I don't want it to take over and have my family or "real-life friends" suffer for it... But this is the best site out there! And I appreciate the support of all of the SP community!
    1870 days ago
    Great blog!
    1870 days ago
    Very thoughtful, insightful blog. I have never been chosen as a moderator and that is OK by me, but I can imagine the friend requests WOULD come pouring in as everyone wants to befriend someone they see as a success. Glad that you have chosen to stay and do what you can, which is a great contribution! emoticon
    1870 days ago
    Great blog. emoticon
    1870 days ago
  • JAMER123
    I believe you have written my story almost to a word. Going from sitting back & watching the activity while getting points to becoming a co-leader and currently leading alone. One can not do it all so one must learn how to pick the important parts that help & try not to worry about that that is left behind.
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    1871 days ago
    Great post.
    1871 days ago
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