Wouldn’t it be nice if Instagram could be a happier place where no one ever compares or falls into an Instagram shame spiral or leaves feeling less valuable than anyone else? What if you could make that exist for yourself, just by trying a handful of simple strategies?
We Trust What We See With Our Eyes
Comparing ourselves to strangers on the internet is nothing new, right?
Don’t we all know by now that the images we see in our social news feeds, particularly on Instagram, are posed, edited, strategically timed and perfected to portray a particular lifestyle or aesthetic?
We know there’s more to the story, that this person can’t possibly be as perfect as they appear, but we can’t seem to stop defining our own worth based on how we measure up to them.
Even if they’re not strangers, seeing a friend’s or acquaintance’s curated photos that represent the story they want us to believe about their life, can send us up a mountain of self-doubt. Comparing our weaknesses to their apparent “strengths.”
To make matters worse, we take it a step further and beat ourselves up for comparing ourselves in the first place. Don’t we know better? Comparison is the thief of joy.
So why is it so hard to stop? Why can’t we just listen to ourselves, recognize that our emotions have taken over and make the necessary changes that will bring more peace and happiness to our lives?
Because we trust what we see with our eyes.
10 Strategies That Have Made Instagram A Happier Place For Me
I’ve been blogging professionally for six years now and I can’t count the number of times I’ve almost thrown it all away because of overwhelming feelings of inadequacy fueled by social media.
But every time I didn’t quit, I was forced to get clearer on my why — my reason to keep going — which means I’ve had to get real with myself about what works and what doesn’t work for ME. Regardless of what works for anyone else.
The below 10 strategies are the boundaries I finally gave myself permission to put in place to ensure my time on Instagram, specifically, is uplifting, purposeful and beneficial.
1. Don’t check Instagram or social media when you first wake up.
Even if you have notifications waiting for you. Read a favorite quote, pray, meditate, exercise, create a morning routine, be intentionally present with your family… anything that speaks to who YOU are and what you value most.
2. Change who you are following and who you are allowing into your life.
Follow the people who make you believe in your why. People who have similar missions or vibes. People who lift you up so you don’t waste any time doubting yourself. Self doubt is not going to help you accomplish what you’ve been called to do in your own life. Tired of seeing your friend’s posts but afraid to unfollow them? You can now mute posts and stories on IG so no one has to know you’re opting out.
3. Be intentional when you’re in the app.
Set time limits and priorities. For example, I’m either posting and responding to comments on my previous post, giving myself 5-10 minutes to scroll and engage with whatever happens to be in my feed at the time, or I’m commenting on the photos of people who have commented on mine — choosing the people who choose me. Decide why you use the app in the first place and then honor that purpose. Scrolling aimlessly in boredom will only lead to purchasing things you don’t need (guilty) or feeling like you don’t have enough, do enough, or aren’t enough.
4. If you’re building a business, plan your content in advance.
Be purposeful in your captions if you’re using the app to grow a blog or business. I learned this as a student in Jenna Kutcher’s Instagram Lab back in 2016. It’s still tricky to get everything planned out in advance every week, but per Jenna’s suggestion, I use the Plann app to do so. I’ve also used Later and Tailwind and they’re both great content planning options, too.
5. Decide how often you’re going to show up. Stick to it.
Before I got clear on my purpose for Instagram, I used to compare myself to other fashion bloggers and I was so confused about how often to post. It seemed like everyone else was posting three or more times per day, but after 1-2 posts I couldn’t think of more ways to tell you about my clothes. I felt bad about it for way too long. Just find a schedule that works for you, modify it when needed, go easy on yourself when you’re having an off week, and just try to stick to the goal you’ve set for yourself.
Likewise, if you use Instagram to share family updates or cute pics of your dog—it doesn’t matter what, when or why other people post if you know what, when or why YOU are posting. Do YOUR thang.
6. Stay in the know as social media evolves.
Reading a quick article about the value of influencer audiences, brand social strategies or the social network algorithms themselves, can often bring me back to a bird’s eye view of the social space and my tiny place in it. It’s all still so weird that just about anyone can get paid to be an “influencer” these days. But even if you’re not using social media to become an influencer, understanding what’s driving the posting behaviors of those “strangers on the Internet” who are, may help you see things differently. Certain posts that used to be so annoying to you may suddenly make sense when you understand how they’re part of that person’s why, their business growth strategy or their legacy (or lack thereof).
8. Water your own grass. Stay in your own lane. You get the idea.
Spend more time focusing on how you’ll use social media to uplift and serve others, and less time absorbing content from people to whom you compare yourself. Even if these are the people you selectively chose to keep following, the comparison trap is always lurking if you spend too much time observing what others are doing. If you know these people in real life and you’re spending time with them in real life, that’s different. Too much time spent looking through a carefully curated and edited “story” of someone’s highlights on Instagram where you don’t have the ability to fill in the holes of what’s missing, can be dangerous.
9. Let someone else post photos for you.
I learned this from a friend who has hired someone to do social for her business. She writes her own messages and chooses her photos, but the employee actually logs into the app and posts. If you’re posting a lot (again, to grow a blog or business), this could be a great strategy for you. It will allow you to get your content and message out there without getting sidetracked by what’s in your feed.
10. Take breaks.
Whenever I’ve taken long periods of time off from Instagram (1-2 consecutive weeks or more), I always return feeling centered and recharged. I haven’t always been intentional about when I take breaks — sometimes they happen when I’m in shame — but I’ve never regretted them, even if I’ve lost followers, and I plan to schedule future social media breaks to disconnect and intentionally reconnect with my own truth.
SHOP THE POST
Setting Boundaries Equals Self Love
Instagram used to be a place for me to get inspiration (sometimes “thinspriation”) to perfect my appearance and give me ideas for controlling how I wanted to be perceived.
Now, I use it as a springboard for practicing courage. It’s vulnerable to put ourselves out there and share our voices and beliefs, no matter what platform we use. But I feel even more courageous using my voice on a platform that has continually challenged my belief that I—with all of my imperfections and shortcomings—am enough.
I feel powerful and more resilient and I believe that attitude is what will bring the right opportunities into my life at the right times. Boundaries are everything because it takes courage to set them, to choose ourselves and our unique needs over the fear of disappointing other people and being seen as imperfect.
If Instagram is making you feel miserable about yourself, it’s time to make some changes, Sister! Start small—one boundary at a time—and start taking your power back. You deserve to feel good about your amazing self every day!
Tell me about your experience with Instagram. Have you ever struggled with your self-image due to social media? What strategies or boundaries would you add to this list?