Being a mom is hard. Real hard. Moms take their role so seriously that most have a tendency to hold themselves to the highest standards, which are often unrealistic, and struggle to give themselves grace when they don’t feel those standards are met. Moms need people in their lives to speak the truth about their successes, to lift them up, to help restore confidence, and to remind them that tomorrow will be a fresh start. But in today’s world, it’s becoming more common to reach for our phones and scroll through Facebook to decompress after a hard day than it is to call a friend.

Research on how social media impacts mental health is just starting to emerge, but here are a few things we’ve learned so far:

  • Social media use has been linked to feelings of sadness, social isolation, depressive symptoms, loneliness, anxiety, difficulty concentrating and decreased self-esteem, to name just a few.
  • Researchers are learning that social media has an inherent ability to contribute to comparison, which can diminish feelings of success, satisfaction and positivity about one’s life.

It’s not to say that all social media use is bad. It can be an inspiring world where true human connections are formed, resources are gained and knowledge is increased. Here are a few tips to navigating social media so that it becomes a tool used for our benefit and not an unhealthy hobby that dictates our self-worth.

Remember that Social Media is Like “ School Picture Day” of the Online World

Do you remember the school picture day routine? Take a bath, wear a dress, curl your hair and then use that little black plastic comb they handed out in the line as you waited for your turn. We tried our hardest to present the best version of ourselves for that one little snapshot. Welcome to social media in 2018.

While there has been a recent trend amongst those with an online presence to present a more realistic version of daily life as a mom (cue the video of my toddler screaming in the middle of the cereal aisle), the majority of posts on social media are the highlights of life. We all know the pictures – the steaming mug of coffee cupped by freshly manicured nails, the kids downing a bowl of homemade kale chips, the family in coordinating outfits sitting on the couch of their perfectly staged living room. And you know what, I’d probably take advantage of immortalizing those images on social media as well because scenes like that rarely ever happen.

These “picture perfect” moments are fleeting and are often accompanied by chaos just outside of the frame. The majority of the world chooses to curate their online presence with only the best of the best, the novel, the celebratory and the visually appealing. I beg you to remember this the next time you’re tempted to compare yourself to something you see on social media. That other mom most likely deals with the same struggles as you – she just doesn’t always post about them.

Consider Social Media Motives

Aaaah, the olden days of social media where people would snap a phone picture, slap on an overly processed filter, and post that puppy in real time. Things have changed, my friend.

Social media has evolved quickly and has largely become a sales tool. I recently heard Kylie Jenner say in an interview that she doesn’t have to pay for marketing because all of her brand hype comes from social media. Although most people on Instagram and Facebook are not moguls of the Kylie status, many people are using the platforms as a way to sell something, whether it be a health shake, lipstick or their own personal brand. Even many moms pursue sponsorships as a means of stay at home income. If your paycheck is dependent on how well you present yourself online, the effort you put into those posts and pictures is going to be drastically different than if you just wanted grandma to see how cute the baby looked in the outfit she sent.

Ultimately, you have to keep in mind that the uses of social media have expanded and there are frequently motives behind the things we see. While none of these uses are inherently wrong, they become dangerous when we fail to realize that there may be intentions beyond catching up with old friends online. Acknowledge that social media has largely become a virtual marketplace, filled with advertisements, sponsorships and personal promotions that are not scenes from true life.

Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

When you compare yourself to others you see on social media, one of two things typically happens. Sometimes, you feel really good. You perceive that in some way, you’re doing a better job at x, y or z than someone else out there and it feels nice to be ahead of the game. On the other hand, the more frequent experience is feeling less than or not as good as what you’re viewing. This can quickly contribute to feelings of defeat, and for those already struggling with postpartum depression or anxiety, more negative thoughts that perpetuate the cycle.

Regardless of whether you feel better or worse about yourself based on social media comparisons, it may be helpful to realize you’re using external standards of success and failure. Your self-worth lies in you, Moms, based on the standards and expectations you have formed for yourself with the help of your loved ones, faith and personal values system. Gently evaluate yourself using the measuring stick you have created – not the one created by society on your phone.

Find Your Boundaries With Social Media

It’s time to take an inventory of your personal social media use. How do you feel after scrolling through Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest? Inspired, validated, and relaxed, or drained, defeated and down? Connected and fulfilled, or isolated and left out? Are there certain platforms that make you feel better or worse than others? Are there certain people you follow that do more harm than good?

It’s time to put some boundaries in place. “Unfriend.” “Unfollow.” “Snooze for 30 days.” Try a social media cleanse. Delete the app off of your phone. Whatever your move, remember that motherhood is challenging enough without the influence of “virtual friends” impacting your self-worth. Protect your hearts and your minds.

The bottom line is that if something you’re viewing is causing you to feel negative or not good enough, it probably needs to go. If it’s not lifting you up and empowering you as a mother, it’s not worth it. The power lies with you, moms – not with Instamommy over there. And good for her! But don’t allow her success to be your failure.

Darby Musha is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor providing education and opportunities for moms to process pregnancy and birth-related mental health experiences at Breath of Life.