So it finally happened. I knew it would probably happen at some point and after 18 months of sharing my fitness journey on social media, I had my first troll message. And even sadder, it was someone I know in real life and someone I actually considered a friend.
I first saw it as I was getting the kids' breakfasts ready before I did the school run. It was frantic as it always is that time in the morning and I stopped what I was doing for a few brief minutes to check I hadn't missed any important messages from Mum's at school before we left the house.
"... most of yr pics are photo-shopped... including ones of yr kids."
And there it was. 7.34am. She had responded to a picture I had posted the previous day on my Instagram stories and had commented with an 'angry face' emoji. My first reaction was she had sent the 'angry face' emoji by mistake, so I messaged back and asked 'Why the angry face?', completely expecting her to say she had pressed the button by mistake. No harm, no foul! But she responded back unwaivered and launched into her tirade of abuse. She started by saying she was offended by something I'd posted and then went on to say that although my blog is called the 'Real Life Fit', she thinks that most of my pictures are photo-shopped, including ones of my children.
I was stunned. Literally gobsmacked. And because it was someone that I had been friends with, it really stopped me dead in my tracks.
I would like to say at this point, if it had been someone I didn't know in real life then I don't think I would have cared as much. I know that there are perils of putting yourself out there online and one of them is that you may get messages from all sorts of weird and wonderful people offering you their opinion or even better, 'advice'! And I can deal with that. But when it comes from someone that you've never had any previous run-ins with and there hasn't been any previous hint of animosity; well that comes completely out of left-field and smacks you straight between the eyes.
But after 5 minutes or so of 'WTF?', common sense kicked in. You see, I've also spent the last few years focusing on personal development. I read and listen to lots and lots of interesting people. I've come to learn that when someone does something like this out of the blue, not from a place of genuine concern and love, that it says more about them and their situation than yours. She has taken something completely innocent, internalised it, then used it as an opportunity to regurgitate her opinion all over me. I was an easy scapegoat. After all, I put myself out there on social media. Right?
My first response back was one of kindness. I didn't want to get pulled down into the battle that this person was looking for. A apologised if any offence was taken by my post; my caption was tongue-in-cheek and for fun. I went on to explain that I don't alter any of my pictures per se but I do use a particular colour filter for uniformed aesthetics and occasionally a bit of blur in the background to make the foreground 'pop'. That's about it really. I did go on to wish her well with her health and lots of happiness and love.
"...I'm not the only one who's commented... Just a bit of feedback. x"
The piece-de-resistance at the end was that she went on to say that her opinions were also the views of 'others' too and that her comments were 'just a bit of feedback' followed with a kiss 'x', before then blocking me on social media so I couldn't have responded to her. Nice.
The upshot of all if this was two-fold for me:
I mentally bounced back from this pretty quickly.
Within a few hours. I spoke to genuine friends and asked (like actually ASKED for feedback!) and they all resoundingly reassured me to keep doing what I am doing. A couple of years ago if this had happened, I would have probably withdrawn from social media for several weeks. Questioned myself and what I was doing. Made myself small so to not 'offend' anyone else. I would have made myself blend in. I am lucky that I have worked as hard on building mental strength and resilience as I do with my physical health.
What an absolute shame that this came from another woman.
I'm a huge advocate for women. Women supporting each other in whatever they want to do. You want to run a marathon for charity - you go girl! You want to start a business selling CD's of whale song - I'll buy one in support! You want to move to India on a sabbatical and live in an ashram for 6 months - you do you! So it did momentarily make me sad that this criticism came from another woman. I know of women who play small, keep their dreams and aspirations hidden as they fear they'll be ridiculed if they stick their head above the parapet. Some of them hide behind their kids and family as an excuse not to pursue an interest they have. Others will use their jobs as the same kind of barrier. We've made huge steps forwards as women in society over the last 100 years. But when I see one woman trying to tear down another with unkind words, sometimes I think that we've just got so bloody far to go. What happened to Sisterhood?
So from all of this I decided to keep doing what I'm doing. Because I can't be any other way. We are inherently who we are. I guess I made a choice to boldly be myself and share it, but that doesn't mean I'm 'fair game' for trolls to have a cheap pop. Maybe if this person was working on her own mindset and personal development then she wouldn't have felt compelled to send that message to me at 7.34am that morning. Who knows...
But what I do know is that I'm grateful to myself for taking the time to make my own mental health and well-being a priority with personal development, and for me, that's a win. Maybe if everyone was more focused on their own health, then this type of thing wouldn't happen.