The Struggle: Body Image and Being an Older Travel Blogger on Social Media

Posing in the shadows.

Posing in the shadows.

Somehow, with all of the exhilaration swirling around our new adventure as travel bloggers / vloggers and the laser focus on our speedy entry into social media, I never really stopped to consider what it would actually mean to share myself publicly.  My face. My body. Me.  See, I would never described myself as beautiful.  I would never referred to myself as cute.  Truth be told, in my self-comparisons, I almost always come out wanting.    

And now I am everywhere!  I am on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter and YouTube and Pinterest and our own website. All of this exposure has led to what is, possibly, one of the most surprising oversights of my life.

To better understand what I mean, let’s consider how Instagram works.  You post photos with hashtags (descriptive notes) and then Instagram serves your photos to folks who have expressed an interest in those hashtags.  Your shot is often, literally, one of millions.  The key is to share a photo which is so visually stunning that you force people to stop manically scrolling through their feed and ❤️ your image.  Sounds do-able enough, right?  Not so fast… Digging a bit deeper, our very unscientific analysis has determined that girls in skimpy thongs, preferably from behind, (no pun intended) are the only surefire scroll-stopping images --guaranteed to earn you ❤️ after ❤️ after ❤️.   We can debate whether or not it should be the case, but I am merely stating a fact.  Flaunting your bottom wins the social media game every time.

On stairway at Crosstown Concourse in Memphis.

On stairway at Crosstown Concourse in Memphis.

With that in mind, I find that I scrutinize every photo to be sure that my double chin does not feature prominently, that I have slept enough to flatten out some of my wrinkles and that everything is shot from eye-level or below so that my thinning hair is not obvious.  I cringe, as we edit our videos, when I see the size of my bum flash forwards and backwards --and forwards again—on the laptop screen. (Ironic twist: my daughter just called specifically to tell me that she thinks I have been looking quite beautiful in the most recent posts. Ha! Talk about timing!)  Don’t get me wrong, I am in OK shape for 56, but I am also keenly aware that 56 is not 26.  Suddenly, without warning, I am competing in a space where youth is a tremendous advantage.  Coming from the world of consulting where age, experience and wisdom gained overtime are perceived as pluses, this is very different. 

Playing dress-up at Schwab's in Memphis

Playing dress-up at Schwab's in Memphis

Please understand, as a mature woman, I do feel that it is important to stay fit; not with the goal of emulating 26-year olds, but for my health and well-being. (Let’s face it… I didn’t look like the young women on Instagram when I was 26, so I certainly do not have that as an objective now.)  To that end, I have made a point of educating myself on what good nutrition looks like.  This doesn’t mean that I am perfect in my execution of healthy eating, but I know that I am making better choices than I would be if I hadn’t informed myself.  I also track the amount and the quality of exercise I do each week.  Again, sometimes I don’t meet my target, but I no longer beat myself up for my misses.  Instead, gently yet firmly, I tell myself that I know I can do better next time --and then I set about doing better.  Here’s the bottom line: I paid attention to my eating habits and physical activity before I was on social media and will continue if and when I am no longer on social media.  Will eating right and exercising regularly also help me look better?  Perhaps.  And to be honest, that may be part of my inspiration, but my motivation is longevity and quality of life.  Let’s face it: as we age, our bodies age.  It is about doing what we can to help our bodies last longer.  As with many other things in life, we can get what we want, if we want it badly enough, right?  With a little compassion and understanding, I believe we can make it easier for each and every one of us to celebrate the “beautiful woman” that resides within.  But I digress…

Back to social media.

The “bumfull” vs “bumless” struggle, when it isn’t impacting my self-esteem (which is happening less and less), it is always frustrating me and my husband as we strive to make inroads into the social media world.  Making a name in social media as part of your “second act” is unquestionably challenging.  Because those of us over 50 did not grow up with social media, our friends and network may not be on social media.  This makes it more challenging in terms of having a built-in audience.  Accordingly, our growth must be from scratch and based exclusively on engaging folks with our content, rather than relying on prior relationships.  That’s where age is a benefit.  Having experienced demanding environments previously, we are not ones to shy away from hard work. We put our nose to the proverbial grindstone and press on. Learn. Try. Evaluate. Revise. Repeat.  Can people over 50 be successful on social media?  We think so.   

For decades, whenever I have seen myself in my husband’s eyes, I have felt my most beautiful.  Interestingly, every Sunday as I objectively review the week’s footage, I am starting to see a smattering of what I think he sees.  A woman who is neither new, nor thong-material, yet who may still be worth a ❤️ or two.