Step out of the fairytale.
Let’s take a look at how social media plays a role in shaping peoples perceptions of themselves.
Any wonder why people today feel so dissatisfied with themselves when we live in a world told to celebrate our uniqueness but at the same time to be a perfectly polished version of ourselves?
Societal standards should not define you!
We were not born into the world hating our bodies and the way we look. Over time this has become a learned behaviour, influenced by social media, societal expectations and trends. It has become normalised to strive to be ‘perfect’; The perfect body, lifestyle or job. It plagues me to think of my children (when I have them) growing up in the world conditioned to feel that they need to look or act in a certain way to feel good about themselves or accepted by others.
My body image
For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with my own body image and self-confidence. I constantly compared myself to others. Friends, co-workers, celebrities or even strangers on social media. I would spend so much of my time examining myself in the mirror, picking apart all of the things I felt were wrong or not attractive. I hate my thighs! Why can they not be smaller? Why can I not have a flat stomach like the girls in the magazines? I remember coming home from school and weighing myself every day with the hope of seeing a difference in the scales. If not, then I would not want to eat. My weight would constantly fluctuate. Losing weight and then gaining what I lost and sometimes more. I was never happy with the way I looked. Even at my smallest, I was still not happy! Now when I look back at photos, I realise there was nothing wrong with how I looked. I was never satisfied and I allowed this mentality to control how I felt about myself for most of my youth and adult life. This kind of behaviour is so detrimental to our physical and mental health. Striving for this unattainable perfection will ultimately lead to a life of unhappiness.
Skip forward to my mid-20s and welcome to the world of Snap Chat and Instagram, where filters, edited images and influencers created a whole new level of distorted body images. I am not disregarding social media and its benefits. I know it has been/can be used in several positive ways for a whole host of reasons. However, I still believe it is one of the most influential factors in how we see ourselves.
Take a look at this image. What are your first thoughts?
This image was circulating on Instagram last week. From what I saw, it created two differing opinions. Some people green with envy of her washboard abs and the thigh gap. Others disappointed that this is the image still being sold as the ‘perfect’ body. People may view this image as attractive, but that does not mean YOU are not! You may not have a flat stomach and curves in all the right places (as they say), but that does not mean you are not beautiful.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
What legacy do you want to leave behind? Is it how people viewed you based on your appearance and how attractive you are? Or instead, the kind of person you are, based on your attributes and the positive impact you may have had on the world and others.
As I reached the grand old age of 30, I realised that I did not need to be like anybody else. I am fine, just the way I am. I still have days when I look in the mirror and think I wish … But I am now much more comfortable in my own skin. I recognise the importance of a healthy lifestyle to stimulate change, rather than subjecting my body to unhealthy crash diets that only lead to a vicious cycle of under-eating, losing weight, regaining weight and dieting again. Eat, sleep, diet, repeat!
How can body image affect our mental health?
For good or bad, self-perception and body image have a substantial influence on our mental health. When we continuously tell ourselves that we are not good enough, then this will eventually result in issues such as:
- Low self-esteem
- Eating disorders
- Obsessive behaviours
We must recognise when we may be feeling this way. What it is that is triggering these emotions. Talk to friends /family about how you are feeling or try writing down your feelings. How did you feel at that moment? What triggered you? How did you respond? It may help you to recognise any patterns in your behaviour and identify strategies to overcome them.
Body positivity- What can you do?
Positive body image is accepting how our body looks and valuing what it can do. Recognising that we are much more than our appearance. -Mental Health Foundation.
- Social media breaks- An innocent scroll on Instagram can lead to a negative experience. All of a sudden, you are being triggered by a photo you saw of somebody on holiday, on a beach in a skimpy bikini living their best life. If this happens regularly, then it is time to take a break. Try only spending a little time each day on social media apps. If you feel yourself getting pulled in, then put the phone down and do something that will make you feel better than looking at edited images of perfection.
- Spring clean your apps- You are in control of what and who you interact with, just like in real life. You are the one in control of who you speak to and what you choose to see. Unfollow anyone or anything that may not make you feel good about yourself. You are allowed to.
- Follow influencers that encourage body positivity- Become more aware of the people you choose to follow online. There are plenty of self-love advocates out there that will fill your screens with reasons as to why you should love yourself, just the way you are. Check out: @AlexLight @Bodypositivitymovement @MySelf-LoveSupply
- Language is important- What we say to ourselves and others is so important. Remember always to be kind not only to others but most importantly to yourself. If you would not say it to a friend, why would you say it to yourself? Catch yourself before saying something negative about your appearance. How can you turn it into something positive instead?
The power you take back when you stop looking outside yourself for validation, but instead, you take the time to look within for acceptance is liberating.
Be you 🙂 xx