by Jacqueline Soscia
Photography Courtesy of Alejandra Aristeguieta
Instagram can be a demeaning place. It’s all too easy for us to compare ourselves to supermodels—to compare our mundane lives to these unachievable images and lifestyles.
A massive problem for today’s teens and young adults is this constant struggle to attain the bodies they see on Instagram. It is hard for us to compare ourselves to Kylie Jenner, who attracts millions of viewers with daily glamour shots, or Alexis Rein, a model who posts provocative pictures with a size 23-waist. Okay people, it is time to unfollow.
Let us all admit that we have spent many wasted hours internet-stalking women who have flawless figures. Every teen and young adult has struggled with or inevitably will experience acne, stretch marks or bloating; just a few things on a long list of natural bodily fluctuations that are never shown on social media. In a recent study, conducted by psychology students at the University of Sydney called Body Image, “women reported being in the worst mood after social media comparisons [and were] unhappier with their appearance and more motivated to start unhealthy weight-loss activities.”
The truth of the matter is, people forget that most of these photos are fake and unrealistic. People automatically assume and compare themselves to flawless faces and bodies that are often a result of unhealthy dieting or Photoshop. Kylie Jenner, the 20-year-old entrepreneur and cosmetic icon, is a prime example of someone to not compare yourself.
Over the years, Kylie has been extremely open about her lip fillers and other obvious body changes—i.e. her tiny waist and large eyelashes. Whether she is launching a new product for her makeup line or posting a bikini photo on the beach, every Instagram post is meticulously planned and perfect. People assume that her look is naturally achievable, that it’s something they can realistically aspire to replicate. Yet, on her new show, Life of Kylie, the star admits to the “pressure” she endures when posting a picture, and this “image [she] feels constantly pressured to keep up with.”
Just like celebrities and fitness models, we’re all determined to create a brand—an image of themselves for the rest of the world to see. Whether it’s posting daily pictures at the gym to appear athletic or only Instagramming when on vacation, Instagram can promote a false, more ideal version of people’s lives. A lot of people would never post a family Thanksgiving shot if their smile seems forced or lighting isn’t right. Thus, Instagram forms a brand for each individual and puts forward the life they want people to assume is their reality. Moral of the story: no one looks that good all the time and no one’s life is perfect.
There are elements of this culture we cannot change overnight like people starving themselves before a photo, Photoshopping and editing themselves, etc. However, what we can control is our own mindsets and how we view and compare ourselves to these images.
A key aspect for health and wellness, especially in the digital age, is fostering a mindset of with self-love and positivity. Therefore, a simple way to start, is to unfollow the accounts that promote self-doubt and negative perspectives of your own life. Yes, many of these fitness inspiration accounts can be extremely motivating, but focusing on your own progress is a far better choice. The Selfie for the Self-Love campaign, created by Jessica Lovejoy, encourages women of all ages to take unedited and authentic selfies of themselves to promote a positive body image. These selfies are an empowering way to “create our own definition of beautiful [and] embrace our flaws and challenge social norms.”
The takeaway message here is to take a step back from Instagram and focus on your own personal reality. If we all individually change our mindset and create a loving and accepting image of ourselves, the destructive side of Instagram—the one that thrives on the self-doubt and low self-esteem of its followers—will be pointless. Take it from Huffington Post health blogger Rober Reams, who said, “Love your body and who you are. Get in the game and enjoy the journey!”