Living with body image issues in a time where Instagram models and perfect gym bodies are idolized is a constant struggle. No matter when I refresh my Instagram feed, I’ll either see models who have been edited and posed to look their best with captions like #goals, or a gym meme that shames me for not choosing the gym over other hobbies in my life.
For years I’ve had an on-and-off relationship with healthy eating and exercise. During my first year of university, my mental health completely plummeted and I let that affect my physical health. I gained weight and lost confidence. My poor mental state persisted for two years until I decided to transfer into the journalism program and change the way I moved through life.
I’m in a better mental space now than I was then, but I still struggle with liking my physical appearance. Seeing other people’s #TransformationTuesdays either makes me feel hopeful that one day I’ll look like that, or defeated because I don’t and never will have that figure.
Something that I’ve come to realize is that my self-worth should not be tied to how I look. But that’s easier said than done when you’re constantly bombarded on social media with pictures of what the ideal figure should look like. Many Instagram models are paid to post these kinds of photos or are sponsored by fitness companies, whereas my lifestyle is completely different.
I’m not slamming the models — some of them work extremely hard to maintain the bodies they have and I admire that. It’s taken me a long time to understand that everyone has their own priorities and obligations, and keeping a strict exercise and meal schedule is not mine.
Yet, even as I write this I know these insecurities will affect any relationship I’ll ever have. I have a constant feeling of inadequacy, as if I’m not cool enough or hot enough to be someone’s girlfriend. I’ve developed what I’ve started to call my “Instagram Anxiety,” meaning I feel constantly threatened by any other woman online who is more attractive than me and is in any way associated with who I am dating. I’m always reminding myself to fight back against these types of negative thoughts, but it’s tiring.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received is, treat yourself like you treat others. When I look at my friends, I don’t judge them based on their weight or appearance, so why would I do the same to myself?
Recently, I’ve come across the Instagram profile of Milly Smith (@selfloveclubb) who takes time out of her day to post how Instagram is different from reality. In one picture, she included two different angles of herself; the photo showed that a posed body looks much different than an un-posed, relaxed one.
Same girl, same day, same time. ? Not a before and after. Not a weight loss transformation. Not a diet company promotion. ? I am comfortable with my body in both. Neither is more or less worthy. Neither makes me more or less of a human being. Neither invites degrading comments and neither invites sleezy words. ? We are so blinded to what a real unposed body looks like and blinded to what beauty is that people would find me less attractive within a 5 second pose switch! How insanely ridiculous is that!? ? I love taking these, it helps my mind so much with body dysmorphia and helps me rationalise my negative thoughts. ? Don’t compare, just live for you. There is no one on this planet who’s like you and that’s pretty damn amazing don’t ya think. The world doesn’t need another copy, it needs you. ? We are worthy, valid and powerful beyond measure ?? (If you don’t pull your tights up as high as possible are you really human?)
“We are so blinded to what a real un-posed body looks like and blinded to what beauty is that people would find me less attractive within a 5 second pose switch,” she said in her caption. The post has gained over 70,000 likes since she posted it this past week.
It’s little reminders like these that help me up on my down days. But we as a society still have a long way to go. Body rolls, stretch marks and cellulite are all a part of what makes us human, and on a general level we all know that. But we don’t see that reflected in popular culture.
I want to watch TV or turn on the radio without being subjected to an ad on how to lose weight fast.
I want to go to a convenience store without being bombarded by magazines with covers that point out flaws in every celebrity’s appearance.
I want to open my Instagram without hating myself for not having the same body that these fitness models have.
I want to see myself in the mirror as a person who deserves love and respect, instead of critiquing myself for how much my stomach hangs over my pants.
As long as you’re healthy, I see no reason to force your body to match that idolized figure if it makes you unhappy. Do what’s best for you. Don’t do things just for the approval of other people.
Instead of posting memes on Instagram that say, “I may not be a girl who knows how to contour my makeup, but I am a girl who knows how to go parallel with my squat. You tell me which is more important,” think about what you’re posting and how that might make someone feel. You can uplift people without making them feel bad for who they are.
For me, I want my 2017 to be about #bopo (body positivity) instead of #thinspo (“thinspiration”). I have approximately 80 years on this planet and I’m not going to waste another minute of that time hating myself.