Evaluating the Relationship with Our Body Image and Social Media

Jennifer March, MS

Exploring how the 'Instagram vs. Reality' movement can affect our body image.

It was just a typical day for me when a notification from Google Photos popped up saying, “You have a memory from 4 years ago...”

I clicked it, and I noticed it was a picture of some young girl. She had flowing brunette hair, a wide smile — she was stunning.

At first glance, I thought it was my sister because we practically have the same face (thanks, dad). But then I realized that it was me.

How could that be me? I look gorgeous and full-figured, but I was so fat then — I clearly remember that!

But what shocked me the most was how pretty I looked. When I took that picture, I remember thinking how ugly and fat I looked. I really hated who I was. I wanted to be skinny and pretty.

Seeing pictures from when I was 22 years old felt like such a long time ago, but in reality, it was only 4 years ago. I did not look the same from what I had remembered. At that time, I thought I looked much more significant than what that picture showed me.

This set me down a deep rabbit hole, evaluating my previous beliefs that I had about myself. Was I as fat as I thought I was? Or was I overly critical of my own physical appearance?

From there, I began looking at more and more pictures and videos of myself from 4 or 5 years back. And each one showed me the same thing: my body image at that time did not reflect reality.

But why is that? Why am I not remembering my body as the way it so clearly looked. I remember feeling so ashamed for how my pictures looked; I thought I was the ugliest person on the earth.

Through understanding my body image, I started to deconstruct what really led me to these extreme beliefs. As with the age of social media comes the drawbacks and the dark aspect that isn't always seen.

Instagram vs. Reality

The movement, ‘Instagram vs. Reality,’ is a great way to open discussion about body image. There is such a complex perception of how our bodies look that we can tie our body image into our self-esteem.

Instagram vs. Reality works by posting a side-by-side of a posed or edited photo, and the reality of how they really looked is used as a comparative model. It’s a great way to show how camera angles, lighting, and photoshop can help you.

Just because we don’t like what we see in the mirror doesn’t mean that is our worth — or even our true size.

The Instagram vs. Reality movement has been great at highlighting those differences to help people see reality from fiction. All of the images we see online can be altered or enhanced without you even knowing!

How can we base our reality on what is not even attainable?

There has been a large amount of research to support the damaging effects that social media has on a woman’s body image. With that in mind, it's important to understand that social media is not a universal experience for everyone.

Although social media can play a different role in everyone’s life, it’s essential to understand how the use of social media affects our daily lives. After seeing the flat stomach, toned arms, and clear skin of a social media influencer, are we more aware of our bodies?

From there, we start to see each glimpse in the mirror as a sign of failure. But at that moment, we don’t have that camera magic to help you look perfect in every shot.

Perception can be warped

How you see yourself isn’t always reality.

How we judge our body image can be based on our warped sense of beauty standards. With the age of social media has come the oversharing on social media. From seeing all o these other people’s lives online, and how perfect they look — you begin to set that as a standard. Wanting to achieve a level of perfection, similar to what is found on Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat, all can warp what we think true beauty is.

I have spent much of my early twenties trying to achieve the vegan-hippie-all-natural lifestyle. It was difficult, challenging, and expensive to keep up with. It was hard, but I felt like a failure because all of the skinny social media influencers were living life so perfectly. I was determined to achieve that influencer level of bliss.

I ate the same way as them, yet I still didn’t look like them. So I felt like I needed to look like them to really embody this lifestyle — but I didn’t need to.

I was beautiful the way I looked then. Unfortunately, it took me about 4 years to finally realize that.

But in a sense, I have been healing this wound that I have been carrying.

Now that we have an idea of the root cause, we can start to move forward.

Moving forward

What I see in the mirror is not reality.

I am more beautiful than I will ever know.

I do not need to look like anyone else but me.

I keep these three sentences in my mind whenever I am near a mirror or trying on new clothes at a store. I need to remind myself that my self-worth is not tied to how I look, nor is my perception of myself even valid.

It’s hard to keep this in mind, but I know you can do it — you’re not alone in this. If there is one person like me out there, then there surely are more.

I hope the next time you look in the mirror, you appreciate your body. Our bodies are so important — we shouldn’t shame them because of size. Love yourself for who you are right now.

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As Originally Posted on Medium

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Psych nerd turned freelance writer | MS in Psychology | Mom of two cats and some house plants | #MentalHealthAdvocate #BeKind

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