From the diet pills craze in the 1960's to the Atkin's Diet restricting carbs in the 1970's to the extreme endurance events of the 2000's. People have long inspired to change their body size throughout history. We are always looking for a way to slim down and tone up.
When you look into the mirror, do you like what you see?
Body image in the age of social media
Now more than ever with Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook, we have newer and more critical ways to compare ourselves with others. More specifically, to compare our bodies with other people's bodies.
Thanks to an array of free photo editing apps, we also have the power to alter our looks. We can now cover up pimples, make our eyes bigger, our complexion glowly, all with a swipe of a finger. All these tools can be a lot of fun, but they can become deceptive as well. Everyone on social media has become hotter, thinner and completely unlike their real self. The danger happens when some people become obsessed for hours over the "perfect" selfie to post on Instagram, or when filtered Instagram feeds become reality to them.
A toxic mirror
Psychologists have found evidence linking social media usage to unhealthy body image issues such as a drive for thinness, narcissism, and self-objectification in teenagers. This doesn't mean that being on social media will cause these problems, but there is proof of a strong co-relation between them.
Don't you think you want a certain amount of likes on the photos that you post? I've been guilty of deleting a photo which didn't get the number of likes that I wanted. Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are giving young people the tools to earn approval for their looks, as well as to compare themselves to others nowadays, and it will be good to catch yourself and pull yourself back when you feel that you are treading on dangerous grounds.
Ultimately, these are virtual approvals which should never mean anything to us. The only approval that matters are those of your own, as well as those of your loved ones.
A clear line between a 'like' and your self-worth
Insecurity always stems from comparison. I try to avoid comparing myself, my work, and my image with others. It's hard sometimes when all I see when my Instagram feed is flooded with toned bodies in bikinis frolicking in exotic locations. But one thing that always boosts my confidence when I need it is to stay positive and true to myself.
One thing you can do with close friends is to write everyone's names down on individual pieces of paper. The paper is then passed around and everyone take turns writing down what they genuinely like or appreciate about that person. But all anonymously, so no one knows who wrote what.
For example, if Jason's paper comes my way, I will write down how I like that he love animals and spends his holidays at the SPCA with the strays. I also think he is tall and plays basketball well. When Sue Lynn's paper comes my way, I can write down that I think she looks pretty without makeup on and I love her sense of style. She is not fat so I hope she stops thinking of herself that way.
When you produce positivity, positivity tends to come back to you. Another step that we can take towards creating a more positive body image for ourselves is to unfollow the Instagram/Snapchat accounts that create an unrealistic expectation for our lives and our looks. We can't all be Kardashians, can we. And start following more body-positivity accounts. Some accounts to start with can be @nadiaaboulhosn, @aerie and @Proud2BMe
With more and more body-positivity accounts and movements gaining momentum, I think it's only a matter of time until our universal definition of beauty is replaced with a broader idea of beauty. Not one that is dictated by the media.
Now more than ever, a good old-fashioned "I love you just the way you are" as you look into the mirror may just be what we all need.