Most of us can remember a time when we've stood in front of the mirror critiquing our appearance. We've all been exposed to unrealistic beauty standards at some point growing up, comparing ourselves to the people we saw in films and in magazines. These inaccurate depictions have increased significantly with the rise of social media, and the representations of people we are surrounded by today have created an unattainable standard of beauty.
In 2020, the Women and Equalities Committee conducted a survey on body image. It was discovered that:
· 65% of under 18s thought there was an ‘ideal’ body type
· 66% of children feel negative about their body image most of the time
· 89% of adults also admitted to feeling social pressure to look a certain way
The main reason behind these alarming statistics is the distorted images people are exposed to through social media. On average, internet users spend 2.5 hours on social media daily. Most of that time is spent scrolling through image-based platforms such as Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat. Unfortunately, these apps are saturated with images that display unrealistic and unattainable versions of what the 'ideal' body should look like. As a result, each day, we are consuming damaging content that pressures us to live up to these filtered expectations, leaving a negative influence on our self-esteem and self-worth.
We have differences, but "flaws" are not real
Let's get one thing straight, "flaws" are not real. All these flaws that you see in yourself do not exist. They are a man-made concept implemented by manipulative power systems. Our experiences of body dysmorphia and self-deprecation are navigated by a system that commodifies our bodies. We are socialised to believe that our appearance and desirability determine our worth, and we are encouraged to create false perceptions of ourselves to fuel our insecurities and to make us spend money on products to fix them with the promise that if we do so, we will be more desirable and accepted in society.
Every day we are exposed to racist, ageist and fatphobic beauty standards. We are made to feel ashamed of things that are all perfectly normal. We invest time, money, and energy in trying to change these things about ourselves. Cellulite, stretch marks, body hair, wrinkles, the list goes on. There is a product or service available that will allow you to get rid of all these things. Although, the images we see in cosmetic advertisements to promote these things are also misleading as the people we see promoting these products do not look that way in real life. Models are usually digitally enhanced to appear "flawless", their skin has been airbrushed and their bodies have been altered, reinforcing these unrealistic beauty standards.
There is nothing wrong with having a passion for make-up, fashion, or skincare. All these things can be used to represent our unique identity and style and we should have the freedom to express ourselves however we want. But it is important to make our own decisions on how we embrace these things without being influenced or pressured by social media to fit conventional beauty standards.
If you feel like you are constantly comparing yourself to people you see in the media that appear “flawless”, you are not alone. We are all influenced by the things around us and accepting ourselves for who we are and loving the face and body that we were born with isn't easy because of the images we see in the media. Healing your insecurities can be challenging, but you must remember to be kinder to yourself and know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the way you look.
Filters and Facetune are creating false realities
There's no denying that social media is a huge part of modern-day life, it's a great way to stay connected with people, and there are many upsides that come with using it, but we've entered the era of selfie perfection. People rarely show their worst side on social media and we are constantly comparing ourselves to users that heavily edit their feeds to only present the most appealing version of themselves.
Advanced editing tools and hyper-accessibility to facial filters, such as Facetune and Snapchat, allow users to warp their appearance by removing blemishes, smoothing out their skin, and even shrinking body parts. With everyone now having access to their own virtual plastic surgeon, it's easier than ever for anyone to create a false version of themselves online, and it is no surprise that the constant exposure to these features is going to have a negative effect on people's body image.
Although we can't stop or change this type of technology, we can make conscious decisions on how we engage with it. If the only type of people you see when you open Instagram are young, white, thin and cisgender influencers and celebrities, that's a problem. Start by unfollowing those influencers who promote diet culture and heavily edit their selfies. There are so many weight-neutral, body-positive and natural-beauty embracing accounts that you can fill your feed with! Don't surround yourself with images online of people who make you feel unworthy or trigger anxious thoughts about your self-image, take control of what you scroll.
If you're feeling overwhelmed by what's going on in your feeds, try to take a break from it all. It's not healthy to be on your phone all the time! Excessive use of these apps can fuel anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Instead, have a detox and try to spend meaningful time with your friends and family.