I want to start off by saying that I have a love-hate relationship with social media.
What do I love about it?
- I love that I can be in touch with family and friends who may not live near me.
- I love that a positive message can spread and bring help and happiness to so many people.
- I love that I can share my message across the world.
- I love getting an inside look into other people’s lives.
- I love that I can use it for growing my business.
What do I hate about it?
- I hate that social media can bring out the worst in people.
- I hate that it’s so easy for people to say whatever they want without being held accountable.
- I hate that it’s so easy for predators to prey on innocent people.
- I hate that words and messages get construed and misunderstood so easily.
- I hate that it evolves so quickly and I’m constantly having to learn a new app or the “latest and greatest.”
- I hate that I have to rely on it so much to help grow my business.
But I think the reason I hate social media the most is that it allows us to compare ourselves to others so easily.
I can open up Instagram and immediately see pictures of “perfect” bodies, half naked bodies, ripped bodies, model bodies, staged bodies…
And believe me, I used to be one of these people. I would put up my best photo on social media and pretend like that was my every day. That I always looked perfect. That I was always put together. But in reality, what you didn’t see was my stretch marks, loose skin, side fat, armpit fat, bloated belly, cellulite, etc.
But after struggling with orthorexia for the past few years and now working on my recovery, I’ve changed what I post to social media as well as the accounts I follow.
The portrayal of unrealistic beauty and body images give the misperception of reality. Anyone can now curate their own images to their liking with a swipe of their fingertip or the click of their mouse, thanks in part to an array of free applications. We have the ability to add filters, brighten our eyes, craft how we want our body to appear, whiten teeth, and more.
More and more individuals are carefully constructing the images they want others to see of themselves on social media platforms, creating a toxic culture that is damaging to body image.
Social Media and Body Image
Studies have demonstrated that more frequent social network use predicts increased body dissatisfaction over time in adolescent girls and boys. Research has also found that a high level of body dissatisfaction is connected to a significant threat to adolescents’ well-being. While social media or the mainstream media in general cannot be singularly responsible for the development of eating disorders, the influence cannot be ignored.
For years I followed social media accounts that had to do with fitness. I would see pictures of perfect bodies, flexing muscles, and rock hard abs. Seeing these photos made me think that I was inadequate. I would workout harder and eat less in order to get those same six-pack abs. I would follow the nutrition plans that people would write about in magazines, thinking that if I just ate what they ate, I could look the same way.
But in the end, after getting those six-pack abs, I was no happier than I was when I was severely overweight. I still saw the flaws in myself and my body. I thought that being a certain weight and size would make me happier…if I could just look like those people in the photos, I would be happy. That NEVER happened. I was actually my most unhappy when I was at my lowest weight.
Fast forward to turning 40 in 2017, and something clicked in my head. Something told me that I was doing was actually ruining my health and my relationship with myself and others (not to mention my hormones had tanked as well!)
I slowly started to realize that those “perfect” images I was after wasn’t going to make me happy with myself. That had to come from within.
So what did I do? I started unfollowing a TON of fitness accounts. People I had looked up to for so many years because of their body or drive to succeed, I unfollowed. People who posted “clean” recipes all the time that I would try to force myself to enjoy, I unfollowed. People who made me feel like I was inadequate or missing something, I unfollowed.
Now, you can find my social media feed full of #bodypositive, #healthateverysize, and #antidiet posts. I see pictures of women at EVERY size, rocking their bodies and feeling good about themselves. I follow accounts who are authentic and vulnerable and who show me their REAL lives. I follow women who uplift and support other women no matter where they are in their journey.
I have to tell you, it’s so freeing to stop looking at “perfect” images all the time. I’ve come to realize these images aren’t even real, they are just a highlight reel of someones life, altered even more to make them look even better. I have also the changed the photos that I post. I no longer share pictures of me in a sports bra or flexing or sucking it all in. I show what I REALLY look like – stretch marks, bloating, and all.
I want to apologize to those women I may have hurt by my old images I used to post. I’m sorry if I ever made you feel inadequate. I’m sorry if I made you look at yourself and say, “I’m never going to be good enough.”
I love the saying, “when we know better, we do better.” And that is what I strive for now. I strive to empower and uplift women by showing my real, true self. By being vulnerable and putting myself out there, even if that brings out some haters. To me, it’s worth it to share my true thoughts and beliefs with you rather than some fake person who is hiding behind filters and just trying to fit in.
I encourage you to take a long, hard look at your social media feed and see if you can help your own body image by making some changes. A change to following people who lift you up and unfollowing those who tear you down. We can make a change, and it starts with YOU <3