Mornings are when I find myself looped into the dreaded social media time warp. Muffin in one hand — crumbs polluting my countertop — phone in the other. During my morning scrolls through Instagram, I can’t help but be disappointed by the assumed lack of reality in each photo I come across.
Poreless faces, ultra-thin waists, and the infamous wobbly railing behind an hourglass figure (a telltale sign of a photoshop mishap). As a high school English teacher, I spend the same amount of time counseling my students on how to stop obsessing over selfies as I do combing through papers with attempts at semi-colon usage — trust me, that is a lot of time!
With editing apps like FaceTune, anyone can legitimately alter their entire facial structure and body, creating a flawless complexion or the infamous Kardashian “booty pop.”
What I am concerned about is the comparison to these false images and unattainable expectations in the media, specifically in accordance with young women.
How do we stop it?
If you are like a younger version of myself, you may delete a selfie after an hour of not receiving the ideal amount of “likes.” If this sounds like you, I have some unambiguous news:
***Screams in ear*** “Your worth is defined by more than a double tap on a blinding blue screen!!!”
It is clear that social media is training us to thrive off the approval of others.
Have you punished yourself for not taking the perfect picture or, in contrast, felt rewarded when you do by receiving “likes?” Admittedly, I still fall for this faulty belief system every now and then. In my opinion, this reward system is not only defective, but unsustainable and completely fraudulent.
The constant comparing has got to stop, and I say this to refute my fear of an ever occurring sameness in our society.
Social media can be a gateway to judgement in many forms, but I see dangers appear most frequently when it comes to body image.
Judgement exists amongst all body types; thicker thighs or lack of curves, you name it. It is harmful all the same. It is time to get real, shed some light, and start repairing our self-esteem in a way that is far more effective than searching for validation online.
Let’s work on being unique and loving ourselves. I have compiled four helpful tips that saved the younger version of myself, with the hopes of helping your present-day self. Drop the phone and let me grab the mic!
1. Cool off. Take a full 24 hours away from your phone.
I know it sounds scary, but a phone detox is not the worst thing in life. Tell your friends and family beforehand if you need to, but turn it off. Take a walk outside and enjoy the day. Notice the taste of coffee, or your favorite juice, as it hits your taste buds and lifts your spirits. Life is going on around you.
While you are locked in your phone comparing yourself to an image of a person, who doesn’t even look like themselves in real time, life is happening! I practiced this last summer and had never felt so in tune with myself and secure. Once I got through the initial panic and first few hours of FOMO, my day was incredibly productive and positive. I had more time and energy to read books, enjoy the weather and even watch Gossip Girl without interruptions.
2. Write a list of things you like about yourself. Stick it on the mirror.
My mother had to deal with an excessive amount of crying sessions from my insecure, teenage self. Knowing that I was a visual learner, she graced me with this advice in high school: write down the positives and place them somewhere you can look at them every day.
If you are a visual learner, like myself, seeing praise in writing has more value. I recommend writing a list of positive aspects of your personality, relationships and appearance. Jot it down. Focus on what you like about yourself. Change your mindset. To feel secure, it is important to channel the inner voice and take control of your thoughts. When you focus on the negative, you will see the negatives in the mirror. A list of reminders on your mirror will help frame your mind and allow you to focus on the positives within that beautiful, fierce, and worthy reflection staring back at you every morning.
3. Write down what makes you insecure. Put a big X on it and throw it in the trash!
Admittedly, I just did this last week in a moment of weakness comparing myself to others. As an English teacher, I always remind my students that writing can be therapeutic. I think that free writing in general is beneficial to help people deal with the good and bad of life.
Write down the negatives that are swirling through your mind, then, my favorite part, crumble that paper and toss it in the trash. Get out of here! It truly is a healing process. You are literally acknowledging the bad thoughts and (metaphorically) deleting them from your mind, placing them where they belong — the trash!
4. Unfollow celebrities or people who make you feel crummy.
What do your parents tell you as a kid? Watch who you surround yourself with. The same goes for rules on social media. Who you follow and what you see as you scroll on a daily basis can impact you in more ways than you know. It is unfair for a 15- year-old to compare herself to a 24-year-old Victoria Secret model who has professional makeup artists slather $1,000 worth of products on her hair, face and body.
Delete anyone who makes you feel like you need to be a different version of yourself. I know you feel hesitant, but understand that you are not being mean or malicious, you are taking care of your own wellness. It doesn’t make you weak to acknowledge that you compare yourself to these people. It shows your strength and commitment to self-growth. Acknowledge and do something about it.
Above all, remember that you are enough. Take a deep breath. You are breathing this air for a reason and there is nothing more beautiful than that. Strike a power stance, put the phone on silent and move on with your day. You got this.