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For The 'Gram: How Social Media Affects The Way We Embrace Our Natural Selves

The line remains thin between healthy self-image and toxic comparisons.

Human Interest

I was always content with the shape of my body. I never really had major weight issues either. I inherited my small bone structure and my small frame from my mom. I guess you can say I have those good Caribbean genes. I have long arms, long legs, and a short torso. But I also carry my weight well. So, when I gain or lose weight, the distribution of weight is evenly proportioned. At 36, I'm fully grown. I stand 5'4", a DD+, and I don't know where all this ass came from. Now I have a butt I never used to have.


I can't complain. I'm hella thick for my height and frame. But this wasn't always the case. I mean, I was always just skinny. I have always had full breasts, but I also have small, straight, narrow hips. Like, there is no curve to my hips at all.

I used to jokingly say I inherited my Indian side of the family. In my 20s, I was obsessed with wanting perfectly round hips. No matter how many squats, hip adductors, or side leg raises I did, I couldn't achieve what I saw on reality TV or social media.

For reference, I used to be a little obsessive over the Kardashians, Draya Michele, IG models, or fitness influencers. I wanted that hourglass figure that all the Kardashian sisters had.

Slim waist and perfectly curved hips—I wanted that. But it wasn't until recently that I realized this could never be. It's not scientifically possible. Why? Because of the way my hip bones are structured. Skinny or thick, I've accepted that I'm always going to have hip dips.

I can't change my bone structure or how my hips look unless I opt for plastic surgery or Photoshop the hell out of my photos. But none of that is realistic to me, and I do not want to portray an image that doesn't align with what I believe in. However, this is what we see on social media every day.

Our social media feeds are flooded with edited and enhanced faces and bodies.

Self-Image and Social Media

There is no question that social media affects our self-image. Women continuously hurt their body images by constant comparison, Photoshop, filters, and browsing through hashtags like "fitspo." It's like our brain doesn't realize we're comparing ourselves to images that are not 100 percent real. This behavior ultimately leads to disappointment by creating unrealistic ideals for ourselves.

I think this Time magazine article said it best: "If the Internet has been called a great democratizer, perhaps what social media has done is let anyone enter the beauty pageant." The same article points out that when we edit photos to attract positive attention, we create a false sense of control. This leads to a disconnect between perception and reality. We might feel one way about ourselves in real life and feel another about our online persona.

We set ourselves up in trying to achieve these expectations and then stress ourselves out when we cannot meet them.

Does anyone see how unhealthy this is? Because I do. There isn't supposed to be a disconnect between who we are in real life and online.

What The Studies Show

According to an article by Insider, research shows the more time we spend on social media, the worse we feel about our bodies. In 2018, one study found a correlation between time spent on social media, negative body image, and eating disorders. And a stronger correlation was found if the participant was scrolling through appearance-related content.

In a study conducted by a health institution, the Florida House Experience, 87 percent of women compare their bodies to images on social and traditional media.

In the same study, 50 percent of women considered their bodies unfavorable. Social media can also affect pre-existing mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. So, if you already struggle with self-image and body dissatisfaction, social media can trigger or exacerbate these issues.

Forbes interviewed Jennifer Henry, a counselor at Maryville University, who stated:

"Increasing awareness of how we look and specifically, how to obtain the 'best' angle, pose, lighting, filter for social media. It's not unusual to see really young girls posing for pictures doing the 'skinny arm' pose or the 'duck face,' instead of just goofing around and having fun. We are missing out on actual experiences by focusing on how to get the best picture of it for our social media pages."

Where is the lie?

I'll admit it. Like many other women, I let social media get the best of me by comparing my body to altered photos of models, celebrities, and the bodies of fitness influencers. I know the feelings associated with this all too well. Frustration, stress, and self-doubt. I too was obsessed with the notion of "If I did this or that, I could achieve this body type," damn well knowing social media standards are not realistic by any means. This is partly why I'm on social media break now. I got tired of paying attention to other people's bodies and lives when I should be embracing my own body and pouring into my own life. And now, I'm just focused on loving my natural self and making healthy improvements where I can.

When it comes to learning to embrace your natural self, social media—more so Instagram—is not a standard you want to compare yourself to.

Compare yourself to the person you are today, yesterday, and the day before that. She is who you are trying to impress.

Your standard of beauty lies within yourself.

Featured image via Getty Images

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