Exercise more and lose weight are among the most common New Year’s resolutions each year.
For some of us, these decisions can make a huge difference to our health. Often, though, we fall for unrealistic expectations from society that pushes vanity and thinness more than anything.
We have become both the creators and consumers of our own insecurities.
While impossible beauty ideals may have existed forever, social media has the power to amplify this message. What makes it worse is that we have become both the creators and consumers of our own insecurities.
The social pressures we face have health consequences.
A systematic review of 20 studies published in 2016 found that posting and viewing photos online was correlated with a number of mental health and body image concerns, such as weight dissatisfaction, self-objectification, and disordered eating.
What is more troubling is that these relationships can develop at a young age.
Studies for the most part have used a cross-sectional design, meaning more longitudinal research is needed to better understand the directionality of the effects.
Nonetheless, these results are not particularly surprising. When we see beautiful, perfect-looking images in our feed every day, it can be difficult not to compare and evaluate ourselves against others.
For some women, comparison via fitness or dieting accounts may be especially harmful, heightening the risk for disordered eating thoughts and behaviours.
What’s more, only one out of nine social media influencers actually provide accurate diet and fitness advice, according to findings presented at the European Congress on Obesity.
Following people of different genders, abilities, sizes, and colours can help us redefine what we consider to be “beautiful”…
So how do we achieve and maintain a positive body image in today’s digital age? Obviously, we can’t avoid social media altogether. We need to understand how to engage with it more positively.
Representation can make a huge difference. Following people of different genders, abilities, sizes, and colours can help us redefine what we consider to be “beautiful,” a message that we internalize from a young age.
Newly published research suggests that viewing ‘Instagram versus reality’posts may also help improve our body satisfaction. While these posts are rarely inclusive of all kinds of bodies, they remind us that the images being shared online are not realistic.
Social media is not a mirror held up to life. It is highly selective. Finding images of beauty that resemble reality can do wonders for our confidence.
Still, we need to view them with a critical eye. Although challenging imaginary ideals is important, the fact remains that images of women’s bodies get the most praise and attention online for a reason.
Our appearance continues to be rewarded above all else. These expectations are even higher in digital spaces, where achieving the “right” look (as diverse as it may be) can result in massive social influence.
Our bodies are so clearly a site of patriarchy. And while their depiction online is expanding, uncritical body positivity can keep oppression in place.
Wanting to feel good and comfortable in our bodies is natural. But as long as we continue to focus on our looks and our size, we’ll never be happy.
Perhaps true liberation comes from realizing we are more than a body.
This article was originally published on Find Your Pleasure.