Instagram as it’s name suggests will give its users instant gratification of creating and sharing images. The hugely popular social app and others alike can serve to increase and entertain our creativity and also hold some danger. Specifically this article will talk about the effect that the photo-enhancing/perfecting apps can have on self-image and self-esteem.
Our perfectionistic ‘never good enough’ culture as Brené Brown calls it, fuelled by the highly manipulated and ‘perfected’ images of fashion magazines and other media, causes us to be more self-conscious about our appearance and have a negative body image.
Her extensive research on shame showed:
“Body image happens to be the one issue that is the closest to “universal” with over 90 percent of the participants experiencing shame about their bodies. Body image also serves as an invisible thread that runs through almost all of the ten shame categories. In fact, body shame is so powerful and often so deeply rooted in our psyche that it actually transcends the appearance category and impacts why and how we feel shame in many of the other categories including identity, appearance, sexuality, motherhood, parenting, health, aging and a women’s ability to speak out with confidence.” Brené Brown
Susie Orbach points out that our culture “does hold out the possibility that to belong is to look like us. And with that, we spread the underbelly of our virus, body hatred.”
When we post to Instagram or FB and other social media sites we have the ‘power’ to manipulate this body image. We all know what angle we look good and what are the big no no-s. We might have the experience of warm and fuzzy feeling as we receive all the likes for a well-filtered perfectly angled selfie. It might feel good for a little while, but soon enough the ‘not-beautiful enough gremlins’ will show up and it is hard to be so filtered and enhanced in real life. When we don’t receive all the same ‘likes’ in real life our self-esteem can diminish.
Recently I went to a conference where all my heroes were there and I had the chance to take some pictures with them. I just asked someone around me to snap me with my phone. When I looked at the picture I was a little shocked. The angel was not the safe: little bit from above avoiding double chin and droopy eyes ones J. I posted them anyway. I was a bit saddened when someone asked me what was wrong with me on those pictures; apparently I looked really old or just out of it…While these comments did not feel great they not effected my 40-something-worked-hard-on self-esteem, but I can imagine what it would have done to my younger much more self-conscious self. I may have gone into hiding for a while and be more conscious of what I might post next time.
So what can we do in order not to be so affected by the messages and expectations of looking perfect? Firstly realise that we worth much more then how we look like on Instragram etc. Our worth comes from who we are, what we do, how we relate to others, our contribution we make to this world. Encourage this way of thinking in your peer group, family, community and global tribe of social media app users. Pay attention what you ‘like’ on social media.
Secondly cultivate the warm and fuzzy feelings that you might get form other areas of your life not just the ‘likes’ on FB or Instagram. So if you enjoy cooking or playing music or dancing or studying or just sitting in nature or hanging out with friends, do more of that and pay attention to the warm and fuzzy J (you might experience it in a different way).
Thirdly, if you are a parent model good enough self-image and self esteem. Remember kids don’t do what we tell them to do, they do what they see us doing. So cultivate your own value through all different areas of life not just through how you look. Value all parts of your children not just the way they look, and be aware of the messages you send with your own behaviour. Spend time with your loved ones and tell them what you love about them. Be specific; tell them how their existence or friendship enhances your life.
I was lucky enough to get some likes for those not so attractive but for me extremely important pictures from some family and friends that knows me well and value the interpersonal neurobiology nerd in me not just my looks.
If you worried about yourself or a loved one talk to a professional. Body-image and self-esteem are very important issues.