The Best Thing I Could’ve Done for My Beauty Ideals and Body Image

How do you feel when you engage in social media? Notice the constant images and adverts of seemingly perfect lives? Grace Tepper shares her experiences trying to counteract the negative effects social media has on her life. 

Every time I go on the Instagram discover page, I get lost in pages and pages of carefree, picture-perfect people living their absolute best lives. After a while, it can put a damper on my mood, at least if I’m not having the best day. How come every moment of this person’s life is just so magical and effortlessly amazing? How come all these people live absolutely perfect lives?

False. All of those assumptions, those frustrations, are entirely false. Social media, something so accepted in today’s society, is the biggest fallacy in our lives. Very little of what you see is real, natural, or unfiltered. All that it does is promote negative body images and beauty standards, for you are trying to live up to an imaginary standard. According to the Renfrew Center for eating disorders and behavioral health issues, more than half of social media users edit their posts before publishing them on their respective sites.

This could be anything from photoshopping their bodies to fit a certain societal mold, removing scars and acne from their faces, or just basic photo editing and filters. While photo editing is not inherently harmful to anyone, certain habits we have fallen into are harmful for both ourselves and those who see our posts. Editing posts to match the unrealistic standards of others on social media is a trap that I have fallen into many times, and is something that everyone faces when exposed to these online environments. But there’s a way to combat this and promote healthier ways of living: take a break.

At a time where I was really feeling suffocated by social media, and ousted from those communities because of my own insecurities, I deleted all of it off my phone for a month. That month was entirely life-changing. While my decision wasn’t entirely self-produced (I had also seen one too many episodes of the British dystopian sci-fi show Black Mirror), it was entirely necessary. The initial act of doing this left me a bit uncomfortable, as I felt lost without being so ingrained in the media outlets which those around me engaged with so frequently. I had a couple days where I wasn’t used to not always scrolling through photos on photos of others. However, at the end of that adjustment period, the thing I felt the most was peace.

Finally, I didn’t have all these unrealistic images of people my age traveling constantly, being extremely fit and having everything I thought I didn’t. I realized that these things may exist in reality, but are also portrayed incorrectly by many. Most people don’t live these glamorous lifestyles, or struggle just as much as they explore and enjoy these things. Most of the fitness models I see are bending their backs to the point of pain to get that perfect shot (posture, I’ve learned, can completely transform someone in a photo). I actually had a chance to focus on myself, and appreciate what I have and both the good and bad of life, which are equally important in gaining life lessons and experiences. One’s entire life isn’t a highlight reel, and that’s a good thing.

At the end of my month hiatus, I felt altogether more confident and at peace. I didn’t feel as addicted to the toxic things of my past. And while I did end up re-downloading many of these apps, I kept the notifications off, or spent less time on them. I also discovered a whole other side to them, that of supportive communities and realistic goals for myself. While photo-editing and posting the happiest moments of life can boost self-confidence and is good in many ways, I learned not to depend on it to improve my mental health. I learned that those things aren’t what make someone beautiful or good. That is something that everyone must find in themselves sans other pressures, and something of the utmost value in the end.