Social media, as with other technologies, has pros and cons. Although we live in a world where we can connect with friends, relatives, and complete strangers, we live in a time where we are always comparing ourselves to others. We compare ourselves so much so it is causing significant psychological effects. Today, I'd like to specify the impact this is having on self-esteem.
Does this sound familiar? "I'm too fat." "Nothing fits me." "My nose is too big." “I hate the way I look in photos." “I wish I could be like him/her." "If I could only look like her, I'd be happy." If you haven't heard this, you've probably said it to yourself. I have. I say it often. You aren't alone. This is difficult enough for us adults. If I open Facebook or Instagram, I'm bombarded by workout photos, videos, and scantily clad men and women showing off their "perfect" physiques. Usually, I'm doing this right after eating something I probably shouldn't.
While I respect the hard work, great abs, and dedication these people put into their bodies, I don't appreciate the message being conveyed. When someone tells you that you will be happier if you look like them, then they are body shaming you. This is not okay, and it's not polite. These people aren't your friend. You are beautiful just the way you are, and don't apologize for your appearance. If you want to change something about yourself, change it. But, don't allow someone else to make you feel less beautiful or influence your self-worth. Ladies, it's okay to have curves. Fellas, it's okay to rock the dad bod. Just be happy with who you are as a person.
So, as adults, we know what this does to our self-esteem. Now imagine years of this being directed at the pre-teen and teen brain. We've talked in the past about how the brain is changing during these years so that I won't address it again. Just trust me when I tell you that a LOT is changing in their heads. Self-esteem is important because it's how you feel about yourself and having a bad feeling about yourself can affect your mental health long term. People with high self-esteem usually know themselves well, and they are comfortable with who they are as a person. People with low self-esteem are generally trying to become what they think society wants or expects. Through the extensive use of social media, teens and pre-teens are bombarded with imagery and advertisements of what they should be and how they should look. At a young age, comparisons are being made between real life and "airbrushed" or photoshopped life. We compare ourselves to other people's "highlight" reels. Meaning, we see only the best of everything that people are posting and sharing and forget there is an entirely different side. Please discuss with your child to see how this is affecting them.
Some people feel the need to change their body to feel good about themselves or be happy. You don't. The only thing you must change is how you see yourself. Recognize that you own your body, and you have no reason to apologize for its appearance. Beauty comes in a wide variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. You should only focus on health, mental and physical. If you are going to change your appearance, focus on the things you can realistically change. When you decide to make these realistic changes, set yourself goals and discuss them with others. Having a "goal buddy" only assists you in reaching your goal. Give yourself a few compliments a day. You may stand in front of a mirror and say, "I am beautiful just the way I am." Or, "I am intelligent and kind." Whatever you do, realize that you are valuable, worthy, and beautiful.
If you or someone you know is struggling with self-esteem issues, please know there are people you can call and see. You can start by talking to a parent, a teacher, or a coach. If this isn't enough, there are guidance counselors, therapists, and doctors trained in helping you work through these issues.
At Engaged Academics, we believe everyone is beautiful in their way. We accept you as a person and a client regardless of your size, shape, or color. You have tremendous potential, and you are priceless. When I think about this issue, I'm always drawn back to one of my favorite quotes. I will leave you with it as I close.
"The beauty of the living things is not the atoms that go into it, but the way those atoms are put together." This was penned by Carl Sagan, a cosmologist, and educator. This means we are all formed from the same "stuff," but the way the "stuff" was put together is special and unique. Do not deprive the world of your individuality. After all, you are the only one of you that will ever exist.