In Search Of?
Updated: Apr 8, 2020
Maybe if I just suck in a little more.... or if I pop my hip slightly.. No.
Okay what about this angle.... uhhhh okay tensing all my muscles.
Still not good enough.
Why am I not good enough.
I don't know about you, but I've had this narrative of self criticism and judgment hundreds of thousands of times in my lifetime.
If only I could lose this one chunk of fat. If only my hip didn't spill over my shorts in that way. If only I had a more defined ab line. If only my waist were a few inches thinner.
Whenever I am in moments clouded by my bad body image, it's hard to think of anything nice to say about myself - let alone my body. For my entire life, I have conflated my sense of self worth with my body image. My body was my way of connecting with the world, and I was only content when the version of myself I presented was seemingly perfect.
My standards for contentment with myself were unbelievably high. Social media posts, advertisements, movies, social interactions with other peers my age. Everything I have ever used to compare and judge myself to ultimately sets up standards that are impossible for me to attain. It's no wonder that my constant comparison to these unattainable standards only resulted n heightened shame and guilt with my appearances. I believed and internalized that I would never be enough. I am even guilty of using apps and software to edit and shape parts of my body that don't live up to my standards, and I know I am not the only culprit. Many news sources have not been kind in highlighting the multiple "failed" instances in which influencers tried to shape and perfect their bodies, and this shaming associated with body image only perpetuates our societal obsession with thinness.
Social media has only perpetuated this issue for millions of girls worldwide, and the highlight reel of individual's profiles serves as a new means for seeking validation and immediate gratification. Likes and comments trigger dopamine pathways, the pleasure hormone, and drives us to constantly crave the rush of happiness we originally experienced. I remember growing up and constantly checking how many likes my new profile picture got - I needed to get a certain number of likes, especially from a certain few people, and then I would be content.
Oh no, I'm not getting enough likes.... I found ways and tactics to seemingly flood my photo on other's newsfeeds to encourage more likes to stream in. I didn't even realize that this was what I was doing. I just remember the anxiety and nervousness that came with uploading a new profile picture - and how that same anxiety seemed to translate to my instagram profile a few years later. Whenever a post didn't get "enough" likes, I deleted it immediately and attributed that failure to "post timing" - refusing to consciously conflate picture likes to self worth.
The worst part was that everyone only reinforced this anxiety. Comments from friends, such as "oh my god did you see how many likes X got? How did you get so many likes on this photo? Can you like this photo for me, I want to hit X number of likes?" This was the norm for me growing up, and it's no surprise that now Instagram culture only touches on these past experiences.
Now, the more I take a step back and identify these processes in action - how it's easy to use instagram as a source of validation, and the highlight reel aspect of social media only heightens our standards for every aspect of life - the more agency I have to not conform to these superficial and temporary processes. Living in this appearance based world consumed me, both physically and mentally, and I found that I wasn't as present in experiencing my life. The commonly used joke phrase "if you didn't story it, were you even there?" perfectly captures this phenomenon. Paying money just to stare at a concert through a small camera screen doesn't seem to make sense - but why do we all do it? To post it and share it with the world? To reminisce later on? That's what Youtube videos are for though. What good is it to share a video of a concert you attended if you were barely present? I am not innocent of this either. I have always loved taking and editing photos, and it brings me great joy. I am beginning to keep myself in check and capture and post more mindfully. I constantly try and ask myself "why do I want to share this right now? Am I trying to prove something?". I am trying to be intentional about capturing moments - to capture it, then put my phone away and fully embrace it.
To truly live in the moment in this day and age is a lot easier said than done, but I've learned that if I don't begin this process now, I will lose more years of my life to all the noise in my mind.