It's no secret that we live in an age of social media. I got my first iPhone in the sixth grade and have been an Instagram enthusiast ever since. The filters, the followers, having the perfect profile picture, and the endless scrolling through the "explore page."
The explore page on Instagram is basically a black hole for the insecure girl. Based on the people you follow, someone my age will more than likely open the explore page to a multitude of girls with tens of thousands of followers, meticulously styled outfits, "natural" tans, gorgeously staged photos from their beach vacations with their seemingly perfect boyfriends, and smiles that are so genuine you would think they have never been anything but happy. Once we start scrolling through these photos, it's hard to stop.
"I wish I looked like her," we think as we come across these photos.
We think we would be so much happier if only we could lose 20 pounds and rock a bikini like the girls we see on Instagram. Maybe somehow everyone would love us if we could afford to dress just a little bit cuter. If I broke down and bought pre-sets for my photos, I might have more followers/get more likes on my photos. Because these superficial accounts are so readily accessible to us, it's not hard to become invested in the lives of these women we don't even know. It's so easy to feel a pang of jealousy when we come across these pictures because to us, they're perfect.
Although it's hard not to feel insecure compared to these women, we all do it. Here's the million dollar question: why can't we be happy with ourselves right now? Why do we think that acquiring more material things will somehow equal acquiring happiness? I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but losing 20 pounds for vain reasons won't make us any happier than we were 20 pounds ago. What happens when we find a skinnier girl on Instagram? Do we lose more weight?
It's a never-ending cycle.
The truth is that these women on Instagram are not perfect. As hard as it is to believe, these are real women. Behind the filters, the hundred dollar shoes, the makeup brands they're sponsored by, and their wardrobes that seem to get bigger every day are women who were probably in our shoes (the ones we got on sale) one day. Some of them may not have been, though, and that's a harsh reality to face.
Even though these women make looking beautiful so effortless, it doesn't give us an excuse to tear ourselves down.
It took me 19 years and so many wasted tears to try to stop caring about what people thought of me. I thought I was the only one who thought that way. I was the only one who would carefully plan my outfits so the people I was trying to fit in with would like them but not question them, because I was too scared they might think I'm weird. I thought that if I bought the newest shoes, I would be playing it safe and I'd fit in.
As I got older, I came to the sickening realization that I wasn't the only person who thought like this. We pick and choose where we want to be seen in a swimsuit because we don't want to feel inferior next to our "skinny friends." We watch our words because the thought of saying something wrong in front of someone we're trying to impress would kill us.
I'll be the first to say that's bullshit.
Part of loving ourselves is learning how to be happy in the bodies we were given and not caring so much about what other people think of us. It's one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, but it's not impossible. If you are unhappy with the way you look and believe making healthy choices will help you reach a certain goal, then, by all means, make them. Feeling sorry for yourself and not working to make positive changes in your life, if needed, won't make you feel any more beautiful. We don't need new clothes to feel pretty. We don't need thousands of Instagram followers or perfectly edited photos.
Whoever taught us to apologize for who we are, who we love, what we wear, who we choose to hang out with, or even standing our ground was lying. We need to realize that we are who we are for a reason. There is not one other person on the face of the planet exactly like you, and that is something to embrace, not hide. If you don't like the person you are in the first place, it's sure as hell not easy to love that person, especially after years of trying to change for other people. It may take weeks, months, or even years. You may have an epiphany one day and start immediately embracing the person you are and have always been. However long it takes, no matter how difficult it seems, I promise you, you are not alone and it will be worth it in the end.