Thursday 1 February 2018 / London, UK

How to love yourself in the age of Instagram

Instagram and Mental Health: How to really love yourself

When you're living in the age of social media, coming to terms with your life in comparison to others can be hard. More than hard. It can eat away at your soul. Although the human race has measured itself against an 'ideal image' throughout time, I feel like the act of comparison is particularly prevalent today. But instead of looking at magazines or billboards, we're carrying these ideal images around in our pockets, 24/7.

The impact of Instagram on mental health

Instagram is a closed window through which we view the seemingly perfect lives of others, double tapping as if we're wrapping on the glass pane whispering, 'let me in'. It's a sea of unobtainable bodies, flawless skin, thousand-pound holidays in the Maldives and YSL handbags.

The social media platform was ranked by RSPH as having the worst impact on the mental health of young people (YouTube ranked best). This is thanks to a number of reasons, including the comparison factor, as well as FoMo and bullying.

When it comes to Instagram, self-identity is something that can be, and is, heavily shaped by what is trending. It's a bit like high school. At my high school, you were considered cool if you had a Jane Norman tote and black canvas plimsols. And if you didn't? Well, you may as well have resigned yourself to the library during lunch hour.

When you flick through the explore pages of Instagram, how many times do you see an image of a woman sitting behind a luxury banquet which they couldn't possibly eat all by themselves, or cuddling up to a freakishly huge teddy bear, or posing with some massive silver balloons which spell out an age or follower count? You've probably seen these types of shots hundreds of times. Which means that a lot of people are posting them.

And because a lot of people are posting these shots, we're constantly exposed to them, making us think that we have to post them too in order to fit in. Just like when I made my mum buy me a Jane Norman bag and black canvas plimsols at school. I wanted to fit in.

Self care and social media

I see too many blog posts suggesting that 'putting your phone down' will stop your mental health deteriorating when it comes to social media. And maybe that's true - I've had social media breaks in the past, and I tend to find myself in a much happier headspace when I'm offline. But for those of us who see our phones as an extension of our arms (see 'nomophobia'), that's a bit much to ask.

The way I cope with the barrage of trends on Instagram is to look at what other people are posting about, and what's trending, and try to put my own spin on it when I post. I like to show what's different about my personality and my passions - like my love of black lipstick or my sunglasses obsession. But mostly, my Instagram page revolves around my long hair (don't let the above image fool you - it's a wig). And that's what the marketing world calls a USP (Unique Selling Point). My hair is my USP. It's my quirk. Your quirks are the best thing about you - and even if you might feel embarassed about them, somebody else is sure to love them.

I had so many more quirks when I was younger. But they were 'embarrassing' and 'uncool' back then. I used to have braces, I played the violin, I loved Blink 182 and Fallout Boy. I used to wear pink and black lace up arm bands that went up my whole forearm. Not to mention, I'm Asian, which was always more of a running joke at school than something 'cool' or even normal. Now, however, I'm embracing all of these things (minus the braces as they were finally taken off about 10 years ago - though I definitely think there's nothing uncool about having them).

So my advice to you is to figure out what makes you different, and celebrate it on your social media channels. Could it be your amazing art skills, or your love of couture fashion, or your obsession with cats? Maybe it's your sexuality, race or your journey discovering the country that you live in. Find out what you really love, and your passion will shine through the thousands of same-y photos posted on Instagram every day.

Let's break barriers.


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