The Bane of Body Image

Do a quick search on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Vine and #newyearnewme will be amongst the top trending hashtags. As the calendar turns and a new year begins, countless people take this as an opportunity to start eating healthy, exercising and losing weight. While this is a good thing in theory, January may be a dangerous time of the year for many social media users, particularly young girls and those susceptible to body image issues.

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Social media may be responsible for your negative self-esteem

The pressure to be thin is nothing new, but the constancy of social media has given rise to a whole new level of demand. While you have no control over what others post, there are some things you can do to protect your self-esteem in today’s social society. If you find yourself feeding in to adverse body image messages, the following five steps can help to improve body positivity.

1. Take a Break

It is a well-known fact that many magazines and tabloids rely upon Photoshop to edit out imperfections in their photos. Pores are airbrushed out, stomachs shrunk, lips are enhanced, blemishes banished. While many of these images circulate through social media feeds, we are also bombarded with images of people we know. Social media encourages comparison like no other form of media. We see pictures of our flat-stomached friends, our wrinkle-les aunt, and our perfectly tanned classmates. We find ourselves overwhelmed with envy and hating every little feature about ourselves. What we fail to remember, however, is that very often these images, too, are edited. We are not seeing pictures of our friends without makeup. Muffin tops and acne just don’t make it onto our social networking sites.

Understanding that most of the images that flood our feeds have the perfect filter and have gone through some form of photo editing app is the first step. Oftentimes, however, this realization is not enough. Sometimes, the best solution is to take a social media break. Take a few days off of social media. Give yourself a break from the influx of negative messages and take time to appreciate the beauty around you. You may be surprised that this break provides you with a breath of fresh air you didn’t know you needed.

2. Stop the Fat Talk

Stop talking about how fat you are and you might just be surprised at how you feel about your body. By focusing on what you don’t like about your body, you forget about the things that you do like. The problem is that body dissatisfaction is a very normal experience. Social media provides a perfect platform for discussing weight and calories and for exchanging recipes and exercise regimes. When our friends post about how fat they feel, it increases our own body dissatisfaction.

Stop posting about how fat you feel and stop commenting on your friends “fat talk” posts. Engaging in more meaningful and productive conversations will help discourage negative self-esteem and encourage positive body image.

3. Build a Support System

Next time you start comparing yourself to others on social media, try something different. Instead of allowing yourself to drown in body negativity, call a friend or family member for support. Having someone to call helps you to see that your self-worth does not depend on your body. Your support team can help show you love and can also serve as a distraction. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and honest with your support system. While we all need a little pep talk every once in a while, try not to focus entirely on your body.

If you find that you don’t have anyone to call, or if no one picks up the phone, head on over to an online support page. There are many websites, such as http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/ and http://proud2bme.org/ that offer resources and forums for those struggling with poor body image.

4. Preach Your Passion

We all have something that we are passionate about. Whether you’re interested in sports, art, charities, or any other hobby, use your social media accounts to post about it. When we discuss something we are passionate about, we are turning our attention away from our body and focusing on something else that is very important to us. We are allowing others to see us for more than just our outer appearances, and initiating a meaningful conversation. People will respect you for your ability to separate yourself from your insecurities and you may even make friends in the process.

5. Encourage self-love

Finally, it is important that we utilize our social media accounts to encourage self-love. By taking a social media hiatus, utilizing our support systems, and changing the conversation, we have already proven to both ourselves, and others, that we are more than our bodies. Still, there will always be people struggling with body acceptance. Because we are aware of the adverse effects of social media, we can and should use our accounts to preach about self-love. Post positive quotes and encouraging pictures. Allow others to see you in your natural state. Comment on someone else’s picture and compliment them on something unrelated to their body. Social media is a powerful tool, and it is easy to get absorbed in its comparative nature. Encourage self-love and help break the body shaming cycle.

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