Social media is often criticized for its negative impact on mental health, but Body Positivity on Social Media can help it make a turnaround. My life has been impacted in both very positive and very negative ways by social media, so I thought I’d share my insight on some changes I’ve been seeing, and my role in these changes. I also shared a few of my favorite instagram accounts that are body-positive (or enlightening in that area), in case you need to clean up your feed to make it more inspiring!
As someone with a background in modeling, I found the initial rise of filtered and edited images on social media to be a bit alarming. I imagined that having “regular people” see edited versions of themselves and each other as opposed to the true versions would be even more damaging and mind-boggling than just seeing models altered. Over the years, at the peak of my career, I got so accustomed to seeing my face without my chicken pox scar that I often forgot I had it and was surprised by it in candid pictures. The phrase “don’t compare yourself to the models in magazines, because the models don’t even look like the models in magazines” was one thing, but when it started to be true about my high school classmates as well, I had to raise an eyebrow!
I knew that this could only be concerning in terms of its impacts on mental health, especially with impressionable young girls, and prayed for change.
It’s interesting, because at one point, one of the images I posted of myself on facebook came under fire as potentially damaging to the mindset of young people seeing them. Case in point:
Admittedly, the angle definitely makes my ribcage prominent, and the posing distorts a little… But it certainly wasn’t intentional. If you’re up for it, the discussion in the comments on the post might be interesting! Was I perpetuating poor body image and being a bad role model? I am not sure, but I definitely wasn’t intentionally doing so! As I mentioned in this Huffington Post piece I wrote, I had the best of intentions!
I think in similar ways to how we’ve moved from eating natural foods, to processed convenience, and make to natural foods (like… to the extreme – hello, Paleo!), we are making a similar movement from being limited in photo and film manipulation by technology to the extremes of nearly everyone editing their photos, and back to “here’s my body hair, ‘backne,’ stretch marks, scars and more,” and I think it’s healthy!
Someone recently asked a few questions about this movement of body positivity on social media, so I am going to share my answers here! It also goes along well with my last blog about embracing aging!
1) What is your favorite part of this body positivity on social media movement?
For me, it is definitely the women embracing their “flaws.” It is so easy to be inundated and overwhelmed by edited photos of perfect bodies – bodies that start with a genetic ‘advantage,’ are maintained and ‘improved’ by potentially unhealthy lifestyle choices (malnutrition, unhealthy exercise habits, and surgical intervention – which, to be clear, is not always an unhealthy choice), and then are further changed to unrealistic standards by photo and video editing software. It is to the point where we start to see those manipulated bodies as “the new normal” because so many were afraid to show the real versions of themselves, and then everyone ends up thinking they’re flawed, when in truth, we’re all just different and have a variety of features (but almost none of which involve a perfectly smooth, hairless body with perfect skin, and curves that are magically only in the “right” places).
2.) Who are your favorite body positive influencers and why?
One of my favorites is Sarah Nicole Landry, of @TheBirdsPapaya on instagram. She is a few years younger than me, but right now I am navigating my first postpartum experience, and for years have been afraid of what “having a baby will do to my body.” Until I found her online, I was so worried and almost felt like I had a swan song of bidding farewell to who I am on the outside now, giving no honor to the amazing things my body did in creating Charlo, birthing him, and now to feed him. She not only shares her realistic body now (both how it looks and the weird things that can happen after giving birth), but also shares how she deals with the people who have rude comments (or worse) because of her radical candor, which I think is important. We need to know that there’s still a long way to go before real bodies are celebrated and normalized in a mainstream way, so that we’re not shocked when we join in on the movement and encounter a hater.
Another favorite is @sydneylbell on instagram, because her energy and confidence is so contagious and refreshing!
I also love @igfamousbydana, @S0cialmediavsreality, @celebface, and @shitmodelmanagement, which are adjacent to the movement in that they shed light on some of the practices that those whose bodies we may be idolizing may be engaging in to make the images we see – editing/photoshop, etc.
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3.)How do you feel when you see these women embracing their bodies?
I have. to be honest and say that there is a rollercoaster of emotions nearly every time I see this. I’d be lying if I said that my first reaction is always to praise it. I am 40 years old, and have been conditioned for so long, like most of us, to judge anything less than perfection. So, I definitely catch my first gut reaction sometimes being an “eww,” when I see something like acne, body hair, etc. I am proud to say, however, that this movement is helping me to catch myself and recognize the conditioning, and then to admire the person sharing for their bravery, and remember how everyone should feel amazing and beautiful for being human.
4.) Has this social media movement influenced you in your personal life? (changed the way you see yourself, has it inspired you to wear what you want or to be confident in a bikini)?
It absolutely has, but primarily internally. It began picking up speed during my pregnancy, which has also helped my confidence… unfortunately, in weird ways. When I had a baby growing inside me and because I had a baby growing inside me, I felt like I had “an excuse” for my biggest insecurity physically, which was my stomach. It was odd, though, going on a dinner date with my husband and catching myself trying to suck in out of habit, and then remembering that I can’t suck in a human!
I’m now just over nine weeks postpartum, and go back and forth between feeling like I still have “an excuse” and like I should be closer to my pre-pregnancy body than I am now. I am recovering from a prolapsed bladder, and have been even limited in how much walking I can do, which is frustrating on many levels, so it doesn’t help. But I am trying to tell myself that I don’t need an excuse and that I’m just fine where I am. So, as you can see, it is still a journey!
I hope that I am able to continue to “fight the good fight” both internally for me, and for body positivity on social media and here on my blog for anyone else who might be feeling this way.
What are some of your favorite body positive social media accounts? What advice do you have or conditioning have you fought in this area? What would you like me to cover in this department?