Since ditching the dieting lifestyle that gave me the ‘perfect’ body and a twisted mindset, I’ve made a conscious effort to redefine what beautiful means to me. I’ve retrained my brain to realise that not everyone can or should look the same.
We can’t all have a tiny waist, a big perky butt, a generous bosom and golden, cellulite-free skin. The constant quest to be a bit skinnier, more toned and overall more aesthetically pleasing to others is exhausting. I wondered if maybe I could use that energy trying to love myself the way I am, instead of picking apart every flaw I saw in the mirror.
So decided to take action and unfollow any accounts on Instagram that made me feel bad about myself. It’ll come as no surprise to you that Instagram is a big player in how I construct my idea of beauty in the modern world. I’m sure it is for you too, even if you don’t realise it.
I thought following fitspo accounts (FYI I am an avid gym-goer) were good motivation for me. I thought looking at their chiselled abs and jiggle-free triceps everyday would make me workout harder and stick to my low-calorie diet with ease. I thought I was tapping into an endless source of will power; just what I needed if I was going to succeed at creating my dream body. Unfortunately, all it was really doing was convincing me that my body would never be good enough.
It’s not that slim, toned, Caucasian female bodies shouldn’t be inspirational. Every body needs representation. It’s that they shouldn’t be the only type of body we see in mainstream media. It might be inspirational to someone else, but to me it was an unattainable goal that was damaging my self-esteem and mental health. We all need people to look up to, but the pool available to us has become rather exclusive in my opinion. You only have to look at a magazine stand to see that there is a certain type of ‘look’ that gets to bask in the glory of front-page status.
I choose to follow women who are fuller-figured, because that’s similar to my own body shape. When I’m feeling crap about myself I want to scroll through my Instagram feed and see Megan belly-dancing in her underwear and Grace talking about her lopsided boobs, because that shit gives me life. It’s relatable. It makes me feel worthy.
So I’ve surrounded myself with women who don’t normally get media attention, but I forget that the rest of the world hasn’t caught up yet. Every now and again I catch sight of a new celebrity promoting laxatives to teenage girls, or hear that the latest Kardashian show is grotesquely named ‘Revenge Body’, and my heart breaks for the pain and torment our young women are forced to go through as the result of what is forced down their throats.
The good thing with social media is that if we want to, we can control what we see. Don’t like it? Unfollow. Easy. Unfortunately it works both ways and we only see what our Instagram idols want us to see.
The fit-chicks show you their bulging biceps and monstrous pancake towers stuffed with Oreos and Reese’s Pieces. They don’t show you the 5am starts, sleep deprivation, endless cardio and egg-white-only omelettes they endure 90% of the time to achieve their look. I adore images of real women sat in their underwear exposing their tummy rolls. It’s not until I spot the caption underneath – explaining how they felt fat, ugly and reluctant to even share the picture with their fans – that I realise even Instagram-famous girls have insecurities.
The truth is that neither of these images is better than the other. There are the preened models like Ashley Graham who show us that plus-size women can wear designer clothes and walk on catwalks. Then there are the ladies like Melissa who show themselves rocking mini-skirts in the bacon isle . Both are equally important. They are showing the world that we can be whoever we want to be.
The power of what Instagram can do is down it it’s users. We can continue to filter the shit out of everything or we can start posting real images like Kenzie Brenna. She started a campaign called Cellulite Saturday and it’s one of the most fantastic acts of positivity I’ve seen. She actively encourages others to share pictures of their own cellulite and they did.
Guess what? No one dropped down dead at the site of dimpled legs and bums on their screens! Women can be real and authentic and beautiful and empowered all at the same time!
Without Instagram that may not have been possible, so we should be grateful for that. With more women using social media to make their voices heard and their supposedly imperfect bodies represented, who knows where we’ll end up? I know for one I’ll be using it as a tool to spread the word that we all deserve to love our bodies, no matter what.