The impact of social media on body confidence
In years gone by it was magazines that dampened body confidence. When we opened the cover of Just 17 at 13 years old, “the perfect image” was staring back at us. Through this medium, we were told that there is an ideal body shape and way to look. And when faced with this, aged 13, it's hard not to compare and focus on the parts of yourself that do not meet this ideal.
But in recent years, this has become less accepted. Body neutrality, body positivity and self-love are conversations that are encouraged, and many magazines started using people of all shapes, sizes, looks and colours in their publications. Wonderful. Except, in its place is social media. Social media has the power to affect body confidence both positively and negatively.
Researchers have created a working definition of body positivity. It's thought that those who have a positive body image have the following traits:
- An overarching love and respect for their body.
- Appreciate the unique beauty of their body and the functions it performs.
- Accept and admire their body, including what doesn't match idealised images.
- Glow and radiate feelings of beauty, comfort, confidence, and happiness with their body.
- Emphasise their body’s assets rather than dwell on imperfections.
- Protect their body by internalising positive information and rejecting or reframing negative information.
This is a lot to hold on to when constantly observing images of people showing only their best side. Many people in the public eye know how to apply makeup, style their hair, and pose for a photograph to look somewhat different to any photo taken off the cuff. So how to deal with this creeping feeling of comparison and a knock of your confidence? A hypnotherapy session to learn some mindfulness tools and techniques to improve your confidence will help you increase your level of body positivity.
Research shows a correlation between the time spent on social media and negative body confidence. One study involving social media and body confidence investigated the effect of Facebook usage on the body image and mood of women. The researchers' interest spanned the difference between Facebook and fashion magazines. Participants who spent time on Facebook reported more negative moods than those on the appearance-neutral control website. The women reported more facial, hair and skin discrepancies after Facebook exposure.
Excessive time on Facebook is also associated with greater body image concerns among pre-teenage girls, teens, and University students. Another study demonstrates that maladaptive Facebook usage increased the body dissatisfaction of females four weeks later.
It's not possible to control what other people post on their social media accounts, but it is possible to control what you view. If you struggle to take control of your scrolling a hypnotherapist will help you.
I’m never quite sure whether the best thing is to stop using social media so much or to follow people that encourage body positivity. Those who promote body positivity tend to have something specific that goes against society’s idea of ideal. Perhaps they are overweight or underweight, maybe they have scars or a skin condition such as pimples or eczema but still, the focus is on appearance.
What if we come off social media and start looking at what we see around us? Choosing to love your body for its greatness rather than focusing on either your appearance or that of others. When you go out, focus on activities that bring you joy rather than what other people look like. If you want to go for a run, do it because it will help you feel good, rather than because the body-positive girl on Instagram says even overweight people can run.
The fight in my mind is there because body-positive social media accounts are important, they help us feel that it is OK to be a different shape to the fitness instructor but still attend the class. They help you to know that other people have scars like yours and there is someone letting the world know to accept, rather than judge. Body positive social media accounts are important. The influencers campaign, share knowledge and increase awareness, helping society know there is no normal, no ideal or perfect. Or the opposite, in fact, because everyone is perfect just as they are - including you!
Fardouly, J., Diedrichs, P.C., Vartanian, L.R. and Halliwell, E., 2015. Social comparisons on social media: The impact of Facebook on young women's body image concerns and mood. Body image, 13, pp.38-45.