How Social Media Helped Me On The Path To Self-Acceptance
It feels somehow superficial to implicate Instagram in this profound journey — but here I am.
My journey to self-acceptance has been slow, but sure. It feels somehow superficial to implicate Instagram in this profound journey. And yet, here I am. In this case, the medium is less important than the message, but it’s the medium that has enabled that message to spread. For all its faults — and there are many we need to work on — social media has given a platform to those who would otherwise remain marginalised, for whatever reason.
Like most women I know, I’ve spent the majority of my life obsessing about my appearance. Specifically, my size. I’ve been a range of shapes over the years, but never arrived at a point where I was happy. How strange. That’s not how things work in other areas of my life. Of course, there’s flux, but generally it feels like I’m moving in the right direction: Career, relationships… that kind of thing. You see what works, you go with it, move forward.
But with appearance, it’s different. You never arrive, you never make progress. You’re always a few steps away. I’m 35 years old now. I can honestly say I’ve spent about 25 years — quarter of a century! — working towards an unachievable goal.
Sometimes I imagine what I could have achieved by now, with all those hours spent trying to look like someone who doesn’t exist.
It’s only recently, and by pure accident, that I’ve been inspired by women who don’t conform to society’s narrow, airbrushed and unrealistic beauty standards. From Valerie Sagun of @biggalyoga and Jessamyn Stanley’s Every Body Yoga to Iskra Lawrence’s work with the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) and Denise Bidot’s No Wrong Way movement, such strength and bravery have provided an antidote to the anxiety of being a woman in the world today.
What a revolutionary feeling, to not despise your body! And what a waste of those years, to no discernible end. Sometimes I imagine what I could have achieved by now, with all those hours spent trying to look like someone who doesn’t exist.
But I don’t dwell on it. Once one aspect starts to change, others fall into place. My life has also been transformed by yoga and meditation. Acceptance is a fundamental element of this journey: if we’re constantly running after something in the distance, we miss what’s right in front of us. It sounds like a cliche, and in a way it is, until you live it and it starts to mean something.
The body positivity movement has its limitations. For some people, it represents added emotional labour and pressure. Plus, I don’t think there’s enough diversity represented: It’s mostly white, mostly relatively thin people who take up space in the conversation — and, for the record, I count myself among that group. It’s been comparatively easy for me to accept myself, because society accepts me more readily than it would, say, a trans person, a person of colour, or a person with a disability. These are hard truths, but they are truths nonetheless.
There’s still so much work to be done. And I’m still finding my place in the movement: somewhere between speaking up for inclusivity and intersectionality, and stepping aside to make space for others.
How has social media impacted your sense of self? Has it been positive or negative? Tell us your story in the comments…