Social media is pervasive and unavoidable for most of us. Even as a therapist I’m not exempt from it. The familiar tug of comparison and self-doubt that Facebook and Instagram elicit never go away—and it takes effort to manage them with my own practice of body positivity and valued living.
To be honest, when I initially started practicing body positivity I found that I was uncomfortable. It took me a while to realize my own internal patterns of body shaming. I also learned that our society puts a lot more emphasis on the body as a defining characteristic of oneself than I’m comfortable with—one of the reasons I shy away from social media.
BUT, if I’m going to continue to function in our screen-obsessed society I want to be able help myself, my daughter, and others learn how to accept all variations of beauty. I also want to help others set mindful and intentional limits with the beauty and image ideals that are out there. So, here are a few social media tips that I found helpful.
1. Give yourself as many ‘likes/loves’ as you give to other people. We’re not perusing our own profiles while we’re on social media so all of that focus on other peoples’ status and photos creates an attention bias towards others. Practice ‘liking’ your own positive attributes (mentally, at least) as much as you do others’ and you’ll be quieting the urge to compare your faults to others.
2. Set inspirational reminders for yourself on your phone, mirror, computer, car—anywhere you can practice a moment of attunement to yourself. Again, this helps to counter the amount of exposure we have to images and targeted messaging in the media. Using quotes that resonate with ourselves helps to ground us in our own self value.
3. Identify (and even share!) one beautiful thing each day in social media that does not fit the ‘ideal beauty standard’ or that challenges your perception of beauty. Not only does this help expand your own measure for beauty, but it helps to promote a more realistic view of beauty within your community as well.
4. Find a few body-positive feeds on Instagram and change up your daily feed. Here are some of my favorites:
Run by journalists Laura Dennison and Eve Simmons who have both suffered from past eating disorders. Not Plant Based aims to help people stop restrictive eating, decrease their fears surrounding food, and to prioritize their mental and physical health.
Owned by Australian models Kate Wasley and Georgia Gibbs, this account highlights women of all sizes, and offers inspirational messages.
A body-positive influencer, Noor is using her platform to speak out about eating disorders and mental health awareness. She even founded the Education Emotion Project, which is working to provide mental health resources for all.
Makayla is in recovery from an eating disorder and self-harming behaviors and her Instagram account is devoted to “finding, creating, and embracing my best self.” She says, “You’re allowed to simply exist in the shapes you make, and THAT is unique and beautiful. Your body is not required to look or be any certain way. Keep reminding yourself when you’re tempted to forget.”
5. Focus on humor/parody content of the beauty image ideal. Researchers from the Centre for Appearance Research (UK) and Macquarie University (Australia) haverecently published a study that shows the positive effect that the media can have on body image IF the material is a parody of our own beauty standards. Three links to my favorite parody examples of this are below…enjoy!
6. Clean up your social media by unfollowing anyone on a weight-loss or diet plan.
7. Post positive and validating comments when others show vulnerability with their body.
8. Start a no filter day on social media with friends. Challenge your friends (and yourself) to post pictures without make-up or doing the normal ‘primp & pose’.
9. Reduce screen time. Yeah, this one’s pretty obvious but also very much needed. Studies show that giving yourself a screen time holiday definitely improves your overall health. One study confirmed a relationship between increased screen time, and increased body dissatisfaction with adolescent girls. (Duh.) How about we all use the extra time we would otherwise be absorbed in social media to focus on some additional self-care?
10. Get involved with organizations that have an online presence promoting self-esteem and body positive messages such as Proud2Bme, the National Eating Disorder Association, Mirror-Mirror and Eating Disorder Hope.