“Knowing my body could accomplish a 5k made me feel better than if my body fit conventional beauty standards.”
Self-esteem is a complex topic, because there are so many influencing factors. For my generation, Generation Z (1999-present), Social Media has been a huge influence on education and self-esteem. I remember in grade 2, my classmates were on Facebook trying to get as many friends as possible. The need for validation began early on. I was late to the Social Media wave and got my first account – Instagram – at the end of 2013. Instagram is a particularly wonderful yet harmful platform for young people. The things I most often see are the luxurious, enhanced, unattainable, and unrealistic. What I don’t often see are those of us who are Average! I’d say I’m pretty Average. I’m a student, who exercises 0-5 times a week, but also enjoys a dessert a day. I want to see more of that because it can be damaging to the average person if they don’t see representation of the average. Before I had established a critical viewing eye and developed my own self worth I would look at these seemingly perfect Social Media influencers and wonder why I didn’t look like that when I did my makeup like them or didn’t get the same result when I did the same exercise routine. The reason I didn’t attain what they did was because I’m Average; I don’t use Photoshop, get cosmetic enhancements, or have a lot of money to live lavishly. It’s not to say any of these things are objectively negative. However when these influencers lie about using any type of enhancement it creates a false reality. I think this is negative. Why? Because I used to compare myself to these perfect people and feel bad about myself, until I realized they were altered realities. For example notice the Photoshopped changes in beauty influencer, James Charles; in one image he is shown in full makeup. But in the image on the right, you can see the indistinct changes made that gives him a flawless look. Because the Photoshop is so subtle, people who aren’t aware of his use of editing his image, may think that he really looks unattainably flawless. Thankfully, James is one of the honest influencers out there who is very public about his use of Photoshop. He advises his audience they can achieve flawless looks with editing tools!
Another example of this was a Tweet exchange that went viral where an Average person wanted to look like Gina Shkeda, a beauty vlogger. Gina however responded saying she had enhancements and that she doesn’t even naturally look that perfect. She credits the modern beauty tools. This type of honesty on Social Media is what I’m looking for. People can be as enhanced as they want as long as they don’t claim to be 100% natural.
Now that I critically view images and videos, keeping in mind the likely use of enhancement, I feel much more comfortable in my own skin because I know I’m pretty good for being Pretty Average. However, becoming comfortable in my own body took time. It started when I took up running with my mom. Knowing my body could accomplish a 5k made me feel better than if my body fit conventional beauty standards.
Being strong and healthy lasts longer than a beauty standard that will change in the next 5 years. Another thing that contributed to finding my own self worth, especially in terms of going without makeup, was going away to University. I know this situation isn’t as accessible as taking up running, but for me moving away to school and not having the time or energy to wear makeup all the time made me embrace my natural face for all that it is. For those who are in the process of developing a strong sense of self worth I would recommend finding something that can make you feel accomplished. For example, if you are struggling with body image, try to find an activity that makes you appreciate the function of your body, such as running, dance, or sports. Using your body and thanking it for accomplishing a physical goal is better for your self worth than trying to attain a body type that your body may never be able to achieve.
Honesty and accurate representation of the Average person I what I’m looking for on Social Media, but until that happens I’m going to keep on working on loving my natural, Pretty Average self and you should do the same.