Leigh-Ann Hewer tells ITF how curating a body positive instagram changed how she saw her own body…
The body positive phenomena is sweeping the internet, and yet according to a study conducted in 2016 by Dove, across the world 69% of women and 65% of girls say they experience a constantly increasing pressure from the media to reach an unattainable standard of beauty and that this acts as a driving force to their low self-esteem and body confidence.
It’s no secret that in our day and age advertising and the media has brainwashed us with the ridiculous idea that there is a set standard of beauty that we must reach. Slim, tanned and toned models are photoshopped even beyond the excessive dieting and exercise regimes they are instructed to undergo and we are sold product after product with the promise that it will “fix” our physical flaws and make us beautiful.
There is no escaping this message. From TV and film, to magazines and advertising campaigns, these messages are drilled into our subconscious in a variety of subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, ways. Messages like these have even snuck their way onto our social media feeds and we find ourselves constantly tricked into believing that this idealised version of what a woman’s body looks like is in fact a normal and attainable mould that we should be ashamed for not fitting.
Controlling the wider media is something that’s not so easily achieved. What people seem to forget however is that our social media feeds can be controlled by us and that we don’t have to subject ourselves to the same pressures that society places on us. We can make our social media feeds a self-affirming and body positive place. I have and so can you. Instagram is the perfect place to start.
It’s a social media platform based on aesthetic images; it’s easy to believe the personas people create of themselves on the platform are a reflection of the truth but we all know deep down that this is not the case. My Instagram feed was filed with the gorgeous slim and tanned women whose bodies I admired and strived for. I’ve had body confidence issues since my puppy fat early teenage years and despite losing a ton of weight during puberty and standing at a healthy middle weight, I still wasn’t happy with myself. Looking at the images of these photoshopped and cleverly angled women online further emphasised what I thought I knew; I wasn’t good enough and my body wasn’t the way it should be.
And then I found body positivity and realised how these images were influencing the way I thought and were worsening the damage my self-esteem had already received.
I cleaned out my Instagram follows, removing any of the people that I knew I would feel bad after looking at one of their posts. The key part of this step was being honest with myself and admitting what sort of images I was being affected by. I didn’t remove people I admired for talent or for personality. I wasn’t unfollowing anyone just because I thought they did fit that idealised standard of beauty. I was honest with myself and I unfollowed the accounts I knew I was only following because I wished I was them or looked like them, rather than respecting them for who they are or what they do. When you look at it in this way, it’s so much easier to to press that unfollow button.
When my following count had dropped significantly, it was time to do my research. As I mentioned before, body confidence is finding its place online and so finding recommendations and accounts to follow wasn’t that difficult. I turned to online articles, YouTube videos and body positivity books. It is important to remember when picking these accounts to find people whose bodies look more like yours, but also people who don’t look like you at all. I now follow models of the same size and body shape (together and separately) as myself, as well as people bigger than me, people with different body shapes, people of different colours, people of different sexualities and gender identities and people of different abilities. Every day I wake up to their smiling body confident faces and stunning bodies and I think “heck gurl you are fine” (just like that) and then I think about all of the different ways we see beauty in the world and find it so much easier to remember that I am damn beautiful too. My boyfriend knows it. My friends and family know it. Why can’t I?
There are so many great accounts that I could recommend. The first I followed was the wonderful Megan Crabbe of @bodyposipanda. She’s stunning, her story is inspirational, her #donthatetheshake videos give me life. As if that’s not reason enough, she regularly recommends more accounts to follow in her own posts. She was shortly followed by models like Iskra Lawrence and Ashley Graham, two models promoting the beauty of a variety of body types. I started following the wonderful Rebekah Taussig of @sitting_pretty who showed me that a disability doesn’t mean a lack of beauty, sexuality and confidence. A more recent follow of the amazing @harnaamkaur showed me all the ways in which we can kill it with our appearance. The truth is, the list could go on forever and one amazing find will only lead you to ten more.
So why should you make your Instagram feed a more body positive place? Well the simple answer is that it will make you feel great. It will help reverse that horrible message we are bombarded with about the idealised standards of beauty and show you how to love yourself and others for their beautiful, unique quirks and “flaws”. You should do it because it will help open your eyes to all of the different types beauty in the world and show you how to see it in everything, including yourself, and who doesn’t want that?
Image via Pinterest