Instagram, Influencers & Healthy Body Image

Every day, we are bombarded with unrealistic standards that society has created for us, especially as women. There is a notion that everyone should look, act and be a certain way in order to be accepted. Every day, this underlying expectation and generalisation of beauty is continually reinforced by social media. It’s indoctrinating young girls around the world into believing we are not good enough.

I’m sure many people can relate to hitting that low point when we wish we could look like that girl on Instagram or dress the way influencers do online. I can’t stress enough how unhealthy this is for your mental health. Constant comparison to the unattainable online image eats away at your self-confidence.

Truth is, we’re never going to look like social media influencers. The only way anyone looks that way is by a combination of photoshop, edits and filters.

When you have a constant comparative narrative in your mind, the first thing it delves into is your body image. Before long, I was checking and trying all possible fad diets and miracle weight loss products to achieve the unachievable. Loading my body with countless supplements at all hours of the day and night did more harm than good. I ignored the warning signs to try and justify the desired effect of a so-called magic pill. I overlooked irregularity of my moods, periods, skin and immune system with only the end goal in mind. The new Instagram pop up, thanks to a simple algorithm, caused a spiral of addiction more serious than my teenage self could ever imagine. 

Too late in my life, I realised that there are many different forms of eating disorders. I never labelled myself as being bulimic or anorexic and could therefore convince myself that nothing was wrong. But, in hindsight, the way I was treating myself was not healthy. I was religiously monitoring what went into my body and eating far too little to fuel it. More than anything else, I had a constant feeling of guilt whenever I ate.

My mind was playing cruel tricks on my body and was totally in control of it. My type-A personality and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) added to a recipe for disaster. I was constantly hating myself for what I put into my body if it contained even a single calorie. Once I recognised the depression and anxiety this was spiralling me into, I had to make a change.

I did a lot of reading and listening to talks about my condition and had to train myself into believing something new…

The way I am is enough in its entirety.

There is not one thing in this world that should take that thought away from you. It becomes a lot easier when you can distinguish for yourself that the images you see online are edited a whole lot more than you realise. That’s the power of social media – people can be whoever they want to be – and unfortunately, it is often at the indirect expense of others.

I strongly feel that social media ‘influencers’ have a social responsibility towards changing this. Somewhere there are young girls looking at YOUR page, wishing so deeply that they were you or lived your social media life without realising that it’s completely glamourised. Why not encourage, empower and assist these young girls by showing real struggles and celebrating small successes. I lost a good few years by falling into this exact trap and have made it my mission to ensure others learn from my mistakes.

I still count my calories but am slowly feeling more comfortable. In fact, I eat double what I used to. I feel fitter and stronger than ever before. I’ve found informed and educated advice and built a network of support – they are the reason I am getting by. More than anything I am enjoying the process and celebrating my progress. I am proud of my body but even more proud of how far my mind has come to overcome the past.

I still don’t look like ‘that girl on Instagram’ but I sure as hell don’t want to anymore.

This is what I want young girls to realise. You are SO much more than the unrealistic standards society has forced upon us. You do you and be absolutely 100% yourself whilst doing it.

In an Age of Comparison, Busy does not Equal Productive

It seems that we have forgotten what it’s like to intentionally choose rest. When we do, we feel as though we are derailing our lives. It plagues us with guilt. I believe that this thinking is rooted in a culture of shame, pride and comparison.

How can shame and pride thrive simultaneously?

If you think about it, one cannot exist without the other. A culture of shame, lurking behind our obsession with productivity, is deeply embedded within society. And I would argue that it affects women more harshly.

One of the greatest threats to our peace of mind and ability to enjoy the present moment is the idea that busyness equates with productivity. We obsessively praise and admire what looks like productivity.

Instagram stories, facebook posts and twitter updates fuel the phenomenon. We see our friends’ elaborately organised desks and cups of coffee as we mindlessly scroll through our feeds, feeling guilty for not doing more ourselves. These constant comparisons and feelings of falling short pose a serious threat to our mental well-being.

When did our mental energy become less important than being recognized as worthy and successful by society?

Picture this: the ideal woman. She is able to multitask at all times, dedicates a perfect amount of time to each task, and always looks flawless. Effortlessly efficient in the workplace, she still makes it home in time to make dinner from scratch. She spends time with her family and gets the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep each night.

For real? These are impossible standards to live up to on a good day. More than anything, they set us up for burnout.

The dominant message is that it’s okay to compromise our health and wellness at the expense of appearing successful and gaining praise from others. We are expected to keep it together at every moment of every day, and to carry the emotions of our children and significant others while seamlessly managing our own. We should not express or even identify as feeling any anger or irritation. We are expected to love perfectly.

This is what is implicitly perpetuated by a culture obsessed with productivity and achievement. How busy we are has become an indication of our worthiness.

Busy does not equal productive. 

Breaking down, being vulnerable, admitting to sometimes not being able to handle everything: we view these as weaknesses. Can you see it now? Little old pride, rearing its head, spurred on by shame and ready to put up a fight.

It is time for this narrative to change. We need to make a conscious individual and collective effort to fight back against this mentality, especially at a time when mental illness is more prevalent than ever.

Periods of rest should not be scorned and embraced only once we are exhausted beyond recognition. Rest should be an intentional form of self-care to maintain good mental health, not a last-minute strategy to salvage what’s left.

Acne Acceptance, Self-Love & Solidarity on Instagram

I’m 19 and have struggled with acne for almost 10 years. I’ve never met anyone that looks the way I do and felt really alone growing up. At times, it has been soul destroying to live with.

My skin problems are a result of having Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) – a condition that affects up to one in 10 women and has really taken its toll on my life.

In the last few years, I have been focusing heavily on trying to accept and love the way I look.

It’s very difficult, as my scarring is so severe and I get stares, questions and nasty comments from so many people. I absolutely hate when people stare and whisper in public places about my skin, or offer their opinions and tips on products they think would help. If I had a pound for every time someone suggests a miracle product from Lush I would be a millionaire!

I’ve had acne for as long as I can remember. I can’t remember what my skin looks like without it.

For a long time, I felt that bad skin was the end of the world – especially in school. I felt so rubbish about myself all the time and often felt alone and frustrated due to the way I was treated. People I considered friends would make jokes about my skin and bring me down at any opportunity.

It felt like I had nobody to turn to when I was feeling down. I can see now that the people I was surrounded by were toxic and unhelpful in my journey towards acceptance. I realised that far too late – once the damage was already done.

It has taken me a really long time to accept the way my skin is.

For years, I was unable to go out in public without makeup out of sheer embarrassment. Today, I can go about my daily life with very little notice of it. I still have bad days when I hate my skin but they are becoming few and far between.

I developed an interest in makeup about 4 years ago due to needing and wanting to cover my skin. More recently, I have created an Instagram account to show my skin journey. I just want to try and help people learn to love the way they look no matter what flaws they may have, and to help people build their confidence.

With @abis_acne, I want to show the world that acne does not define you. Acne doesn’t change you as a person in any way shape or form, and it isn’t permanent.

From my own experience, I know how mentally challenging it can be to live with acne. I made the instagram for anyone that feels underrepresented, especially in the age of social media. It’s a reminder that you aren’t alone and that your skin does not define you or alter your level of beauty.

On some days I feel like I’m at my wits end. It’s so disheartening when you think you are getting places and then things get worse. The stares and questions are bad enough, but I’ll never understand people who grimace at the sight of my skin or have something rude to say.

A few weeks ago, somebody pulled up to me in traffic. They made me roll my car window down so they could tell me my skin was “disgusting” and I “shouldn’t expose people to the sight of it”. This wrecked me and really hurt me on a deeper level. It was completely unprovoked and just an outright awful experience.

Over time, I’ve learned to brush people’s opinions off. I’ve often edited my social media pictures or used filters to cover up my skin and make it look better than it actually is. However, I have come to realise that nobody is walking around looking airbrushed. Everyone has their flaws and nobody looks like an Instagram model.

I’m learning to stop comparing myself to the absurd standards which are promoted within the beauty industry.

I try not to let my acne stop me from doing things or achieving certain things, but it is easier said than done. Obviously, I look different to most people I know and to be at peace with this has taken me a long time. Even now, I will admit it stops me from meeting new people.

Through Instagram, I’m starting to find people I can relate to and chat to about our experiences and feelings. Finding new friends and the lovely people I have encountered so far is heart warming. I definitely think my confidence has risen since I started the account. It’s helping me to just love myself a bit more and appreciate that this is my skin and I have to own it!

By sharing my own experience, I hope I can at least help one person. If I can, that’s my job done.

10 Instagram Accounts Busting Period Taboos

Silence around menstruation may be far from broken, but it’s definitely showing cracks. Just search #periodpositive or #menstruationmatters on Instagram if you don’t believe me! Here are 10 taboo-busting accounts to follow to help celebrate and normalize periods – one double tap at a time.

1. Pink Bits

This Australian artist posts illustrations to celebrate “the bits and shapes we’re told to hide”. Period-positive, body-positive and just really cute, these illustrations will cheer up any Insta feed.

A post shared by Pink Bits (@pink_bits) on

2. Lunette Cup

Lunette sell environmentally-friendly menstrual cups, but you can enjoy their colorful Instagram whether you’re a customer or not. They often share links to genuinely informative articles, like how to make the most of your exercise routine by synching it up with your menstrual cycle.

3. Bloody Good Period

Bloody Good Period provide menstrual supplies for asylum seekers, refugees & those who can’t afford them by collecting donations and distributing via drop-in centres and food banks across the UK. On social media they’re opening up conversations by posting reminders that periods are natural, NOT shameful.

4. Menstrugram

This Berlin-based art project is a “rebellion against the taboo”. The photographs are all of menstrual blood, which – being really honest – I found quite shocking at first. This made me realise I’d never ever seen an image of real period blood before, and proves the entire point of the project.

A post shared by Menstru gram (@menstrugram) on

5. Blood Cycle Community

On online community of “menstrual health seekers”, Blood Cycle Community are trying to increase access to menstrual health through advocacy, education and innovation. Their Instagram is a mix of illustrations, poems, quotes and photos that are often really funny and always really important.

6. #HappyPeriod

A social movement to normalise menstruation, plus provide products to low-income and homeless communities in the USA. Creators of the ‘Hello, I’m Menstruating’ tee that I want in every colour.

7. Cycles + Sex

Not just about menstruation, Cycles + Sex want to educate people about their bodies and “highlight the interconnectedness of our sexual, hormonal, reproductive and menstrual health”. This is a no-shame, no-stigma, no-topic-too-taboo kind of account, and there’s a great balance of education and celebration.

A post shared by CYCLES+SEX (@cyclesandsex) on

8. Aunt Flow

For every 100% organic, non-applicator tampon Aunt Flow sell, they donate one to an organization in the USA that supports menstruators in need. On their Insta you’ll find posts encouraging businesses to stock bathrooms with tampons for their employees to use for free, as well as posts providing information on the harmful chemicals used by many leading tampon brands. There’s chlorine in those things?! Chlorine?!

A post shared by Aunt Flow (@goauntflow) on

9. 4 Women Ovary Where

This volunteer-led movement raises money and collects products to assemble menstruation kits to “provide the homeless population of LA with a comfortable period”. Along with photos of their volunteers in action, their period-positive, confidence-boosting quotes and illustrations are a welcome addition to any menstruator’s daily scroll.

10. THINX

THINX is a brand striving to break down taboos, so whether you buy their products or not their Instagram is still a great place to find a little period-positivity. Granted, their photos are more often of flawless models than real-life humans, but the images are beautiful, the captions are candid and it’s refreshing to see new and innovative options being offered to people who menstruate.

A post shared by THINX (@shethinx) on

Am I missing something? Who would you add to this list? Leave a comment if you have any suggestions, and make sure you’re following Girls’ Globe on Instagram too!

The Stories of Women Who Inspire

Women and girls inspire us every day, through their strength, passion, persistence and creativity. All around the world, women and girls are changing communities in small, large, and world transforming ways.

Starting this International Women’s Day and throughout March, Girls’ Globe is partnering with Johnson & Johnson to highlight the women who inspire us and to acknowledge the amazing strides that are being made to strengthen the rights and health of women and girls. We also want to recognize that there is still a long way to go to fulfill the needs of women and girls across the globe. Let us be inspired to continue to take action!

This month we want to engage you in a conversation on the women who inspire us. Here are 2 things you can do today:

1. Mark your calendar & be part of the discussion

Join Johnson & Johnson and global health partners on Tuesday as we continue to celebrate International Women’s Day and reflect on how women are the drivers who will help us realize a healthier world. Follow #WomenInspire and @JNJGlobalHealth.

JNJGlobalHealth

2. Tweet your inspiration to Girls’ Globe

We want to know who inspires you and why! Let us know in 140 characters by tweeting to @GirlsGlobe using the hashtag #WomenInspire. We will collect all of your stories and highlight a few of our favorites every week!

More things to check out and look forward to:

  • Throughout March Girls’ Globe bloggers and featured organizations will share inspiring stories about women and girls who inspire them! Read them here.
  • Check out Global Motherhood on Huffington Post with inspirational posts by changemakers around the world.
  • Later this month Johnson & Johnson will be hosting an inspiring Google+ Hangout. More details to come!
  • Join us on Instagram for inspirational quotes, stories, pictures and more.
  • Follow us on Pinterest, and be sure to check out our very inspirational boards.

And, remember the hashtag. #WomenInspire.