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.

The Cost of Sharing My Mental Health Story

Here at Girls’ Globe, we believe that storytelling is a way to bring about real change in the world. It’s something I believe in wholeheartedly. 

However, there is one issue in particular that I have written extensively about. I sometimes wonder if I should actually write about it. What are the real costs of doing so for me and the people in my life?

The issue is mental health.

The internet – social media in particular – has made talking about our mental health struggles easier and more accessible than ever before. Without leaving our homes, which we may be bound to due to anxiety or depression, we can share our experiences, read others’ stories, and connect with people who understand our struggles. We can feel, even if just a little, less alone.

Sharing publicy about issues that are still taboo and stigmatized in modern society can come with costs and consequences. Online trolls are always ready to dismiss or doubt our experiences, struggles and accounts of what has happened to us. 

Ever since I wrote my first post about my mental health on girlsglobe.org over two years ago, I’ve questioned my decision to be so open in such a public way about something I’ve hidden from others my whole life.

And then I wrote about it again – and then again and again and again. I wrote publicly, on the internet, for all to see. I also started sharing my mental health struggles on social media – sometimes just to my friends and at other times more widely.


Every time I press ‘send’, I feel a wave of anxiety but also a sense of relief.

On the one hand, writing publicly about my mental health struggles has been incredibly healing. It has helped me connect with others who are also struggling. I’ve received heart-warming comments from people thanking me for talking about something so stigmatized and telling me that my experience resonates with them.

On the other, writing about my struggles with anxiety and depression make me feel vulnerable and I fear people’s reaction. I fear what people who know me personally may think about me, since they’ll usually see me looking and acting so ‘well’ and ‘normal’.

I fear that sharing my personal stories of mental illness may harm my academic and work life, and even personal relationships.

What if a future date looks me up online, reads one of my mental health stories, and decides he doesn’t want to go out with me anymore? What are the costs of giving someone I’m still getting to know in person access to such a deep and intimate glimpse into my life online?

People have told me I’m brave and strong for being so honest and open about my mental health. This has been crucial to my healing. To talk about my anxiety and depression as something outside of myself has helped me realize that I’m more than my mental health issues (even though I still struggle to fully accept this).

But talking about it is still hard.

I still worry about how sharing my struggles may affect my life. Will it cost me friendships and romantic relationships? Will it cost me respect from colleagues and employers?

I don’t have a concrete answer, but I do know this: I want to live in a world where sharing our struggles about mental health or any other issue considered stigmatized will be accepted and respected. I want to be around people who accept vulnerability as a strength and not a weakness.

Most of all, I want to live what I say. And so, scared and all, I’ll keep sharing my story, because it’s one of the ways I’ve been healing. And maybe, reading my story may help someone in their healing journey. That makes all the costs feel worth it.

Obstetric Fistula is a Physical & Mental Health Priority

“It’s been three years now, I can’t wear underwear, urine is always leaking. I have developed sores on my genitals that aren’t healing because of the moisture. I dread going out in public.

The last time I went to a gathering, people distanced themselves from me because of the bad smell. I repelled them. I’m confined to this house so I can bathe each time I soil myself. My entire family believes I was cursed, they say no one has ever had a disease like mine before.”

Nyaradzai is a 19-year-old living in my community in Mashonaland, Zimbabwe. She is one of many women suffering from obstetric fistula. 

Like many others, Nyaradzai has been unaware that hers is a condition that needs medical attention. She tells me her story:

“Three years ago, I dropped out of school. I was pregnant. My parents chased me from my home, so I went to stay at my boyfriend’s house. He was still in high school too, but his parents accepted me. I stayed there for six months. 

My baby died while I was in labour. It took me 6 hours to get to the nearest clinic – I was walking because my in-laws couldn’t afford to hire an ambulance to take me there. When I arrived, the nurses ignored me. In fact, they scolded me for getting pregnant at such a tender age. I was 16 at the time. While I was in labor, I passed out. I can’t recall what happened, but when I gained consciousness, I was in so much pain.

When my in-laws heard that I had delivered a stillborn baby, they called me a witch and returned me to my parents’ house. My problems started a few days later.

At first, I thought I just wasn’t making it to the toilet in time, but I was also wetting the bed at night. Now when I go to sleep I take a cloth and place it between my legs and put a plastic sheet underneath me so I won’t wet the bed. I can’t wear underwear because of the sores on my genitals.”

Nyaradzai’s story could be the story of many women living with fistula in Zimbabwe.

Fistula is a silent condition, and as a result many women are suffering in silence. Huge numbers of people are not aware of what it is or what it means for women.

A fistula is a passage or hole that has formed between two organs. Obstetric fistula is an abnormal opening that develops between the birth canal and the urinary tract. It is the primary type of fistula affecting women in developing countries.

Obstetric fistula is caused by lack of access to quality obstetric care, particularly prolonged and obstructed labour without treatment. Young girls can be at high risk, as their birth canals are still narrow. The head of the baby causes a tear between the birth canal and the bladder or rectum which, if not surgically repaired, leaves women incontinent.

2 million women in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, the Arab region, and Latin America and the Caribbean are living with fistula. 

As Nyaradzai has experienced, the social isolation associated with physical symptoms can have significant mental health consequences. Obstetric fistula is almost entirely preventable, and its prevalence in the world is a sign that health systems are failing women.

I share Nyaradzai’s story today, on International Day to End Obstetric Fistula, to try to break the silence.  

It is important that we talk about fistula, teach communities about it and encourage women to help one another through education, empowerment and delaying marriage and child bearing.

Read more on girlsglobe.org and join the conversation online using #EndFistula.