Beauty: Is It Only Skin Deep?

Remember when you were 13 years old and Instagram existed simply for posting Tumblr text post memes, the occasional CamWow selfie and doing silly internet challenges with your best friend?

When I was around this age, I started becoming insecure about my looks. While it’s totally normal, I know part of the rhetoric my brain fed to me about self-image came from what I’d seen on the internet. There have been different phases of beauty trends in general, but online, things like these are always emphasized and quickly spread. 

“Instagram brows” didn’t exist but having a thigh gap was top priority. In addition, we wore feathers as earrings, wore Sperry’s because everyone else did and purposely made our hair look wet for the “scrunched” look. It was a confusing time indeed.

Beauty standards haven’t left the chat; rather they just keep getting harder and harder to keep up with. Having the perfect pout, full lashes and brows, clear skin, a small waist, curves… unless you’ve won the genetic lottery, a lot of us don’t have all of these.

Instagram is no longer a safe place to goof off with your friends. People’s profiles are now perfectly polished and carefully curated portfolios to prove they’re attractive and lead a fun, adventurous lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong — I think it’s admirable to see people take pride in their pictures and put in the effort to develop a theme for their feed — whether it be in content, aesthetic, filter, etc. However, it’s undeniable that such strive for perfection has caused pressure about what to post.

This phenomenon, known as posting anxiety or social media anxiety, is a very real thing.

An article from The Thirty supplements this idea, “‘Research has found that women who report frequently comparing themselves to other women, especially women in the media, are more likely to show signs of negative mood and body image disturbances. Women participants' brief exposure to media images of females led to increased levels of body dissatisfaction and weight anxiety.’ It's true: Images on Instagram can create a crippling feeling that plagues self-confidence.”

Certainly, this doesn’t feel far-fetched at all. I, personally, don’t have the energy, patience or self-esteem to hop in front of the camera for photoshoots these days, especially since the start of the pandemic. And I don’t think anyone is trying to see me in my pajama pants and tank top, polishing off the look with my hair in a messy ponytail and a bare face. Because most days, this is what I look like. 

Other apps like TikTok also feed off achieving maximum attractiveness. After all, if you use it to film yourself talking or trying out a new TikTok dance, you’re only getting an inverted view of yourself. (Yes, I’ve seen how I look when the camera doesn’t automatically flip the picture. I don’t want to talk about it.)

Not to mention the constant comparisons to all the beautiful people on your "For You Page" who make you reevaluate whether a brow lift is such a ridiculous procedure after all.

“This bombardment of commentary on trivialities and willingly being judged by strangers can create the same negative side effects as pageants — from severe body-image disorders to eating disorders,” said Olivia Brooke Sally, former beauty pageant titleholder. 

On the flip side, it’s totally possible for social media to boost confidence. Engagement with your posts works as insta-serotonin (but how satisfying can it be if the fulfillment ends when the likes start slowing down?).

Many people also genuinely love getting dressed up and going out simply for having photoshoots and showing off how good they look. And this is awesome! I love seeing people loving themselves. 

Instagram can just make it difficult to see if these photoshoots are for fun or if they come from the pressure to post and look perfect.

The best advice is to not take social media too seriously. I know, easier said than done. But posting about your life should be fun, and you should recognize that it is a privilege to those whom you choose to share it with. You don’t owe your followers anything!

Perfection is overrated, but you aren’t. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think it’s time to start planning my outfit for my biannual Instagram post.