In Search of Self-Love: Instagram vs Reality


“I find self-love so refreshing.” That was the caption of my most recently uploaded selfie. The sun was coming in through the window, my favourite song was playing and I felt beautiful. Soon after, I became aware of the amount of time I was spending, looking at the pictures I’d taken, deleting en masse because my arms looked fat or my face looked wide, and in that moment, I realised I’d lied. I wasn’t practicing self-love. I’m not sure I really know how to; in truth, I’ve had an extremely agonising relationship with myself and my body since I was twelve years old. I don’t know where the fascination with scales and inches came from, but I can’t recall a single time in my life where I was entirely content with the way I looked, regardless of how much or how little I weighed. I know I’ve waged this war on myself for years and I also know that I’m part of an ever-growing group that uses social media not only as a venting platform but also as a tool of comparison, as a measurement for progress or lack thereof.

I’ve come to realise the people I follow on Instagram are not those that I necessarily admire, but rather those that I hope to look like one day. The number of authors or artists that I keep up with declines and falls - admiration loses out to comparison. The strong, thin, beautiful figures permeate my news feed. They have become what I wake up and fall asleep to, what I look at during breaks from work or revision, or what I scroll through on the bus. I used to think my issue with these popular figures wasn’t only the jealousy I felt towards their bodies or their confidence but their lack of truthfulness and acknowledgment of body-positivity, or even of their own struggle with it. Out of the hundreds of popular women I followed, a very small amount appeared to get real. A very small amount acknowledged their bloat, their bad days, the days in which they ate cake or didn’t work out.

"I realised that I had become a part of the group that I follow — the one that post beautiful pictures of themselves but neglect to on the days in which they feel terrible about themselves or throw on whatever they find on the bedroom floor."


For a long time, I think I’ve been lulling myself into blissful ignorance, pretending that I was an active part of the conversation surrounding self-love. I think I thought my own tiny platform could make a wave, that I could send a message to friends and strangers that self-love is actually beautiful, that it’s acceptable, worth pursuing. I realised soon after that I had become a part of the group that I follow — the one that post beautiful pictures of themselves but neglect to on the days in which they feel terrible about themselves or throw on whatever they find on the bedroom floor. Whatever it was, I wasn’t promoting self-love. I was promoting an extremely carefully constructed image of myself that was nowhere close to how I actually felt.

"The image I portray online is of the woman I hope I can be one day; a woman whose aim isn’t to lose pound after pound, a woman who found inner peace and ended the war her mind was waging on her body…"


The spurts of self-love that I do experience are overshadowed by the times where I wish I could change every single thing about myself. The fleeting instances of self-acceptance that I do manage to achieve are just that, ephemeral, short-lived and occur less and less as time goes on. These moments in which I rid myself of the hatred, the dislike I feel for my legs or my arms or my waist are serendipitous but rare.
          The image I portray online is of the woman I hope I can be one day; a woman whose aim isn’t to lose pound after pound, a woman who found inner peace and ended the war her mind was waging on her body… an eating disorder survivor, an advocate for body positivity who entirely embodies her truth.

Maybe that woman is an archetype based off the people I follow — or rather, the image they portray. I have these flashes of crystal clear clarity in which I realise that these people are only human. They act, they omit, they cherry-pick the things they want to share just as I do. I realise my issue with the conversation around self-love has nothing to do with the people I follow. If I look closely, if I engage with captions and I read between the lines - talk about their relationship with their body, their cake eating habits and their bloat can be found. The problem is my own selective hearing, the battle my mind has been waging on my body for years. The problem isn’t them, it’s me.

As long as I see all of these people as a goal post, a measuring stick, I think I’ll be unable to become who I truly want to be… whoever that is. No matter how much I preach self-love or listen to the sermon, I’ll never truly get there if I don’t stop listening to the overly-critical voice in my head. I think social media has been my scapegoat, my explanation for a fight that I started and only I can end. I hope that I can stop looking forward to being a different version of myself and instead enjoy the person I am. I realise that self-love, like anything else, isn’t a permanent state of mind, more a work in eternal progress  - not an achievement, but rather a practice.