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Navigating Unrealistic Beauty Standards in the Age of Social Media

Social media has become an integral part of life. With TikTok, Instagram, snapchat, and more, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the online world. Research shows that people spend an average of 2.5 hours per day on social media. Social media allows us to stay connected, express creativity, share experiences, and provides entertainment. However, it also perpetuates unrealistic beauty standards. Nowadays, there are tons of apps that allow people to reshape and retouch their photos and videos. We are constantly exposed to highly edited, seemingly flawless photos of people, and we compare our real life/appearance to their edited ones. It’s no wonder that higher social media use is associated with lower self-esteem. In this blog post, we will dive into some ways to cultivate self-esteem and healthy body image while using social media.


Curate Your Feed.

Notice how you feel when you see certain posts or accounts. If you find yourself feeling insecure, jealous, or anxious after seeing specific posts, it might benefit you to unfollow those accounts. Take control of your social media experience by choosing to follow accounts that promote body positivity, body acceptance, and diversity and unfollowing accounts with edited, unrealistic images.


Engage Critically

Editing tools can drastically distort reality and create the illusion of blemish-free, flawless appearances. With just a few clicks, someone can modify their body shape and features to create the illusion of a “perfect” body. When you come across posts of “perfect” bodies, faces, or lives, take a moment to challenge the images/messages you see. There is usually a disconnect between what we see on social media and actual reality.

Two women looking at social media on phone

Unplug Regularly

Social media breaks can be good for your mental health. Schedule a day to unplug from social media every week. Disconnecting from social media can provide relief from the constant connectedness and allow you to reconnect with real life. It also gives you the opportunity to find more positive, meaningful ways to meet the needs that social media has filled.


Focus on Your Inner Qualities

Social media platforms are appearance-focused, which can make us overemphasize the importance of our appearance. Recognize that your worth does not depend on your body or looks. You are more than that. Celebrate your positive qualities that go beyond your looks. Your intelligence, kindness, resilience, and strengths are more important than your appearance.


Appreciate What Your Body Does For You

Shifting the focus from your body’s appearance to your body’s functionality can be a powerful step towards decreasing the negative effects of social media on your body image. Your body allows you to experience, interact with, and navigate the world. It enables you to breathe, eat delicious food, engage in your hobbies, and laugh with friends. Celebrate what your body does for you to cultivate a deeper sense of gratitude and acceptance for your body.


To summarize, while there are some benefits of social media, it can also have negative effects on our body image and satisfaction. Social media can cause us to overly value our appearance, feel pressure to look “perfect”, and become self-conscious about our real life and bodies. By engaging critically, curating your feed, and taking breaks from social media, you can start to combat the unrealistic beauty standards perpetuated by social media. Remember, your worth is not based on your appearance. You are worthy just as you are.


If you are struggling with feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem, seeing a licensed therapist can help you improve your body image and promote healthy self-esteem. I am a therapist in Gainesville, FL that specializes in supporting anxious, self-critical teens and adults to live more fulfilling, present lives. Click here to learn more about me! Feel free to give me a call (352)-649-3876 or fill out the contact form to set up an appointment.

Written by Sasha Larson, LMHC

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