Social Media Botched My Self Esteem, So Here’s How I Fixed it

If I take a look back at the majority of my adolescent life, through the primitive years of high school, I can see that I spent a large portion of my energy focusing on what I looked like and stressing about how on earth I’d ever fit in with the girls around me.

The Instagram obsession had just begun, selfies were all the rage and afternoons were spent at my local Priceline browsing makeup aisles for brands I saw on Youtube. I watched as my female peers obsessed over their liquid liner and matching their foundation shade like they were the only things that mattered in the world.

Oh the bliss.

As I transitioned into womanhood, it became incredibly challenging to keep up with the latest beauty or fashion trend of that season. But we can talk about the issues of fast fashion another time.

I obsessed over the size of my jeans and what I looked like in a new pair of swimmers. Days at the beach were almost hell, as I compared myself to the women around me. As I lay on the beach scrolling Instagram, there was still no escape.

No wonder young girls these days are experiencing increased feelings of depression, anxiety, poor body image and loneliness due to social media use.  

I spent years obsessing with my body, and as a result, my mind took the toll. My self esteem was barely existent. I know I’m not alone with that feeling.

As our world has grown rapidly over the last five years, so has our understanding of the effects of social media and the media's portrayal of female bodies. Although there are still many challenges to face, I believe that the conversations about wellness and self love are empowering our youth to appreciate the power, and importance, of our mental health and mind.

Mind over body.

Our minds are wonderful and complex, and we need to be armed with the means of not only looking after them, but preparing them for the pressures that come with the fourth industrial revolution. Our world is more elaborate than it has ever been and there is no sign of it slowing down.

I look back at my experience as a 15 and 16 year old as a lesson to do better. To put more time and energy into looking after my mind and its relationship with my body.

Through trial and error, here are my top three tips to building your self esteem.

Go on an unfollowing spree

This is a fantastic place to start. Easy as well.

For many of us, Instagram is a way of connecting with friends and family, people we admire and brands we love. At the beginning of the year, my follower count was upwards of 1,000 and a huge majority of those accounts ‘weren’t bringing me joy’ as Marie Kondo would say.

Over time, because Instagram doesn’t allow mass unfollowing and no one has time to do it all at once, I did my scrolling with the intention of noticing the accounts that (even slightly) failed to bring me happiness, inspiration or a sense of connectivity. I unfollowed the brands I didn’t feel a personal connection with and influencers who’s feeds were solely focused on their bodies and beauty.

I began to discover accounts of individuals who spoke candidly about their life, rather than the glossy feeds and captions we are used to. It does absolute wonders to read and view candid, real life content when our brains are working overtime.

You’re the average of the five people you surround yourself with

You’ve probably heard this saying before but I’ll remind you of it just one more time. I truly believe there is no better pathway through self improvement than to surround yourself with people who guide, inspire and push you to do better.

In high school my peers spent too much time focusing on their looks and as a result, I began to as well. After I graduated and I consolidated the friends I would stay in contact with, I made it a priority to find people who loved me for who I am as a person, rather than what I looked like.

This made a significant difference to my outlook on life, and although it wasn’t clear at the time, I am incredibly grateful for my friends and family.

Make it a habit to switch off

Look, a week-long digital detox may work for the best of us, but as a young person whose job is literally social media and has a best friend travelling overseas for four months who I need to stay in constant contact with (for my own sanity), turning my phone off for an extended period of time is not a realistic feat.

I quickly realised the best thing for me was to practice building habits to switch off and be more mindful of my screen time. iPhones do this (scary) thing where it tells you how long you’ve been on your screen and how many times you pick up your device. It’s eye opening.

I made it a rule to be off my phone by 9pm and to not check it before my morning shower and breakfast. My sleep improved and I found that it aided with my work-life balance, as I often would check work emails at ridiculous times of the day.

If you’ve had a similar experience growing up, you’re definitely not alone. While my tips are a great starting point to work towards self improvement and build self esteem, they are just that, a starting point. Everyone has an individual journey and it is important to reflect and not be too hard on yourself if one method doesn’t seem to work for you.

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