There’s a long list of people I compare myself to on Instagram. It’s something I can’t quite help. According to Instagram, I am supposed to be skinny, tall, and have perfect lips. Instead I am 5’2”, have a lil’ tummy (that I now love), and hair that never really knows how to do what I want it to do. It took a lot of work to become comfortable with myself—and by work, I mean motivational quotes, counseling, and writing on little note cards to hang up next to my mirror. (Which I highly recommend, by the way—it’s a great way to check your outfit and have a compliment waiting for you.)
It’s been too long of a journey to learn to love myself and I still have to work on it every day.
I downloaded Instagram in sixth grade when I got my first iPhone. I was so excited to document and share my life as a twelve-year-old—the world wasn’t ready! I followed all of my favorite people (I’m still following Taylor Swift to this day) and added everyone from school. I was finally cool and in with the social media crowd. Bye bye to Facebook.
What my little sixth-grade self didn’t understand was that people don’t show their whole selves online. They don’t show the hard things they deal with or their flaws. Everything is happy, pretty, and flawless. Naturally, I felt like I had to do the same thing. That’s when I began to develop social anxiety.
My anxious thoughts told me that my grades disappointed my teachers, the way I acted disappointed my friends, and I ran too slow for my coach. I wanted people to like me and approve of me in all aspects of my life. The easiest way to get that confirmation was through social media, but it was also a place where it could very easily be taken away. If one of my posts didn’t get the same number of likes as other people or as much attention as I thought it would, I’d delete it.
No likes meant no one liked it and no one liked me. I couldn’t accept that.
As I began high school, I continued to compare myself to others and I craved being liked. Then I started seeing celebrities sell diet teas and fat-burning gels or corsets. They were made to look healthy and helpful—I wanted it all so much.
I wanted to look the same way the girls in the ads looked, but I kept telling myself I didn’t need to buy something to look good.
It was difficult seeing those famous people advertise something that was supposed to make me look like them—they made it look so easy to be pretty. The posts made it seem like drinking the detox tea would suddenly make me as skinny as all the influencers. They made me think I’d become confident—and using the detox tea to get there was okay because it was healthy. The truth is, nothing is healthy about any of those products. Looking back now, I’m embarrassed that I even believed the lies they tried to sell me.
I decided to stop posting all together for a while because the anxiety I experienced with every post was just too much.
I would never look as good as the celebrities or as good as I wanted to look, so what was the point in posting photos? At the time, I thought that even if I could get skinnier, I would never grow taller, have naturally long lashes, or build enough confidence in myself.
In March, I started my blog to give myself a place to write out my thoughts. I hoped that others might connect to my experiences as well. I wrote about my mental health, college, and so many other little things in my life. I posted about my blog on social media, thinking that someone out there might benefit from reading my blog posts.
Other bloggers started connecting with me and I felt as if I had found my group. Sure, I compared my feed to theirs and often thought I wasn’t a “good” blogger, but they always reassured me that I was. They told me so many great things about what I was posting that I had never thought of before.
Because of other bloggers, I got back the courage I had lost and began to feel comfortable posting on social media whenever I felt like it.
I started posting three days a week—every time I had a new article out. The anxiety about posting too often or not posting the right things still exists, but the feedback I receive is amazing. People send me messages or comments saying that they go through the same things. Now if I get anxious before a post, I power through it because someone out there might benefit from it.
The anxiety may never go away, but either way, I’ll still continue to post. It’s my profile and no one else’s, so I only post what I like. I no longer follow the long list of famous women who advertise harmful products. There was no authenticity, and the lies got to me. One of the best lessons I’ve learned from my blogger community is if a post isn’t authentically you, there’s no reason to post it.
My likes don’t define me—the comments people leave telling me they connect with my words define me. Sharing my voice and the struggles I face defines me. Social media controlled me in the beginning, but with the support of other writers, influencers, bloggers, and the amazing community on Instagram, I took back the control.