Feeling confident about our bodies proves time and time again to be a constant battle in the age of social media. However, being with our friends and families, engaging in activities we love, and living life in the moment can help bring us back to Earth and remind us that we are so much more than our physical appearance. But what do we do when our saving graces are no longer there, and we’re stuck with nothing but our thoughts and the reflection looking back at us?
Social media can help us stay connected while socially distanced but can also lead to comparisons causing us unnecessary self-judgment. A rocky relationship with loving our bodies can be particularly distressing when we already feel as if we can’t control what’s happening in the world around us. If you have found body positivity to be more difficult in quarantine, input from experienced and empowering outside perspectives can be a step towards bringing you back to a healthy, positive mindset.
Here are ways to maintain your body confidence during social isolation.
Remember: You’re Not in a Productivity Contest
I would wholeheartedly bet five dollars that a person doing the infamous Chloe Ting Two Week Shred Challenge is lingering somewhere on your timeline as we speak. “There has been a lot of pressure to be ‘productive’ during quarantine, leading many people to feel bad about how they’re coping,” said Dr. Erin A. Vogel of Stanford University, who studies social influences on health behaviors and the use of digital tools to improve health. Using quarantine as an opportunity to get in shape does not deserve to be perceived as a negative thing, and people posting their routine or progress doesn’t either.
However, you are not any less of a person or any less beautiful just because you’re not relentlessly working to get a six-pack every day. “Of course, everyone experiences quarantine differently,” Vogel said, “and not everyone is going to experience body image issues during it– but many people will.” The extra free-time at hand possibly makes prioritizing your fitness more convenient than ever.
Having a ‘become a new and improved version of myself’ mindset needs to be knocked down from the top of the agenda. “Focusing on ‘self-improvement’ in the midst of this is unnecessary,” said Dr. Charlotte H. Markey, Professor of Psychology at Rutgers University and author of The Body Image Book for Girls. When considering the broader aspects of our current reality, there are more important things going on right now than tightening your stomach and slimming your legs. “The primary goal of a global pandemic should be surviving the pandemic. Be reasonable with yourself and exercise self-compassion,” Markey said. Focus on an activity or practice that helps maintain a positive mindset, whatever may work for you personally. The call is yours to make.
Remind Yourself that Social Media is a Snapshot
An Instagram photo is approximately five seconds of a 24-hour day, choreographed to capture our most flattering angles. We genuinely have no idea what a person’s life consists of during the other 23 hours and 55 seconds. Who’s to say they’re not also laying on the couch, demolishing a bag of Doritos and scrutinizing their bellies? Social media images rarely create an accurate depiction of our bodies. As our screen time heavily increases and outside distractions rapidly decrease, our tendency to compare our bodies to others becomes higher than ever. Close the app, shut your eyes and take a deep breath and remember: Face Tune and arched backs do wonders, ladies.
However, comparison to others is, more often than not, an unconscious decision. “Even though we logically know this, when we are mindlessly scrolling through our feeds, the quicker-responding emotional part of our brain, the limbic system, reacts and we feel bad,,” said clinical psychologist Dr. Danyale McCurdy-McKinnon. “We think we aren’t measuring up to others.” Although the reaction can be automatic, training ourselves to reverse our instinct can be done. “If we slowed down, were more mindful, and allowed the more advanced cognitive part of our brain, the prefrontal cortex, to take charge and say, ‘Hey! This person XYZ is an influencer and gets paid to live this lifestyle’,” McCurdy-McKinnon said. “Who knows? They very well could have gotten broken up with this morning and are just faking it!” Even though many influencers tailor their profiles to fit society’s standards of beauty, there are many who confidently refuse to do so.
Acknowledging these profiles are crucial during a time when our insecurities beg to be noticed. “Diversifying your social media feed can be helpful. There are so many body-positive individuals out there who don’t all look the same,” Vogel said. Speaking from personal experience, in the midst of your IG model profile stalking spree, you’ll come across diets and routines promising you a runway-worthy figure. The opportunity is tempting, as you’re seemingly being handed a step by step guide to your ‘dream body’ with all the time in the world at your disposal.
However, don’t let your boredom and overthinking lead to an unhealthy and unhelpful routine.“Be careful not to follow influencers or friends who support unproven approaches to weight loss or other health fads,” Markey said. “Remember, a lot of the info you see on social media is all about trying to sell you something; a supplement, a diet plan, a potion with no scientific backing.” Comparison is the thief of joy, especially when looking at a fabricated and posed social media post during a pandemic.
Realize Emotional Vulnerability Makes Staying Grounded Difficult
The pandemic undeniably adds stress, anxiety and overall feelings of unease to many people’s lives for a multitude of reasons. Naturally, we crave validation and love from others in times when we may not feel the most secure with other aspects of our lives in order to be reassured that we are, in fact, not falling apart. So, we work towards a certain image to receive affirmations from others.
Posting whatever makes you feel confident triumphs any outside opinions, good or bad. But, you need to question if you are posting a photo for yourself or for the surface-level praise of others. Did you see another girl get a ton of likes and comments on her photo and want the compliments and attention she’s receiving? We’re stuck inside without real human interaction and an endless amount of time to take selfies, resulting in a simple solution to cure our need for a confidence boost from someone other than ourselves (and maybe your own mother). “I think the most important thing is to know your worth. It will never come from other people’s approval,” said Gabriella Whited, a musician and social media influencer. “No matter how many comments or likes or reposts you get. If you don’t love yourself, none of that matters.” Ultimately, your value is determined by you and you only. We long for control of our lives, and to feel as if we’re just doing something right. However, emotional vulnerability and an account’s comments and likes are not an example of a symbiotic relationship. Self-love prevails.
Know You’re Not Alone
At the end of the day, social media acts as an outlet allowing us to pretend we have our s**t together, particularly now. No matter how active, thin, toned or blemish-free someone seems online, they’re fighting some sort of battle or insecurity, just like the rest of us. Comparison sessions are an easy rabbit hole to fall down with so much time on your hands. We all do it at some point or another, and the habit will not be broken overnight. The girl whose body you wish you had looks at another girl and feels the exact same things.
Right now, ‘lonely’ accurately describes many people’s current states. While we are socially distanced, mental and emotional distance is another story. Calling your friends, significant other or whoever brings you down to Earth provides genuine interactions to remind you of how loved you are by the people that actually matter– not some random girl from high school who comments fire emojis on your pictures.
Social distancing and body confidence can be quite the conflicting duo. Love and embrace sometimes struggle to override inspection and critique while forming relationships with our bodies, especially during a time when our own thoughts are unavoidable, support from others is often absent, and the influence of picture-perfect bodies is ever-present. Nonetheless, you can do it. We are all valid and loved, regardless of our shapes and sizes. We are all enough.
Body positive Instagram accounts recommended by Dr. Danyale McCurdy McKinnon: