How to Improve Your Self-Esteem and Body Image in the Social Media Era

A smiling woman looking down at her phone does not let social media negatively affect her self-esteem and body image

Don’t allow social media to shape your concept of beauty

Key takeaways

  • We may not realize it but social media shapes our concept of beauty. As a result, social media and body image have become inseparably linked.

  • Social platforms are flooded with edited photos of models, celebrities, and non-famous people in their best light; these images can make social media users feel down about their bodies and can result in eating disorders and depression.

  • To limit social media’s negative impact on mental health, it’s important to find ways that it can positively impact self-esteem and body image.

  • Health and wellness, fitness, and food accounts can help people maintain a positive outlook.

  • By re-evaluating how you use social media, you can find body acceptance and build community and support.

No doubt about it, social media is a large part of today’s culture. Consistently scrolling through posts, however, can impact how you see yourself. Social platforms constantly expose users to thin, fit, and “idealized” body types. It’s hard not to compare yourself to peers and celebrities who seem to be perfectly fit and living their best lives.

The more time you spend looking at social media, the more likely you are to feel insecure about yourself and your body. With the right approach, however, users can avoid feeds that bring feelings of negativity; instead, they can find ways to see themselves and their bodies in a positive light.

What is body image?

Body image refers to the way you see yourself when you look in the mirror. It’s your emotional attitude, belief, and perspective of your body’s appearance and how it compares to societal standards. A negative body image can lead to unhealthy behaviors, like eating disorders.

Compare and despair

Social media is flooded with people presenting themselves in their best light and it can be difficult to avoid images and messages that make you feel bad about yourself and your body. It can become a vicious cycle for users in which they create unrealistic ideals for themselves based on what they see and the depression they feel when they can’t meet those expectations. Photoshop and filters that edit images also contribute to the illusion that everyone is “thin and perfect” on social media. Just as with magazines of the past, it’s almost certain that models’ and celebrities’ photos have been altered. And, photo editing is not only for famous people – nearly two-thirds of Americans edit their photos before posting.

How to prevent negative body image issues

There are many ways to maintain a positive body image in the world of social media. Here are a few:

- Put down your phone and take a break

While abandoning social media platforms and accounts altogether might prove difficult for most, a break from scrolling can be an invigorating mood changer. Take a walk, meditate, exercise, read a book, focus on anything other than your device. Disconnect from social media and be active!

-Change your feed

Instead of following celebrities with heavily edited photos, try looking elsewhere for inspiration. Seek out feeds that offer inspiring landscapes, delicious food, or adorable animals. This will help you to move away from idealized, often altered photos and the disconnect between perception and reality. You can implement the following strategies to tweak your feed:

  • Unfollow or unfriend accounts that harass you to buy products by tearing down your self-esteem and body image (i.e. “you will look good once you buy x product!”

  • Keep up with accounts that promote healthy living supported by factual information.

  • Pay attention to the way influencers treat their image and only follow body-positive content creators.

- Seek out positive body content

Positive body content seeks to show appreciation and acceptance for all types of bodies; it helps people feel better about their own and puts them in good moods. This area of content is growing as advocates of body positivity and influential figures work to make a positive impact on how people view themselves. In particular, nonprofit groups hope to change the negative feelings young people get about themselves because of the social media realm. Ideally, social media can work to connect people and build a body-accepting community.

-Treat your self-esteem seriously

Negative feelings about your body and low self-esteem can lead to serious mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. For long-term results, social media users battling negative body image should seek help from a qualified therapist to put things in perspective.

To make social media a safe place, it’s important to educate young people on appropriate usage and increase the awareness that platforms ’don't usually reflect reality. It comes with the pitfalls of cyberbullying, the consequences of unfair or unethical body image comparisons, and the benefits of digital critical thinking tools.

While social media can negatively affect body image, mood, and overall mental health, there are ways to counteract this. With the right approach, the Internet’s social sphere can be an enjoyable, positive experience that brings community and support. Re-evaluate the way you use social media and it can make all the difference.

Boost your self-esteem with the support of a qualified, caring therapist

Social media can really affect self-esteem and body image if we use it the wrong way. Of course, none of us are immune to the idealized images we see and the comparisons that follow. If you use it the right way though, by following body-positive and non-image-based accounts and limiting your screen time, you can experience the benefits without the negative impact on self-esteem.

If you are ready to get started with therapy to help address your feelings, make an appointment with any of our psychotherapists today. Still unsure about how we can help? Call us at 786.571.4636 for a free 20-minute consult.

We are here to support you.

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