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How Can I Feel Better About My Body Image On Social Media?

Andromeda Peters, LICSW

As we are approaching the warmer months, going into summer, mental health professionals note an increase in dopamine levels. We are able to spend more time outdoors, feel the nurturing energy of the sun, and even experience more physical activity. However, the warmer months are also accompanied by more emphasis on our physical bodies. Both the general media and social media have hindered the way we view our bodies in a society with a history of promoting a one-way standard of beauty versus moving into a culture where bodies in all forms are celebrated. While brands such as Dove, Victoria’s Secret, Adidas, and more promote positive messages and emphasize diverse body images, the mental processing that occurs as we scroll through social media may leave us in vulnerable states. So how can we learn to navigate social media as we nurture healthy relationships with our body image?

Understanding Body Dissatisfaction

Body dissatisfaction has been defined as “a person’s negative thoughts and feelings about his/her body.” Studies have identified social media as a risk factor for this experience due to the pressure that many people feel the need to “live up to” social media images. This is because, when posting and editing one’s body and face on social media, it amplifies tendencies to compare and critically evaluate their appearance according to images that are not always realistic. Filters and apps such as FaceTune and Pic Money are accessible in app stores for download with easy access to editing tools that can drastically change the shape, size, and even color of one’s body and face. Online, there is also ongoing exposure to body-related content. During the summer months, the desire to conform to images that one is being consistently exposed to is at an all-time high.

Tips to Help You Feel Better About Your Body Image When on Social Media

Psychologists encourage the application of healthy tips when utilizing social media platforms, especially for habitual users. These tips include: 

  1. Self-scan to note changes in mood while spending time online.
  2. Remind yourself that you are more than your body image, number of followers, view count, or time spent on social media. Your well-being matters.
  3. Follow pages that make you feel good and promote healthy messages.
  4. Be mindful not to lose time on social media — set a timer.
  5. Log in and out of apps so that when you want to go online, you are making a conscious effort to log in and out rather than going onto the app on autopilot.
  6. Find a good community that promotes healthy relationships with our bodies.
  7. Work with a counselor.
  8. Observe your thoughts when you are on social media.

Practice Mindfulness When Using Social Media

Social media use on autopilot comes with a lot of risks, which is why being mindful of your emotional needs throughout any experience is important. We may dissociate on some levels, scrolling and subconsciously taking in messages that do not serve a healthy body image. When you’re online, think about which thoughts you are having at the moment. When taking in content, track your thoughts. Make note of any impaired thinking, self-criticism, and comparisons occurring within. When you notice it, pause, breathe, and take action to encourage yourself. Self-talk and internal dialogue play a key role in having healthy relationships with ourselves, especially our body image. Reminders around worthiness, and self-appreciation are important to cultivate at our own pace. With repetition, healthy self-talk increases confidence and decreases the need to compare ourselves, decreases anxiety responses, making us more self-aware of our emotional needs. This enables us to tell when it is time to log off or work on reframing thoughts around our body image. 

Keep in mind that social media is not an accurate depiction of “real life.” Influencers go to great lengths to depict the “perfect image” often working with a team of people, professional photographers, filters, editing apps, and more. Find balance with brands and influencers who show bodies and people unedited that encourage “realness,” diversity in body images, and worthiness beyond one’s outer appearance.

If you would like to talk to a therapist for support on your mental health journey, please reach out to Symmetry Counseling today. We have skilled and compassionate counselors in Chicago, Washington D.C., Arizona, Texas, and beyond who are here to help you. Contact us today!

References:

Processing Body Image on Social Media: Gender Differences in Adolescent Boys’ and Girls’ Agency and Active Coping. Retrieved from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.626763/full  on May 21, 2021.

Social Media Is Tanking People’s Body Image. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/meaningfull/202204/social-media-is-tanking-peoples-body-image on April 12, 2022.

The Sneaky Ways Social Media Can Sabotage Your Body Image — and 3 Easy Tips to Help You Break the Cycle. Retrieved from https://www.insider.com/guides/health/mental-health/how-social-media-affects-body-image on May 19, 2022.

Where to Turn When Social Media Worsens Body Image Issues. Retrieved from https://www.consumerreports.org/mental-health/where-to-turn-when-social-media-worsens-body-image-issues-a8010869684/ on November 8, 2021.

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