Caught in a loop

Caught in a loop

The ‘image  trap’ on social media needs to be done away with. Take it from someone who went through the trauma only to finally love herself as a person and not the body she is in

Arushi Ahuja

“Boys should be tall, girls should be petite, boys shouldn’t look feminine, and girls shouldn’t be too manly”, etc. are ideologies that have been passed down for generations, these are now considered the ‘norm’ in our society. But what really is normal? Every couple of months beauty standards are changing and it becomes harder and harder to keep up with these.

Growing up, I was surrounded by girls who were the complete opposite of my body type. They were thin and tall and looked fabulous in any outfit they wore. I, on the other hand, was on the heavier side. Wearing shorts and skirts seemed like the most daunting experience for me. It was never something I was too bothered by until I was introduced to social media. Instagram and Snapchat were introduced to my generation at a time we were supposed to be ‘finding ourselves’, and frankly, social media didn’t let me really find myself and accept myself as I was. Instead there just seemed to be an added pressure.

Instagram was filled with false realities of people and their lives, from girls with perfectly blow dried hair, to their ‘no-makeup makeup’ looks and always put together outfits. I, on the other hand, sitting at home with unwashed hair, textured skin, thick thighs and stretch marks was unconsciously drawn into this loop of comparisons. Initially I was only comparing myself to the people I was surrounded with on a daily basis but unknowingly I started comparing myself to girls I barely even knew.

The first trap

During Covid-19, my eating habits took a major blow. I could barely get myself to have two meals through the day. I convinced myself and everyone around me that I wasn’t hungry, and of course over time I started losing weight. I was ecstatic, I could finally wear thin strap tops without being conscious of how my arms looked or without having to constantly lift my top so I don’t expose my ‘heavy’ chest too much.

My weight loss was pointed out by friends and family and the validation made it feel like all those nights of sleeping hungry were finally worth it. Until I reached college, again surrounded by petite girls, and Instagram clothing trends with ‘low waist’ jeans making a comeback was intimidating. I needed to change my body to meet the standards put out by social media, I needed to ‘make’ my body fit into these trendy clothes. I succumbed once again to my one meal a day habit and finally reached a stage where I could wear my low waist jeans and crop tops and not be scared. Coming back home, I was terrified I would go back to the body type that I ran away from.

While I did reach what I believed were my body goals, I also acknowledge that the route I took to reach there was rather unhealthy. I knew this back then too but the need to fit in and look a certain way was always nagging me. Every time I opened Instagram there was a part of me that despised the way I looked.

I had acne, I had bushy eyebrows, I had fuller cheeks and none of it lived up to the standards put across by social media. Snapchat filters, I think, are a large culprit of feeding into people’s insecurities, these natural glow filters that are constantly used or the no-filter filters that fully change your complexion or any hint of natural skin to make your face look squeaky clean have changed the way people perceive themselves.

Losing me, besides the kilos

I remember looking through my gallery and coming across pictures from one of my most memorable family trips but not being able to accept or appreciate the way I looked. I just couldn’t believe that that was me. I got so used to using filters that taking pictures on Snapchat instead of a normal camera became a habit. The need to cover up my acne scars, the need to cover up the dark circles under my eyes, the need to look ‘glowing’ on days where I felt absolutely terrible became a routine. It was impossible to like pictures of me that hadn’t been filtered.

I wish I could tell you that I’ve learnt to accept myself, that I’ve learnt to love my flabby arms or my love handles. I wish I could tell you that every time I take a picture of myself my first instinct is not to go edit it with some filter but that is not the case.

How can it be when you’re constantly surrounded by people who always one-up you no matter how hard you try? Social media creates a false sense of reality that can be very consuming and can intensify an individual’s self-love journey, but the need to conform to these ‘norms’ is far more harmful.

Every time I reached a stage where I finally started liking myself, some different trend or some different post always made me feel like, I can do better, I can look better. And that is when I think an internal shift in me happened.

I realised the reality that beauty standards are always going to be changing. It will never be one size fits all and it is completely unnecessary to try and fit in.

It is incredibly hard to reach a stage to love and accept yourself, but once you do, once you reach a level of comfort and confidence in your own body, that is what will remain constant, that is going to be your new normal and not what society is forcing upon you.