In our modern digital world, between advertising and social media, we are exposed to an enormous amount of images on a daily basis. On social media alone our friends post happy snaps of their family on holiday via Facebook, while Instagram shows us “flawless” people promoting all kinds of products.
Even if we don’t pay a huge amount of attention to the images and advertising we scroll past, we’re absorbing a reflection of what popular culture considers ‘beautiful’, whether we realise it or not.
What we don’t always think about is, it’s the nature of our brain to process all of this sensory information and use it to build our perception. And what tends to happen is we end up with a catalogue of various images that, when assembled, we use to create a sense of ‘normal’. We then compare ourselves against this ‘normal’ and decide whether we fit it. For far too many, this comparison results in them feeling a sense they are lacking in some way, shape or form.
Most people of a certain age bracket are on a social media platform at least daily, if not multiple times a day. Scrolling through our newsfeeds has become a habitual practice, something we do to fill in the space. In recent years, research has linked time spent on certain social media platforms with depressive symptoms.
The reason for this?
What we need to remember is, when we are comparing our lives to friends’, colleagues’, acquaintances’ – or total strangers’ – social media profiles, we are most often measuring our reality against someone else’s highlight reel.
It’s human nature to put our best foot forward and share only the best snippets of our lives. But unless you’re consciously thinking about this, you can fall into the trap of comparison. We have to remind ourselves that what we’re seeing on social media is only a snippet of someone’s life, not the complete picture or even an accurate depiction.
Additionally, when you see photos of people in print or on a screen, how are you supposed to know which images have been filtered, airbrushed or digitally altered? With photo editing and enhancements, we don’t immediately know what is real and what isn’t in the images we look at.
What happens to our own minds when we constantly see faces and features that are considered ‘beautiful’ or ‘ideal’ without any real knowledge of whether it accurately reflects how they look in real life or whether it is the way they were born?
We compare ourselves to what we see and if we don’t look the same, our mind might tell us that there is something wrong with us and that there are (many) things we need to change. When we fall into the trap of comparison it scratches an itch of not enoughness. If we believe that we don’t measure up, it can be incredibly damaging to our self-worth.
When we hold a belief that we aren’t enough it can drive behaviours that can impact on our health. For some, it ignites a sense of “well, what’s the point? I’m never going to look like that,” and may lead to unresourceful eating. For others it might drive a constant desire to improve themselves—always jumping from diet to diet, covering up their perceived flaws with makeup or turning to cosmetic surgery.
While it’s wonderful that we have all of these choices at hand, I don’t want them to be made from a belief in your own deficiency. You want your decisions to stem from love, not fear. This is important, not just for your precious self, but for future generations to come.
When we are comparing ourselves to others, we aren’t looking within and appreciating ourselves or nourishing our body, mind and soul. So, if you have become caught up in a culture of comparison, spending your time looking at images that make you feel inadequate, bad about yourself, or anything less than the beautiful person that you are, I want you to choose love – to make a conscious decision about what you give your attention to.
Because life is too short and you are too precious not to.