Ok so firstly, quite a few things have been swirling around my head lately that I’ve wanted to get out – but it wouldn’t quite take shape. That was until today, I was browsing my news channels as you do, and came across this video by .
|Image of ONeill via instagram.|
I’m sure you have seen it by now or at least have heard of it. If not, here is a quick summary: Australian social media ‘star’ Essena, breaks down over her perceived perfect life. She states she is leaving social media, and explains that everything she she has posted has been staged, usually for money (brands pay her to feature their product) and that the image may seem candid but hours of staged photography, along with extreme dieting and excessive exercising. These things are common for social media celebrities, especially if it’s someone who is profiting from being ‘beautiful’ or ‘hot’ on Instagram.
|Image of ONeill via instagram.|
The thing that struck home for me is when Essena keeps referencing her 12-year-old self. At 12 years old, she would look at the latest Roxy and Billabong summer campaigns and compare herself to all of the models. Being a Kiwi, I saw the exact same ad campaigns in my local stores – and did the exact same thing. I remember I once found a picture in a Billabong Lookbook, I think I was 15, and I bought the featured bikini and saved the image of the model because I thought her body was ‘ideal’. She was a goal I felt I needed to reach to be attractive and to be happy.
|Billabong advert featuring girls who appear happy and perfect|
At this point, I wish I could say that I grew out of that mind set. I wish I could say that I had some big epiphany now love myself – regardless of what’s happening on the outside. Sadly, like many, many females around the world I can’t help but let what I look like effect my self worth. At around 21 I joined a gym and strived for a thigh gap. I look back- and in hind-sight, and now at 29, I am a size bigger, I can acknowledge how good I looked. At the time I always felt like I was falling short of what I SHOULD look like. Being tall, and dressing the way I do (quirky) I have always had people look at me in public. I simply catch attention. I became so obsessed with the idea that people were looking at me and finding faults I had to go to bathroom and ‘check’ that everything was okay. I would do this all day, once I got to the bus station, once I got to uni, after class, before class and before I went home. About the same time I started getting panic attacks in the evenings and one day it came to a head when I went to the bathroom at uni, and ‘checked’ myself. Every time I would turn to leave, I’d fear I had missed something and turn back around. The fear of people seeing all of my faults became so overwhelming that I had a panic attack right there. Locking myself in a stall, my best friend Haeme (you might remember her as the other half of Sans Pareil up until 2013) had to come and get me and take me home. Ironically, as much as I was addicted to mirrors in public situations, I hated them in private. I felt like I could be myself at home, and because of that I avoided the mirror at all costs, even covering the bathroom mirror when I was in the shower – so I wouldn’t catch my reflection and be reminded that I hated my body, and I was failing myself because I wasn’t perfect.
Counseling and simply getting older and wiser means I am no longer this bad (thank god!) However, I most definitely still have some of these tendencies. It is very easy for me to turn on myself. If I see a girl who is amazing and stylish and awesome and I get a girl crush on her, I still have a little part of me that beats myself up for not being that amazing, not being that skinny, not dressing that well.
There is a deep nervousness I get when attending any fashion related event – a fear that I will be surrounded by beautiful people and not even compare. As much as I KNOW -trust me I know – that one should not compare – I can’t help it. Comparison has caused some of my darkest moments of depression. Even if the thought stems from “Why can’t I be as happy as that person?”
In relation to the blosphere, and Essena O’Neil – I can completely see how she got to that mindset. There are so many times I have thought that if I was prettier or skinnier or more interesting – I would have more followers. Every time you reach a goal on your blog, there is always someone else who is doing better, much better, and you cannot help but question yourself. Sometimes, on Instagram, I will look at beautiful girls who post half naked photos of themselves and wonder if I should be doing the same. Would I get to 10, 000 followers faster if I slipped few underwear shots in there? Would I have more comments? More offers of product endorsement? As recently as a few days ago, I found myself succumbing to the dreaded facebook stalk of people I once knew. Looking at pictures of a life that seems so much better than my own.
I don’t necessarily think all of these issues that obviously so many suffer from, are a direct result of social media, I think they are a symptom of a general viewpoint of society. Little girls are taught to start questioning the way they look from a young age. There are men on dating sites that think the ultimate insult they can give a woman who rejects them is to call her fat and ugly. We are taught that beautiful people, especially women, are further up the social hierarchy the more beautiful they are. Most advertisements sell an ideal lifestyle that usually has a formula containing beauty + their product = happiness. I can’t say that I don’t want to be as beautiful and happy and perfect as the girl on the cover of Sport’s Illustrated looks. Of course I do.
|Yeah, but what are her views on the current, International refugee crisis?|
I don’t know what the exact answers are. I DO know that holding the complete value of someone, based on the way they look is not only detrimental to EVERYONE but unsustainable. Looks fade, fashions change and we all end up as dust (whoops, that came out waaaay darker than I meant it to sound). A good place to start might be to let our little girls know that ) A) if they have cellulite or no thigh gap they don’t completely suck at life; and B) don’t aspire to marry rich or date the captain of the football team. BE financially successful on your own and BE the captain of the football team.