Ah, The Spring Break Instagram. We work out all semester, starving ourselves in the process, and then we get someone to take a casual-I-wasn’t-posing Instagram of us in our bikinis and we caption it something clever with the location set in a tropical setting.
Because, damn, we look good.
And everyone should know it.
And we worked hard for this picture.
And we deserve, and need, the external validation that, yeah, damn, we DO look good.
Last night, I was lying in bed after having a wine night with some of my best friends and I started scrolling through my Instagram. I burst into tears because I was so sad that my entire feed seemed like an agenda for us all to show off our bodies, feel validated that we are beautiful, be reminded that a few people out there care about us, and brag about our spring break destinations.
When did we all become like this? When did we all start thinking we are not enough? That personal relationships aren’t enough validation? That looking at ourselves in the mirror and thinking we are beautiful doesn’t prove we’re beautiful, but instead over 200 “likes” on an Instagram does? When did we all start thinking that if someone just thought we were attractive then everything would be okay? When did we all start thinking it was just a competition to get the most likes and attract the most attention, to have the best body?
Saddened by this culture, instead of posting my bikini pic last night, I posted a picture where you can barely see me and I promptly deleted my entire Instagram.
It’s no secret. You all have read all about my insecurities. I have insecurities surrounding the relationships in my life—overanalyzing whether I am investing enough and not trusting that people care about me as much as they say they do. I have insecurities about my body—how it fluctuates and changes, about my muscles and non-muscles. I have insecurities about my accomplishments, or lack thereof—not having a job yet, not wanting a career that is so lineated.
But the body image insecurities are definitely the biggest. It’s gotten better as I’ve grown up. The more I invest in eating healthy, exercising and focusing on people other than myself, the more I realize that I should only be concerned with being healthy, not looking a certain way. And I am healthy. This world likes to convince us that our bodies are meant to be more than healthy, but those are lies and self-constructed boxes we place ourselves in because we are scared and insecure.
This spring break, I have nothing to prove and nothing to show for myself. And that is beautifully okay.
I want people to love me for my heart, for my ambition, for my dedication, for my words, for my faith. And while at first it feels nice for people to like me for my Spring Break Post, that fades quickly. It’s a high that I get addicted to, as people press like and then another presses like and then another.
But then people stop pressing like. The picture leaves people’s feeds. And the crash sets in. No one cares anymore.
So then we post another post. And the cycle continues.
I am disgusted that I seek validation from those I barely know, that I think my worth and beauty are tied up in how other people see my body. But every time I post another Instagram, I’m feeding this need for validation. I’m feeding this culture that says that’s okay. I’m feeding my insecurities that I am not pretty enough, accomplished enough, adventurous enough, smart enough or fun enough unless a certain number of people like my pictures.
Maybe you didn’t post your spring break picture because you wanted attention. Maybe you don’t feel like you are feeding a culture of insecurity and misdirected validation. Maybe you know how to use Instagram in a healthy way, as a way to catch up with friends or write funny comments, or follow food blogs. Maybe you don’t compare yourself to others using the app.
I used to be that way. I will vouch for myself that I used to be healthy with Instagram. I followed food and travel blogs, stayed in touch with old friends, and loved commenting on my current friends’ beautiful, scenic pictures. Instagram was a way to document the major events in my life, to feature people who have meant so much to me, and to celebrate fun times.
But then I realized I began focusing on other people’s lives more than my own, and it was taking away time from investing in people in my immediate community.
I decided I would not look at others’ Instagram posts, and simply just post my own. If you follow me, you probably know that I rarely like your stuff, but I post all the time. That was my solution: I’ll just document my own life, get my validation when I need it, and avoid everyone else’s posts so that life won’t get sucked out of me.
But then Instagram just became far more self-serving. It was my own space to put my life on display, to turn to when I felt not pretty enough, not good enough, not fun enough.
Last night I burst into tears because I asked myself a lot of hard questions:
- Why was I lying in bed searching for validation when five friends had just invested in me in huge ways over a four-hour wine night?
- Why was I questioning my beauty and heart when friends all week had been drawing attention to that?
- Why was I jealous of other people’s glamourous destinations when I was perfectly happy at the beach with my friends?
And you know the answers to all these? The answer is: Because I was letting Instagram run my life.
It was no longer a healthy, fun way to catch up with people and share love to my friends. It was a source of validation that was never enough and always left me feeling empty, jealous, alone and confused.
So I deleted it.
But to all of you still on the app: your Spring Break pictures were beautiful. You all have hot bods. You are enough. You are beautiful. And you are all freaking amazing with or without your Instagram and with or without your hot bods.