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Self Esteem In The Instagram Models’ Generation

5 years ago I was terribly insecure about the way I looked. As great as my body was, I had recently chopped off my hair and had no eyebrows. It was a rough time. My nose felt too big, my eyes felt too small and too plain, my cheekbones not defined enough. I just felt generally inadequate and subpar. Fast forward to today and I literally named myself The Pretty Patriot. I’m not perfect but I’m obviously confident enough to predicate an entire brand on an assertion of being pretty. There are plenty of people that look at me and probably think “4” and even a few that look at me on a good day and think “10,” but realistically I’d rate myself at an 8 – mostly because a brutally honest IDF guy I went on a date with told me I was an 8 in general but I’d be a 10 at his school. Also my really judgmental blunt friend that told me I was 10 lbs away from being fat in 2015 gave me an unsolicited 8 as well.

Anyone who says they wouldn’t prefer to be a 10 is a liar, but 8 is a good number. But in the age of social media and so many people paying for points via plastic surgeons, it’s hard to stay satisfied. When every girl with over 500,000 followers on Instagram paid for the same picture perfect face, it’s easy to start nitpicking yourself. From a financial perspective, plastic surgery is completely unrealistic at this point for me, but I’ve thought about what procedures I’d undergo if and when I could afford them. I’ve considered a nose job and boob job, and more recently hairline lowering and chin reduction/shaving. And as absurd as it sounds I’ve considered making my lips even bigger.

The craziest thing about it all is that I’ve never doubted myself (as an adult at least) because of the hateful, malicious things that other people have said about me. When my Instagram comments are flooded with illiterate leftists desperate to find something to criticize, I’m not affected. But every once in a while I find myself completely paralyzed by insecurity, with a laser focus on everything I should change about myself. And it’s completely unpredictable and self inflicted.

I started thinking about the 9s and 10s I know, and how insecure they are. You’d never guess it by looking at them, but they’re just as self critical and overly analytical as the rest of us. And of course, it’s easy to get annoyed with them. After all, don’t they know how lucky they are? It’s reminiscent of the Mean Girls mirror scene.

These obviously beautiful girls are zeroing in on perceived flaws that strangers probably wouldn’t notice, and obsessing over them. I can only speak for myself, but as a kid watching this movie when it originally came out, I thought this was stupid. Now, I find myself doing it. Of course I’m not delusional enough to think I’m “Plastics” level attractive, but it confirms my theory that social media is making women insane. I try not to compare myself to other women and I have a pretty impressive success rate, but I feel like you can only view so many Dr Miami patients before you start wondering if the only thing standing between you and them is $25k in procedures.

I’m trying to get over someone I really cared about that had really high standards. From food to Uber drivers to women, he’s a hard person to impress. Looks obviously matter, but looks alone won’t keep any man worth having. Even though I know this, I still find myself wondering if things would have played out any differently if I was a 10. And naturally, I can’t help but contemplate what I could do to bring myself closer to a 10. I don’t know if I’m just insane or if this is something that other people can relate to, but I can’t help but feel like being single only emphasizes these insecurities. It could all be coincidence, but my best friend talked about plastic surgery a lot less after she got in her relationship.

Semi-self aware and able to acknowledge that I’m kind of a lunatic, I decided to test something. I ran a Twitter poll about what aspect of my appearance my followers would guess I’m most insecure about to see how self perception matched up with reality. I’m most insecure about my nose by a long shot. My chin is crooked and it drives me crazy and I would like to be skinny enough to look like I have a rich people drug problem by my 24th birthday, but in the mean time I’ll be fine. I’ve always known my forehead was huge, but I barely think about it. How did people vote?

Lesson? We all obviously have flaws and things we’d probably change about ourselves if given the opportunity. But our greatest insecurities are often creations of our own imagination. The imperfections we obsess over don’t even occur to most people.

Recently, Kim Kardashian did a Cher inspired photoshoot. Kim Kardashian is obviously a beautiful woman, but looking at the side by side comparisons I felt that there was something much more special about Cher’s photographs.

I found myself exponentially more captivated by the images of Cher, and I began thinking about what procedures she might have undergone at a younger age if she grew up in this era. I think about other gorgeous icons like Selena, and about super models like Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell. What would they have turned out like in the age of Instagram models and the idea that they were supposed to measure themselves based on other women? I thought about Lil Kim and Megan Fox, and how much better they looked to everyone before their excessive surgeries (though I don’t think they were motivated by social media).

That’s not to say that plastic surgery doesn’t help some people, but I think that we as a generation of women have forgotten what beauty is. Dr. Miami himself has talked about the rise in appointments he’s booked with young women, bringing in pictures of Kylie Jenner and Instagram models as points of reference for what they want to look like.

The point of this post was not to demonize plastic surgery or bash Instagram models, but to emphasize the dangers of comparative thinking in the age of social media. In a very basic sense, beauty is something we pay for. We pay for expensive shampoos and face masks to maintain healthy, well groomed appearances. But I fear that we’re commodifying beauty to a point of absurdity, and trying too hard to look like knock-offs of other people as opposed to the best versions of ourselves.

I think plastic surgery is a personal decision that someone can ultimately only make for themselves, and I think it has the potential to change people’s lives for the better. A friend of mine recently got a nose job, and I think it looks great. But it’s something she’s been contemplating for years. When we’re too quick to resort to plastic surgery, we run the risk of altering ourselves beyond recognition and changing everything about us that made us special. We indulge in a culture of covetousness as opposed to one of gratitude. And I think we’re capable of better.

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8 COMMENTS
  • Oh to Be a Muse
    3 months ago

    I know some people who have gotten nose jobs and even botox. They didn’t change their appearance drastically, so I say more power to them. But I do think some people definitely go over board with it. Being insecure is a heavy burden to live with, but we all just have to take it one day at a time and find the beauty in ourselves. And I think the Cher shoot is better than the Kim shoot because Cher has an expression on her face (in her eyes) that looks like she’s lived a life. Kim just looks like she’s posing.

  • Lauren
    3 months ago

    I could not agree with this more! Women need to realize they are beautiful without getting any work done! I believe in natural beauty and enhancing what you have, not changing it!

    Lauren
    http://www.basicbabelauren.com

  • Martha
    3 months ago

    My motto is that you only play is good as you feel, so if you feel good, you’ll probably show up better in the rest of your life too. I also just learned that how you talk to yourself can actually affect your hormones. Crazy!

  • Sarah Camille
    3 months ago

    You bring a lot of insight to this topic. Instagram can perpetuate the unrealistic body standards that are already out there. I also see an authentic beauty in other people’s imperfections, that frankfly you cannot “buy.” If only we can be as easy on ourselves as we are on each other!! 🙂
    Cheers, Sarah Camille // SCsScoop.com

  • Holly
    3 months ago

    You are so right! Comparison is definitely a dangerous thing, especially in this social media obsessed world. It’s hard not to do, but thank you for the reminder and thoughts! xx

    http://hollyhabeck.com

  • Priyadarshini Rajendran
    3 months ago

    Such pain emotionally and physically is horrible. I understand how people can judge by the looks alone.

  • Kat Centeno
    3 months ago

    What a thoughtful piece! I have been an advocate for natural beauty. Well, mostly because I am lazy about putting cosmetics. Since I hit 40,I have been thinking about learning how to put on makeup. I have not resorted to plastic surgery yet and I do not have issues about women contemplating about getting one. I feel that as women, we should support each other on the decisions we make in pursuit of a better well-being.

  • Ingrid
    3 months ago

    It doesn’t matter what we do on the outside we are remain the same on the inside. My motto is to be the best me that I can be

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