Beauty and a beast

Recipes, holiday inspiration, shopping, blogging, creeping, boredom… There are myriad reasons for opening Instagram and giving our thumbs a good old workout.

From whiling away the time on the morning commute to waiting for my dinner to cook, I find myself Insta-lurking several times a day.

New stuff on in your area? You should check the ‘gram.

Feel like eating healthier this week? Head to those health blogs for some recipe inspo.

Going on holiday soon? Look up the geo tag to see what’s happening.

These are all legit things I do quite regularly. And I love it. Instagram is such an incredible tool for acquiring knowledge quickly and providing all kinds of inspiration, I have forgotten how else I would find such information out. It complements our steadily decreasing attention spans and checks the box of easy entertainment. Pictures tell a thousand words and Instagram’s a visual encyclopaedia.

But like most things that are good, the risk of addiction can loom – and too much Instagram use has the potential to be incredibly damaging. A couple of months ago the app made headlines when it was voted worst for young people’s mental health. This came as little surprise to me.

It’s one thing to compare yourself with your “real-life” peers, but the problem with Instagram is that we are now exposed to worlds entirely different to our own. While this can be intriguing, it can also cause us to throw major shade on our own lives.

We find ourselves lingering over bikini shots of eternal holiday goers, celebrities and fashion megabloggers, wondering not just why we don’t have that body/tan/bikini/pina-colada-on-the-beach – but also why we don’t have that life.

“Was it because I went wrong somewhere?”, or “Am I not working hard enough?” are questions I’ve asked myself in the past. I’ve convinced myself I must not be good enough or talented enough to deserve a lifestyle I thought was more impressive than my own.

How are others so successful and I am not? It must be because I am a loser, we say in our heads, eternally destined to work in jobs we hate and living in flats we don’t own. (At least in my case, but shout out to all you home-owners, you’re nailing it and I’m – duh – jealous.)

As human beings, when constantly exposed to these “superior” online lifestyles, we can end up perceiving our own lives as somehow inadequate: not quite up to the cut. We may only think this for a minute, before realising we are in fact being eejits – but the crucial thing is that we shouldn’t think it even for a second.

And this is why.

There is no perfect life. There’s no perfect person, there is no perfect body. There’s not even a perfect Instagram post (at least not on the first shot, and don’t even try to persuade me otherwise).

There is only what is perfect for you. If you look at other people’s lives and think they’re better, you’re not being true to yourself, or who you are. To achieve deeper satisfaction, I try to recognise and appreciate everything I have that is good – and figure out how best to deal with the things that maybe aren’t so.

It’s easy to take a glance at the lives of others and think they’re void of the hurdles we may find familiar, but you only see a slice of the life most people are willing to share. Unfortunately, with social media being the thinly veiled competitive arena it really is, mostly people are only willing to reveal that which is good (myself included), censoring out those parts of our lives that people may not be so envious of. The argument with your boyfriend, perhaps, or the completion of an entire jar of Nutella. I ain’t never seen a pair of food-stained joggers on my ‘gram, nor would I ever share a photo of the empty pizza box tower currently occupying our living space.

For most of you these things also won’t make the Instagram cut, but guess what? The same probably goes for the people whose lives you covet, despite seeing but a fraction.

As someone who’s battled intermittent depression and anxiety, I am all too familiar with the feeling that you’re not quite good enough, and that life is somehow not quite working out for you in the way that you had planned. Sometimes it feels like those big dreams you once had are so far out of reach, yet cupped easily in the hands of some Insta Stranger.

Alas, I am no moral theorist. I still find myself wondering on occasion how the feck someone can be so damn jammy in life. But I now recognise that I’m already so lucky in everything that I have, too. To think otherwise would be insulting not only to myself, who’s worked hard to get to where I am, but also to all of the incredible people I’m so lucky to count as my friends and family. It’s clichéd but its true: life is what you make it.

So if you feel like you’re not getting what you deserve, firstly – take the ‘gram with a pinch of salt, ’cause no-one’s life is that flawless all the time. Secondly, try changing your outlook. Introduce more gratitude to yourself and the life you lead, stop giving yourself a shitty time and watch things begin to work in your favour.


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