Has social media clouded our perception of self-love?

Illustration by Killian Goodale-Porter.

Julianna Brown, Contributing Writer 

Much like anyone from the 21st century, I use social media, and I have witnessed the rise of self-care influencers who attempt to teach others how to accept themselves. In the midst of all the speculating ideas of what it means to love yourself, how are we ever going to be able to find our own? 

The act of self-love is one that should be personal and significant to each individual, and with the constant circulation of new and often fabricated approaches online, we can very easily lose ourselves. 

Due to our own unique experiences, values and beliefs, something as sacred as how we decide to treat ourselves should not be viewed through the lens of social media. As a preteen trying to navigate the world, I had to find a way to love who I was. In my early years of high school, the judgments I received from my classmates made me question my appearance. 

Like many adolescents around that age, I was heavily insecure about things ranging from my intelligence to my body. Once the lockdown started in 2020, I decided it was time to love every part of myself. To find the confidence I have now, I had to first make a lot of changes. 

I found activities such as exercising, reading and journaling to be helpful in my journey to self-acceptance. Developing these habits allowed me to fully love the person I was becoming — and I did all of this without the help of any social media influencer. 

Yes, I believe having people to look up to in the media can be helpful in a person’s self-love journey. For example, when I find myself feeling insecure, I sometimes think about a statement made by the famous Bajan singer Rihanna, in which she states “You be fearless every day and when you don’t feel like it, just pretend.”

However, social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok or even YouTube harbor a number of influencers who take a less subtle approach in pushing their ideas of self-love onto others. I often see influencers on Instagram with glamorous expensive skin care products showing users self-care tips. 

Of course, content like this may appeal to rich viewers who can afford expensive products, however, this does not represent people who do not have the finances or would rather put them towards something else. With the number of videos like these, impressionable teens may feel they must have these expensive products to accomplish self-love. This is far from the truth, and content like this commercializes self-care in a materialistic way. 

Another common perception of self-love circulating in the media is that loving yourself will always feel “good” or “comfortable.” To a certain extent, loving yourself is realizing your own boundaries and what feels right to you, though this may not always be the case when you could be putting others down. 

When this idea of self-love is weaponized it can be harmful to relationships. In cases where disagreements are had, people could be influenced to walk away from someone they truly loved before actually attempting to work things out. 

This misconception may further influence social media users to give up on things once they feel any form of discomfort. Many new-age self-care influencers perpetuate the idea that once something feels slightly uncomfortable, a person should avoid that thing at all costs; leading people to miss out on learning experiences that don’t always feel perfect. It is necessary to implement boundaries, however, trying something new will not always feel amazing.

Though this theory may be plausible in some ways, self-love is more than doing what appears comforting at the moment — it is also investing in your own future by doing things you don’t always want but need. 

For example, influencers like David Goggins mostly promotes nothing more than intense exercise and a grindset in all possible instances. Although the grindset model of self-love can be beneficial in physical aspects, it fails to recognize our emotional needs. 

In simple terms, human beings are not machines, and putting our bodies through intense training without fueling our minds with positivity can lead us to crash. One cannot fixate their perception of self-love on physicality alone, and this idea is even more damaging to young teens who are easily influenced by the media. 

Self-love is most commonly defined as the appreciation of someone’s value or worth. In theory, this definition is universally correct, however, the way we show appreciation for ourselves is geared to our own distinctive needs in life. Following too much of social media’s often performative views of self-care can blind us from what our body deserves. 

Whether it be through spending time in nature, exercising, praying or even just walking, self-care is important, and no one should base what they do to feel safe within themselves on what influencers share for online prominence.

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