There was a time when I was following hundreds of influencers on Instagram, obsessing over their daily lives and looks and comparing against mine. As I scrolled through their profiles, I would want everything they had; designer bags and shoes, luxury makeup, holidays every day of the week, perfect skin, perfect hair. I wasn’t aware that it was damaging my mental health, or that I was being sucked in, but it was definitely becoming a habit.
I think the most confidence-knocking thing is images of influencers in their ‘bikini bods’, posing in certain ways to make their bodies look super thin. If you see the same body type repeated, it creates unreal expectations and unhealthy perfectionism.
Truth is beauty
One day, I randomly stumbled across paparazzi photos of the influencers I admired. I was quite shocked to see how different the influencers looked in their ‘normal’, un-photoshopped lives. They looked real. I remember thinking that it’s a shame they feel as though they need to be airbrushed: did that mean they weren’t comfortable in their real bodies, just like the rest of us?
At that point, I began to read about the tricks they used: certain angles, lighting, standing on your tippy- toes to make your legs look slimmer and pushing your butt out to make your waist look thinner.
Lately, women have been posting'before and after' images that show how this is done. They used to say the camera never lies, but now we know it does. These girls reflecting a 'perfect body' aren’t what they seem...
Consume mindfully, cleanse regularly
Now that I’m older and know better, I don’t let these images hold power over me. Forget Love Island contestants and posing fashionistas. I only follow accounts that are inspiring and aren’t shoving loads of products I “must buy” in my face; accounts that share tips on living zero-waste, photography, veganism, ethical clothing and cruelty-free makeup.
It’s hard to avoid negativity on social media sometimes. I avoid reading comments, unless it’s a post debating an important issue such as plastic waste in the ocean. If I’m searching for something, I usually look at tags or my explore page, currently filled with vegan beauty products (I’m still a bit of a shopaholic, but I like to think I am mindfully consuming).
Who you follow is so important, as you soak up this information every day and it can be toxic. Sometimes the easiest thing to do is go on a huge unfollowing spree. Do these accounts add anything to your life? Do they make you happy when they post? If the answer is no, get rid.
Some influencers tell young girls that they ‘need’ certain products which don’t work – slimming teas, vitamins for healthy skin, a lotion that claims to get rid of cellulite and stretch marks. They’re all fake. None of these products work, and to claim they do is frankly unethical.
Eco brands I love
One of my favourite influencers is @KristenLeo, a vegan girl from Athens naming and shaming large companies that aren’t ethical. She’s a breath of fresh air and I wish more influencers were using their platforms to raise awareness.
I am all for brands that are about looking after your body and skin and being healthy, as opposed to ones that are pushing a certain beauty agenda, which a lot of makeup companies tend to do. I think it makes me feel good as a consumer when buying a product that isn’t damaging the environment: it restores your faith in humanity.
One of my favourite brands is UpCircle. They use old coffee grounds to produce natural skincare products: I love their tangerine scented coffee body scrub.
Another is Evolve Beauty, especially their makeup cleansing balm. They steer away from plastic packaging in their skin and body care products and they use natural ingredients. It’s all about taking care of your skin and making sure followers understand the benefits of the ingredients.
Dear younger me
My advice to my younger self would - we should all celebrate our differences and not want to be someone we are not. Life isn’t just about Instagram and looks, it’s about doing things we enjoy, travelling, learning from each other and being a voice for important issues. Choose what you are passionate about and create a community by interacting and following others: you can spread positive messages together.