More Than Your Seflie

Selfies — they’re everywhere right? A modern phenomenon. And whether we want to admit it or not, whether we take them to be goofy, show off our makeup or just because we’re bored (that’s me), we all take (and share) them now and then. And every Instagram like serves as a mini-confidence booster — but is that healthy?

In support of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (February 23-March 1), Her Campus has been hosting a #LovingMe project, encouraging people (but young women especially) to share what they love most about themselves (excluding anything physical) on social media. I think it’s a great initiative to remind us we should be sharing more than our pretty faces.

What do I love about myself? I’m loyal (almost to a fault, but we’re focusing on positives here). I’m a good storyteller and good with words. I’m practical-minded with a creative streak. I’m good with my money. I’m nice. And you know what? There’s even more stuff that I love about myself  — I’m more than my body parts, whether I like them or not.

Which is why it’s so disappointing to see what the TODAY show has been doing this week with their “Love Your Selfie” series. The show’s intentions seem to be in the right place, as their blog explains:

Every day too many of us wake up unhappy with the way we look. TODAY wants to change that! With the “Love Your Selfie” series, kicking off Saturday, Feb. 22, TODAY will examine the obsession with body image and how we can join together to feel more positive about ourselves. TODAY’s anchors will take an honest and revealing look at how they feel about their own body image.

It sounds kind of great, right? I have to take issue though with how the emphasis is still placed on outward appearance. I much rather hear about what personality traits celebrities feature about themselves rather than listen to what they and the anchors are self-conscious about. There’s a time and place for that, and it takes guts to admit what your “imperfections” are, but NEDA Week is not that time — especially if it’s not balanced out with discussions on “inner beauty” and the like.

Ultimately, it feels like a missed opportunity, especially when the statistics TODAY shared about body image are so eye-opening:

  • 60% of adult women have negative thoughts about themselves weekly — compared to 36% of men.
  • Adult women worry more regularly about their appearance (67% at least once a week or more) than they do about finances (62%), health (49%), family/relationships (46%) or professional success (40%).
  • 78% of women surveyed said they spent almost an hour a day on their appearance to “feel better about themselves.”
  • Nearly two-thirds (62%) of millennials (those age 16-34) worry that people are judging their appearance.

What even.

Meanwhile, according to the National Eating Disorder Association, nearly 20 million women will one day suffer an eating disorder. To clarify, eating disorders are a mental illness, but dieting and other “weight control strategies” — which are a reflection of an individual’s body image — are associated as precusors. While I’ve never dealt with an eating disorder firsthand, my friends who have have confided that it’s also very much a coping mechanism, a way to control some thing in your life.

So the last thing we should be doing is continuing to foster an image-obsessed culture filled with self-conscious individuals. Like I mentioned, I think “Love Your Selfie” was well-intentioned, but it falls short. When I read that a smart and successful woman like Savannah Guthrie considers it her “gift to America” to not wear a bathing suit in public, I don’t find her more relatable or feel more confident about myself — if anything, I’m more self-conscious, even if she means it in a self-deprecating manner.

In the end, as fun as playing around with your makeup, hair and clothing is, you can only control your looks so much — but you can choose to cultivate your interests and relationships (with others and yourself). That’s why the Her Campus campaign succeeds: it looks beyond body image, instead asking us what makes us us. And that message is worth celebrating.

~ Sarah

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, call the toll-free, confidential NEDA helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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