Thanks to social media, we now desire to love ourselves more than we ever have before. Increasingly our social lives take place through the sharing of visual content, which has made putting our best foot forward a superficial endeavor. It’s no wonder we spend so much time thinking about our appearance. Our social lives may as well depend on it! The vain culture of Instagram, along with the fact that women no longer exist solely to please men, has resulted in women posting to validate their self-image. Yet, we are perpetually at war with our self-regard as we now face the impossible task of trying to love ourselves. Advertisers have hijacked the message put forth by insecurity campaigns to suit their capitalistic motives. Despite being more empowered than ever before, women continue to be enslaved to social beauty standards due to the imposition of social media. Although I have previously interpreted the self-love movement as a feminist reclamation of the media space-- I now see it as reinforcing the patriarchal structure we as feminists strive to break. The self-love movement sets women out on the unfulfilling journey of falling in love with their appearance.
Women have more disposable income now than ever before. We also have more time to focus on ourselves because we are waiting longer to get married and have children. This leaves a large portion of women as the sole appraisers of their worth. Instead of focusing on winning the love of another, we aim to win our adoration. Women now have more time and money to devote to the never-ending journey of loving themselves. Although we are independent, we are controlled by the media which plagues our existence. The beauty industry has flourished alongside the advent of social media.
Social media has democratized the visual content we consume, resulting in a more diverse and broadened standard of beauty. Back when beauty was narrowly defined as a size zero, olive skin, and blond hair-- people who didn’t check the boxes simply weren’t beautiful. Although theoretically, this should make beauty more attainable, it is now more impossible to achieve beauty than ever before. We are all just on the cusp of becoming maximally attractive. Our individualized beauty standards are evolving faster than we can change making self-love perpetually out of our reach. Overnight our opinions can starkly contrast one another and the market has evolved to suit this oscillation. Some products can erase your freckles, just as there are products that can put them back on. There are products that make you look curvy and products to thin you out. Whether you want to minimize your eyebrows or tattoo them thicker-- don’t worry there’s a product for you!
The self-love movement preaches that we all deserve to love everything about ourselves. Marketing suggests that we should treat ourselves. That through treating ourselves to the latest beauty product, we will be able to overcome our insecurity. Instead of accepting ourselves as we are, we are conditioned to give in to our insecurities as an act of self-love. Insecurity has a starving nature, it is never satiated for long. Endlessly trying to appease this inherent dissatisfaction within ourselves is intrinsically intertwined with our way of life. We constantly pick apart our appearance in the name of loving ourselves.
For years, I have romanticized the girl in the mirror, promising to love her one day with unwavering devotion. Self-obsession is a roller coaster that swings between extremes with high highs and even lower lows. In pursuit of loving myself, I fight an exhausting battle against self-loathing. Instead of simply acknowledging the sore spots in my perception of myself and moving on. As a result of the beauty industry, I see these flaws of mine as a resolvable cosmetic bump in the road to loving myself. The rocky courtship between me and my every clogged pore is unending. For my sanity and the good of womankind, I would like to mitigate my self-concern. But… I must confess. I will forever, to some degree, ride the rollercoaster of self-obsession. I can’t commit to never succumbing to the downward spiral of my insecurity. Nor can I promise to never love my appearance. In fleeting moments, I find myself intoxicatingly beautiful and loveable. But in the blink of a lustful eye, my self-regard can take a turn for the worst.
Jameela Jamil who has advocated for self neutrality contributed to my thinking when writing this article.