On a beautiful fall day during a vacation to Portland, I was casually scrolling through the notifications on my Instagram feed. Somehow I stumbled upon my follower’s newsfeed for the first time. And the first thing I notice, of course, is the guy I have a crush on had liked a couple of pictures of gorgeous, scantily clad women. My stomach dropped as my insecurities billowed, filling my heart and mind. I don’t look like these women. I will never resemble these women. Since this is the type of woman he likes, I must be undesirable, and completely out of his league.
I deal with constant pain in my feet. I have for two years. I’m not able to be as active as I would like. I’m not overweight, nor would I ever claim to be. But cultural standards of beauty have been ingrained in my mind since childhood when I looked at magazines in grocery stores and music videos on MTV. Every pound gained from inactivity due to pain has increased my insecurity to greater depths than I realized. But when I stumbled upon that stupid Instagram feed, my insecurity came to light, and the horridness of my self-hatred reared its ugly head.
Looking at pictures of my Instagram feed makes me feel self-conscious. I see areas of my body that are more filled-out than they used to be (including my chin. My chin!). My pants are tighter than ever. My arms have lost the definition I worked so hard to attain three years ago. I’m not where I want to be weight-wise, but more than that, it angers me that I’ve allowed social standards set my definition of beauty, to calculate my value as a woman.
I know this man’s actions don’t define me, nor should I hold him to any standard of things he can or can’t like on Instagram. I also wouldn’t say that liking those photos defines his worth. He’s a caring, genuine, kind human being. This self-hatred isn’t about him; it’s about me and my feelings of inadequacy and how quickly those feelings are triggered.
While I believe I’m “fearfully and wonderfully made,” my thought patterns reveal I don’t understand it. My lack of confidence in my skin shows that I’m looking for affirmation from others more than God. I’m allowing a circumstance — pain and subsequent disability — to define my value.
I long to be a person who isn’t tossed by her circumstances, who’s belief in her worth isn’t set by other’s action, and who sees her value in sickness or health. I don’t know the way forward in reversing these mental patterns. Each day, I try to be honest about these thoughts with others and myself. All I can do is ask God to reveal how he describes me and definitely never look at that newsfeed on Instagram again. I’m trying to find security in who I am; trying to replace the ugliness of cultural beauty standards with the truth of the beauty of all people, no matter their dress size.