Show yourself some love this Valentine’s Day

Portrait of happy young woman floating in an innertube with her boyfriend in background at the lake. Young couple in lake on inf
Ammentorp Photography / Alamy Stock Photo

“Self-love is the source of all our other loves”- Pierre Corneille

When was the last time you showed yourself some love? We’re so used to focusing on showing other people how much we love them, that we inevitably forget about ourselves. Well, not this year! This Valentine’s Day we’ll be taking a great big dose of self-love, and we think you should do the same…

Is it harder than ever to love who we are?

From peers to celebrities, there’s pressure from all angles telling us how we should look, how we should act, what we should be eating – the list goes on. There’s judgement at every corner and whoever you are, there’s no escaping what society ‘expects’ of you.

It’s never been easier to compare yourself to someone else, whether it’s a colleague, school friend, celebrity or even a stranger. Social media has made it near on impossible to avoid getting a glimpse of someone else’s life. It’s human nature to compare what you have against what someone else has, but society has created this unwritten expectation to never be satisfied and strive for more. But where do we draw the line?

There’s too much focus on what we should be and far too little emphasis on appreciating who we actually are. We’re discussing the opposing trends in society right now. From the pressure to be ‘picture-perfect’ to the people striving for the limelight to be shone on ‘real’ people.

Caucasian man smiling in backyard
Blend Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Life through an Instagram filter

Ah, Instagram. The place to go for aspirational (and seemingly unachievable) lifestyle images. The place to go to find out who’s had smashed avocado for breakfast this morning and fill your head with regret because you had a fry-up. From delectable dinners to perfectly styled hair and celebrity lifestyles, it’s waiting there on Instagram to show you just how great your life could be.

But why? Why are we so set on sharing images of our lives to impress people we don’t even know? Don’t get me wrong, I’m guilty of snapping pictures of my meal in a restaurant and instantly uploading them to Instagram. But I’m completely aware that I’m doing it because, well, everyone else is.

The truth is, social media has played a massive part in our growing need to validate the things we do. If someone posts a selfie and it doesn’t get as many likes as another image, it could be viewed by that person as them not meeting the demands of society. There’s overwhelming pressure on social media users to post their most glamorous, jaw-dropping content to please those who see it.

We’ve accidentally created whole new lives for ourselves that we just can’t maintain in everyday life. The sad reality of it is summed up by these research findings from beauty giant Dove: “1 million UK girls suffer from low body confidence, with two-thirds admitting they feel prettier online than in real life”.  Pair that with easier access to celebrities and their glamorous lives than ever before, and it’s no wonder it’s hard some days to even look at our horrifically normal faces in the mirror.

Unrealistic expectations are dangerous

Whilst it can be great to see a picture of a stunning view and be inspired to travel to that place, there is a more sinister side to social sharing. In an increasingly more digital world, younger generations have more exposure to the media than ever before. One look at an image of a celebrity who’s been deemed ‘flawless’, ‘stunning’ or ‘sexy’ can cause a person to look at themselves and think “I need to look like that”.

Likewise, seeing negative comments in the media from keyboard warriors and overly critical journalists can be damaging. This is especially true for people with similar body types or features to those being criticised. Take this article from The Richest – it openly exposes celebrities who ‘let themselves go’ and ‘got in shape’ in 2017. This kind of press just adds to the ever-growing societal pressures, making people feel like they need to conform or be ridiculed for their appearance.

Man in Hammock ,South Water Caye, Belize
Jon12 / Stockimo / Alamy Stock Photo

Let’s talk body image

Body image is one of the most heavily talked about topics in the media, and it’s no surprise people are more concerned than ever before about how they look. This article from The Guardian states that in 2015, more teenage girls were admitted to hospital with eating disorders than ever before.  This demonstrates just one of the ways increased exposure to these unrealistic expectations of body image is impacting younger generations.

And it’s not just girls who are affected. The media is flooded with images of men with bulging muscles, 8-packs and silky-smooth skin. But the men who find themselves left in the ‘real world’ are experiencing increasing concerns about their own bodies. This article from Time delves into the reasons behind men having more body image issues than ever before. One of the key reasons identified is the changing depiction of men in films, on TV and even in cartoons. They all have one thing in common: they have more muscle than they’ve ever had before.

Sadly, the consequences of this go far beyond simply making someone feel inadequate. There’s been a rise in the number of muscle dysmorphia diagnoses and anabolic steroid use is on the up, which in turn is increasing the risk of associated health implications.

It’s one thing to aspire to look a certain way, but the majority of people are missing a key point. “Everyone’s body carries its weight differently. So, what works for one person, may not work for the next.” And that’s ok!

We need to stop being fixated on what other people look like and focus on what’s great about ourselves.

Enter #realstagram (and friends)

What’s better than seeing someone who is comfortable in their own skin? Acting as polar opposites to the ‘picture-perfect’ pressures of society are movements that are giving power back to real people and giving them the chance to empower others. Here are a couple of examples:

Dove’s ‘Self-esteem project’
In 2015, beauty giant Dove launched their #NoLikesNeeded campaign, and it’s the perfect example of an empowering, self-love campaign. It sets out to motivate girls and help them realise that the only ‘Like’ that should count is their own.

The #realstagram campaign was started by former Bachelorette Kaitlyn Bestowe in May 2017. It turned the spotlight on real women doing everyday things and celebrating the beauty in sheer normality. Check out the hashtag on Instagram now to get a feel for the images people are sharing.

What’s there to love about me?

Everything. And we mean that.

There are a whole host of people trying to counteract the picture-perfect lifestyle trend with forward-facing campaigns that tackle ‘real’ beauty. Brands, advertisers and influencers across the world are focusing on ‘real life’ and using models of varying shapes, sizes and abilities.

One of the biggest advertising trends right now is the focus on real people in real-life situations. It’s a huge selling point for brands because audiences can relate more to the people and scenarios they see than they can with celebrities or unrealistic environments. For more insight on using real people in advertising, check out our blog ‘An emotional approach to advertising’.

One campaign that perfectly sums up our message here is Diesel’s ‘Go with the flaw’ advert. Everyone is unique, so no matter what your features are, find something that you love and embrace it!

Find a reason to smile, and accept it!

Now, it’s not just body image pressures that make us doubt our capabilities. It could be your job, your family, friends, hobbies or even your house. There are loads of things we could easily compare to other people. But it’s just not worth it. It’s time to make a choice: accept yourself as you are, or compare yourself to everyone else and stop yourself from being happy!

Our advice? Whatever your situation and whoever you are, forget what everyone else is doing and focus on you. Show yourself some love today.

Carry on the conversation over on our Facebook page! We’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic and if you think it’s harder than ever to love yourself.

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