Does my instagram account make me an egotistical maniac?

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Words by Michelle Andrews.

My older sister once told me that I am the vainest person she has ever met. She pointed out that my Instagram page features a lot of selfies and photos of my body, and in the midst of a fiery sibling war yelled “Ooh I’m going on a run… better upload a leg selfie and then maybe one of my stomach!”

Okay, okay, she had a point.

Ultimately, I don’t believe that the numbers of photos you post are really any indication of your self-esteem, vanity, or how much you ‘dig’ yourself. The reality is, we exist within an incredibly competitive world when it comes to physical appearance. Posting photos of yourself may indeed point to a pitiful case of narcissism, but on the other hand it may indicate quite the opposite.

Despite what my Instagram followers may believe, I am an extremely self-conscious and self-critical person.

Since I left high-school I have struggled with my appearance. Unfortunately, the god-like metabolism I took for granted at the age of 15 (I could eat WHATEVER I wanted, without abandon, and remain a very petite size 6) stopped working its marvellous magic and, suddenly, maintaining a weight I’m happy at seems impossible.

Worries about my weight, and my body, now consume my mind on a daily basis.

I remember the exact moment a close friend (at the time) had drunkenly confessed that: “You look really chubby in that. You told me to tell you if I ever thought you were getting fat, and so I’m telling you. I’m sorry but drunk words are sober thoughts and you just look really big tonight”.

From that night onwards I decided two things: 1. I was going to get skinnier and therefore NEVER have anyone say those words to me again and 2. I wasn’t going to be her friend anymore.

The act of ‘body bashing’ is damaging far beyond the moment it occurs. The memories we have of criticisms about our appearance far outlast any compliments. I could rattle off ten criticisms I have received over the years, but I don’t think I could remember as many as two compliments.

The human ego is fragile. It is complicated, and it cannot be easily understood. The broken human ego is not easily assuaged by gentle words of encouragement or positivity. The sting of criticism, however, is toxic, and can damage a person’s self-perception almost irreparably.

When I was told that a girl at work had commented “it looks like Michelle’s gained a bit of weight, she has a bit of a tummy now doesn’t she”, I went to my car at the end of the day and cried for 15 minutes before driving home and posting a flattering (and heavily-filtered) photo of my stomach to Instagram.

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So, whilst some may see my more revealing posts as arrogant or excessively confident, they are mostly a reaction to the anxiety that I am not, and will never be, good enough physically. Sometimes I post because I feel like shit about myself, and it’s an attempt to make myself feel better – an attempt to wash away my bruised ego with likes and comments.

I work a full-time job that demands I wear a full-face of makeup and have “immaculate” hair every single day in addition to wearing expensive formal dresses and heels for hours on end. For five days a week, it is asked that I look my absolute best. Don’t get me wrong, I freaking love my job. I love the customers, I love the dresses, I love selling. But one thing that has come from working in such a constructed environment, is a hyper-awareness of my physical appearance and how others may perceive the way I look.

Of course, it probably doesn’t help that the girls I work with are quite possibly the most attractive human beings to ever grace the planet Earth. Seriously. I don’t work a single day without feeling an all-encompassing, crippling envy towards my overly attractive co-workers who, over time, have also become some of my closest friends.

Something that has come from my workplace, and definitely from my time on Instagram, is the tendency to compare myself with others. I guess that’s the product of striving to look your ‘best’ – you slowly realise that your best is inherently and unavoidably flawed. You realise your best is nowhere near someone else’s ‘best’. In fact, you realise that you exist within skin, within a body, that simply cannot compete with the girl’s working alongside you. Inevitably, your best will fall short.

In reality, you are not immaculate, and her ‘best’ is better. For any person, this is a cold, harsh reality to accept. But it is the reality, and that’s just how life is.

This is not to suggest that I don’t have days where I feel good about myself. I do. I think everyone does. But it is a reminder that the way one appears through social media is not always (rather – it quite rarely is) an accurate depiction of their true self. To be categorised as vain, or conceited, merely from an observation of an Instagram account is to ignore the underlying reasons someone posts the photos they do.

I am not ashamed of these posts. Sometimes, I am ashamed that I continually let myself be so affected by the comments of girls who most probably suffer from their own equally low self-esteems.

At the end of the day, it is my body, it is my business and it is my choice. To judge someone based on an Instagram account is to judge them without really knowing the reality whatsoever. A photo is only a snapshot, a glimpse of that individual’s life.

So imagine the bigger picture before you judge the snapshot.

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