Bums, boobs and bellies: Is obsessing over social media affecting our mental health?

Scrolling through Instagram sometimes feels like a chore doesn’t it? Bronzed beach bodies, fully-filled lips glossed to perfection, tidy bedrooms elegantly finished with crushed velvet and 20,000 followers are all flourished over your phone screen.

Whilst you, the realist, are sat in an XL Primark shirt with last night’s chinese down your top, some sort of bun you crafted with a random scrunchie you found under your bed from when you were 10, drowning in £3.99 St.Morez ultra dark tan and a mere 400 followers which decreases by three every time you upload a selfie (most of these are your secondary school friends or distant cousins).

We live in a world where we’re considered ‘popular’ by the number of people that like our pictures, ‘pretty’ if we fit the idealised beauty standard of big lips, tiny noses, lifted bums and waists that you can fit your hands round with one hand.

Why is it that the “digital age” has bought the need for perfection with it? It is easy for celebrities like Beyonce’ to preach ‘pretty hurts’ when they look like a goddess with no make-up on and have billions of dollars in their accounts. If they need a tuck or a lift somewhere, they can delve into their endless money pots and afford it; no questions asked.

Social media has become a toxic day-to day normality in this generation’s life. Let me tell you something, this strive for so-called ‘perfection’ and the continuous need to always have your shit together isn’t a realistic desire. You’re going to have days when you feel like a swamp monster with a million things on your ‘to do’ list, but you’re also going to have days where you glam up, get your lashes on and take an okay-ish selfie that makes you think “I actually look quite pretty”.

But here is where the issue lies, we only see the latter on social media accounts. For some reason the earlier example isn’t seen as a lustful standard of beauty. And no, I’m not saying that tiny waists and big bouncy blow-drys aren’t beautiful, I’m saying that why can’t big noses and cellulite be celebrated as well?

This fictional beauty standard that the generation are lusting to achieve is unrealistic because it is constantly changing. My mum hacked her eyebrows off in the 80’s because back then it was desirable to have stick thin brows. Now, she’s paid hundreds to have them tattooed back on. Why? because times have changed, it’s now seen as ‘attractive’ to have big bushy brushed-up brows. My point? You constantly feel beat-down because the beauty standard is continuously alternating and it’s physically impossible to keep up. Big boobs have gone out the window, now it’s the time for small boobs. 10 years-ago if someone said your bum looked big you’d tell them to piss off, in 2019 bum fillers have taken social media by frenzy and Kim Kardashian’s beautiful hour glass shape posts as the goal.

The point I’m making with all my waffle is that feeling down because of the way you look can have serious implications with your mental health. The correlation between the two need to be addressed, especially now as young girls as young as 13 own snapchat and Instagram accounts. Not to sound too old and boring, but when was the last time you saw a 13-year old look 13?

Feeling down about yourself, not wanting to go out because you’re self-conscious, constantly comparing yourself to your friends, obsessing over imperfections and feeling inadequate because you don’t fit this standard are all BIG issues.

It is easy to say that you’re just having a ‘down’ day, but these ‘small problems’ can delve into a downwards spiral which could potentially get out of control.

Natalie Jewell is the deputy manager of the Canterbury Umbrella Centre, a mental health drop in hub offering support for anyone of any age who may be struggling. She explained how with the rise in social media influence and living in a digital age can correlate with mental health impact.

She said “The pressure is everywhere. Social media plays such a massive part in body image for men and for women. you’re surrounded by pictures of people that portray perfection when if in a matter of fact you took the filters off, they’re the same as everybody else, they’ve got those imperfections there to, and I think that, because it is there everywhere you go, that is such a big thing.”

Mental Health Awareness week starts next week and the focal topic is ‘body image’. Therefore, it is more relevant than ever to start discussing the fact that yes, social media influence can be detrimental to the mental health of an individual.

Natalie said “This is an opportunity for us to help fight stigma, to help create more understanding of our mental health and reach out to people who are silently suffering. They can get more knowledge and awareness of what mental health is and maybe make that chance to step out and talk to someone about it.”

The Canterbury Umbrella Centre are hosting a ‘mental health day’ next week where they will be showcasing different mental health elements, what their symptoms and behaviours are and just acting as a local support directly within the area. Therefore she encourages individuals who are struggling with any problem, including body image to come down and talk to someone.

She said “When you’re at an age where you’re looking up to these people, that affects mentally. Instagram photographs are filtered to the nines and they’ve had nine hours of glam, you don’t see that side of it. It does play a massive part in mental health, because mental health is all about your self-image, If you’re not happy with yourself image that is when that slippery slope starts.”

“No matter how big you think or little you think that bad day is-come and have a chat with somebody. All services are associated with a problem having to be huge but what you might think isn’t huge actually quite is. That’s when you get that snowball effect. When you need to talk to someone, have reassurance, it’s okay to not be okay”

Listen to the full interview with Natalie below:


If you have been affected by any of the issues addressed above visit the Canterbury Umbrella Centre at St Peter’s Place, Canterbury CT1 2DB, or visit the website.


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