You’re scrolling through your Instagram feed, double tapping your friends’ travel posts and celebrities’ selfies. It’s 7 AM, so you roll out of bed and look in the mirror to see a disheveled face with unruly hair. Your own feed, however, shows a stark contrast to your reflection: a polished, made up face, a sleek ponytail, and an expression of contentment.
It’s no wonder people feel immense pressure to portray “perfect” lives on social media. If all you see every day are flawless people with ideal lives, it’s hard not to be envious and aspire for what they have. Studies have shown that social media affects the self-confidence of its users more negatively than positively. This has resulted in individuals building a carefully curated feed by hiding imperfections and exaggerating positive experiences. This kind of skewed perception of reality affects people’s grasp of the ideal life. They do the same thing with their own feeds, creating a cycle of distorted reality.
So how do you build confidence in an age where appearances seem to matter the most?
Like most things, social media has its pros and cons. While it does affect a person’s self-esteem, it doesn’t always have to be for the worse. There are healthy ways to use social media, and some of it can even boost your self-confidence.
You might need to learn (or to relearn) that social media is expendable. That is, you will live without it. There have been generations of people that lived just fine before social media came along, and you will, too. With this in mind, you always have the option to take a break from social media if you feel overwhelmed by negativity or feelings of inadequacy. Some people decide to quit altogether, but others feel that a break now and then is good for their self-esteem.
Another option is to redesign your feed. Instead of following celebrities and acquaintances whose posts give you the dreaded FOMO—fear of missing out—syndrome, you can follow inspirational, educational, and even support group accounts. Sometimes all you need is to turn your head in another direction and see other, more uplifting things.
Once you’ve done that, you can also discipline yourself into sharing only specific posts. Sharing less is not only better in terms of your security, but it might be helpful if you want to stop depending on likes to boost your self-esteem.
One of the first selling points of Facebook, when it began, was its ability to reconnect users with long lost friends and family. This aspect of social media seemed to fade as more features were introduced. Today, most of social media is flooded with people showing snippets of their lives, spreading viral content, and sharing news stories. Not bad per se, but sometimes we overlook the power of social media to connect people.
When you’re feeling down, you can turn to social media to boost your self-confidence by talking to a friend. Of course, nothing beats real-world interaction, but this is not always possible. Instead, you can chat with a loved one and dispel those feelings of isolation and loneliness. One real friend can make you feel genuinely good better than 100 likes from strangers.
On a similar note, avoid making negative comments on other people’s posts. If you want social media to be a positive place where you can nurture relationships, have a positive online presence. You might be surprised what a little encouragement can do for both you and the other person.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do for your self-esteem is to stop comparing yourself to others. This is, of course, easier said than done. But it’s not impossible.
1. Realize that appearances are just appearances. It’s not what makes a person worthy or significant. For every post you see that seems perfect, think of the times you have directed or manipulated a shot to make it seem prettier than it really is. That’s probably how those “perfect” posts happened, too.
2. Know yourself better. This includes your strengths and weaknesses. Work on your strengths more, and see where your interests and strengths jibe. It’s perfectly okay not to focus so much on your weaknesses. Just knowing what they are is enough for you to make better decisions. For proponents of what is called a “strengths-based approach,” focusing on strengths is actually a better strategy than working on improving your weaknesses. Embrace your uniqueness; everyone has their own story to tell.
3. Expect real things from yourself. Once you’ve figured out what you really want, it’s time to set expectations. Expect the best from yourself from what you can do, but know that your best is not necessarily what others see as the best. No one is perfect; don’t dwell on every little mistake you make.
4. Realize that there will be others better than you. Just as there will be people looking up to you as their role model, there will always be people better than you. Keep this in mind, and you will find it easier to see other people’s lives through the lens of social media.
In the end, it’s really how you use social media that matters. If you focus on the good—positive hashtags, empowering online movements, or online support groups—social media can prove to be a powerful tool for self-esteem.