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Why You Can't Master the Flawless Selfie

An Aussie teen with a huge following quit Instagram and YouTube because she says it's "not real life." Here's how you can keep a healthy body image without deleting your social accounts.

selfie at gym

Aussie “Instagram celebrity” Essena O’Neill announced last week that she was “quitting social media.” The 18-year-old from Coolum Beach, Queensland, decided to quit the Instagram account where she had over a half million followers and ditch YouTube after revealing what it really took for her to look as lean and beautiful as she did in her photos, as well as letting audiences know now that she was being paid for some of her posts. This garnered some media buzz because she now included comments on her previous posts noting where “I didn’t pay for the dress,” or, “I took over 100 similar poses trying to make my stomach look good,” and, “I would have hardly eaten that day” on her beach bikini photos. She’s keeping her Vimeo account active and started a website called LetsBeGameChangers.com whose platform “acts to spread new age messages of conscious living, addition to technology, minimize the celebrity culture, promote veganism, plant based nutrition, environmental awareness, social issues, gender equality, controversial art.” According to SunshinePostDaily.com, O’Neill has deleted almost 2,000 photos from her Instagram account and changed her account name to "Social Media Is Not Real Life." (Which we couldn't find to link to.)

While “quitting social media” might be extreme for the rest of us—we love following our favorite bodybuilders, fit celebrities, athletes and readers on social—O’Neill’s take-home message is a reminder to take pause before comparing yourself and your life to those you see on social. Those photos of “perfect bodies” and “flawless selfies” aren't always as effortless as they look and may have been through several takes, then edited and filtered until they look ‘perfect.’  We also recognize that it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to look like the athletes, fitness models, trainers, and fit celebrities we see in media, and many of them have a team around them helping every step of the way.“It's human nature, I think, to compare yourself to others,” says Nicole Rohr Stephani, founder of eating disorder recovery and body image blog, Body Boop. Social media is such a visual medium, chances are, you're going to compare yourself to someone as you're scrolling through your feed, she says.

Here are Stephani’s tips for healthy ways to use social media for inspiration and motivation to help you reach your goals:

  1. Don’t just follow everyone who uses a health or fitness hashtag. Think "quality not quantity." If you carefully select the people who inspire you or offer valuable social media advice related to fitness and diet topics, you'll find that your social media experience is more reflective of your personal attitude and beliefs.
  2. Follow social media accounts that lift you up, not tear you down. If you find yourself constantly comparing yourself to other women in Instagram photos or feeling bad about yourself after seeing advertisements and before/after photos on Facebook, it’s time to unfollow certain accounts and clean up your social feeds so you’re seeing messages that are in line with your values. I like to follow accounts that have healthy recipes, positive affirmations, and quick workout routines.
  3. Use the right tools for bettering yourself. When I'm feeling exhausted and down about my appearance because of things I've seen on social media, I find that my favorite health and wellness websites, e-mail lists, and blogs are a better use of my time and I'm more able to control what I see to make sure it's a positive influence on my day and my self esteem.
  4. Follow social media users that inspire you. My favorite accounts to follow that really lift me up are run by certified health coaches and yoga instructors. When I see a challenging yoga pose, I think to myself, ‘I want to be able to do that!’ instead of ‘Why don't I look like that?’ See the difference? Be aware of how you talk to yourself during the day as you ingest social media content. If you wouldn't say the things you say to yourself aloud to another woman, start trying to counter your negative talk with positive statements, and maybe even lessen the time you spend on social media daily.
  5. Surround yourself with positive vibes. Print out or handwrite your favorite positive affirmations and post them around your home or office, or even on your mirrors. Treating yourself with respect can turn around other parts of your life! That positivity is contagious. You might even find your own social media posts shifting in tone as you love yourself a little harder.

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