Earlier this year, I realized that the media I was consuming was having a greater effect on my self-perception that I’d like it to. Every platform was full of clutter that I just didn’t want floating around my life anymore. In particular, I noticed that this media impacted my body image.
Most little girls grow up seeing images of perfect girls and women on TV, in magazines, and now online. We’ve all probably heard an Oprah-esque talk show segment about how harmful these images can be to young people (let’s be real, it impacts all children, not just girls). We learn what we’re supposed to strive for from media. We have family and friends to mold that too, but media teaches us what people think beyond our circles. And that’s a lot to take in when you’re young.
It’s a lot to take in when you’re an adult too. I noticed that some of the influencers that I follow were struggling with their own media consumption, and I was lucky enough to experience content from them that helped me make a change. Particularly helpful to me was an episode of the Inbetweenies podcast called “Diversifying Your News Feed.” In this episode, the hosts talked about how expanding the horizons of who and what you like to follow can help you grow. (I can’t recommend this podcast enough if you’re a mid-20s woman. Cheyenne and Liz are funny, inspiring, and real).
Why I Needed to Change My Feed
I’ve struggled with my body image since I was in elementary school. Throughout my life, my weight has gone up and down, but mostly up. I’m not thin enough to fit into straight sizes at a lot of stores, but I don’t have the body type of a plus size woman either. I’m some middle-of-the-road shape that nobody can figure out even though there are so many of us who look like this!
I can share more thoughts on body image and plus vs. straight size culture in the future, but for now, just know that my body is nearly always on my mind. So when I’m consuming media, there’s usually a voice in the back of my head that says “You don’t look like that. I know you want to, but you don’t.” It’s a voice that I’m learning to ignore in an effort to build more and more self-confidence.
What Happened When I Curated My Feed More Closely
After listening to that podcast episode, I made an audit of my Instagram account. I unfollowed people whose content was beautiful but didn’t inspire me, whose content no longer applied to me, or whose content made me feel, well, jealous or less-than-worthy. I sought out accounts that did bring me joy, including women of more body types (including many whose are similar to my own), people who are making beautiful crafts, and socially-conscious celebrities (Gina Rodriguez, thank you for being you). I made similar changes to who I followed on Twitter and what I was looking at on Pinterest.
Over time, I noticed that my insecurity about my body was no longer at the forefront of my mind as much. I became more and more inspired with my fashion choices, and started to feel creatively saturated. I started wearing more of what I wanted, changed my hair to a style that made me feel more like “myself,” and began crocheting more than ever before.
I removed so many moments throughout my day where I was telling myself things that no one wants to hear, and I instead replaced them with opportunities for inspiration.
I started to feel more connected with the people I was following rather than being an outsider with my face pressed up against the glass, and I began commenting on more and more content. I didn’t feel like an observer in my news feed anymore. I was a confident contributor to it.
Even though it’s something that I’m still working on and I am by no means a shining example of confidence, I am so grateful that I made this change. Honestly, just realizing how the media I was consuming was impacting my mental state was enough to be grateful for.
Making the change to correct it was not difficult at all. You may think that you have a connection to the things you’re following, but they’re easy to let go when you start paying attention to what your gut reaction is when you see them. And once you start thinking this way about your media, it becomes second nature. You’re drawn to content that builds you up and helps you grow rather than what fills you with envy and sadness. Before you know it, your mindset has changed.
How to Gain Confidence by Curating Your News Feed
Here are the steps I took to change the media I was consuming and become more confident.
1. Audit all of the media you consume. Decide which accounts, shows, movies, and writing inspires you and makes you feel good. And let me say that “inspiration” can easily be a masked form of envy. When you see a piece of content, are you joyful and see opportunities to integrate the concept into your life, or are you jealous and have motivation that comes from negative feelings about who or where you are? Get rid of the content that makes you feel the second way. You don’t need it and you can find other things that genuinely inspire you.
2. Seek out media that lifts you up where you need a bit of help. If you’re like me and you struggle with body image, seek out representations of yourself. Look for people who have something in common with you, not something you don’t have. Even if those people are “farther along” in their journey, they can be a guiding light in your growth, not a nearly unattainable model for your goals. Remember that a lot of what you see in media is edited in some way or another. Look for accounts that aren’t afraid to be real!
3. Take note of how you respond to this new feed. Are you still feeling the same amount of insecurity? Try to audit again. You may have to dig deep to find the kind of content you’re looking for, but it will be worth it. It took me months to find all the creators who I currently follow, but I noticed that once I found one and looked at the content related to theirs, my search became exponentially easier. If you’re noticing that your insecure thoughts and feelings are fading, that’s fantastic! Your new feed is working out well.
4. Keep up the good work. Once you’ve made this shift, don’t let yourself slip back into consumption that isn’t doing you any favors. It’s so tempting to follow the things that make our hearts ache with desires to be more, but this feeling will hardly do your confidence levels any favors.
5. Spread the word! If you think there are others in your life who could benefit from this curation, talk to them about it! If I hadn’t heard others talking about it, I wouldn’t have realized how much of an impact your news feed can have on your mindset. Now you have some food for thought that you can share with the people around you.