Body Image, Essena O'Neill, and Pointing Fingers


Earlier this week, my Facebook newsfeed blew up with posts about Essena O'Neill, a 19 year old model from Australia who has made a career for herself by posting beautifully staged Instagram photos. Apparently, O'Neill has decided to quit all forms of social media, and she re-wrote all of her Instagram posts with honest, heartfelt captions. She started a website called Let's be Game Changers and has made it her new mission to expose the falsehoods of social media and promote transparency. Before this week, I had never heard of Essena O'Neill, and I have no idea what her real intention is for the campaign. Maybe she is trying to draw more attention to herself and promote her new brand, but to be honest, I don't really care. Her words are true, and I hope they make an impact on the millions of teenagers and young adults who need to listen to the message. More so, one of the "honest" captions that she posted really hit home with me.

She said, "the only thing that made me feel good that day was this photo ".

Photos have a lot of power to control our emotions, our body image, and the way we size up the people around us. Just yesterday, I saw a comment on one of my studio's advertisements that said, "This ad would be more encouraging if these women looked like they actually needed to exercise." Wow. That line of thinking fascinates me. Do the women in the photo have two arms? Two legs? Beating hearts? They are human, so yes, they need to exercise. Our bodies were made for physical activity to be healthy, not to flaunt it on social media.

In my opinion, this comment gave a voice the the millions of negative voices that women fight to silence on a daily basis. I'm guilty of this, too. It's so easy to look at a photo and decide that the person in the picture is content and has everything together. But, what I think is more eye-opening is the fact that we let our opinions of other people scare us out of making decisions for ourselves. We spend too much time worrying about how our lives will be received by the outside world that we forget to act when the time is right. 

Insecurity can stop us from striking up a conversation with a new person or joining a gym, and these are sad realities. We can miss out on life-changing opportunities that could give us a better quality of life because we've decided that we are not worthy of pursuing them. The time we spend pointing fingers at someone who is living the life we think we want is the time we let insecurity win.

I want the experience in the photo to be what makes me feel good, not the photo itself. Social media will never be 100% honest, and that's okay, we need to stop expecting it to be. However, those of us that use it should remember that every public outlet is an opportunity to brand your life, sharing certain snippets and excerpts. Yes, it will be the way others perceive us, so, give a good perception. Leave a positive mark because other people will notice, and maybe your courage will help someone else take the plunge.