Instagram and me

By now, we’ve all heard about the Lena Dunham and Odell Beckham Junior situation. The Girls star accused the NY Giants player of shunning her at the MET Gala. It’s safe to say that Twitter tore into her, chastising her display of white feminism and passing off her somewhat acceptable apology, blaming it on a projection of her insecurities. Whilst that’s old news now and I don’t condone Lena, how we deal with our insecurities is still as relevant as ever.

“I don’t care about my appearance” was my teenage anthem. What was an imagined truth has become an engrained one over time- and one that I have been trying to dismantle.

Did I really mean it when I said I didn’t care about how I look? Or was it just a way of justifying the several times I went out looking like a hot mess? I wasn’t so sure, so I got Instagram.

To someone who adamantly preaches about not fussing about image, Instagram is like an alternative universe. The bombarding of filters, likes and comments (or lack of) was overwhelming. So, I set myself a challenge, I was going to spend the school year getting my face out there to see if I was as comfortable with my image as I thought.

“The girl whose clothes and hair were perfectly crafted decorations for her bubbly, complex personality was, and still is, me. So my decision to get Instagram was an attempt to reconnect with that girl.”

The decision to get Instagram was nothing to do with likes and comments, it was about becoming acquainted with my face and body. The apathy I had developed towards my appearance wasn’t healthy. I was inadvertently disregarding the home of my soul and thoughts because I didn’t want to face the reality- I wasn’t that comfortable with my appearance. It wasn’t that I thought I was ugly but I didn’t think I was beautiful.

I had developed an ‘apathy towards my appearance to protect myself from negative comments (and feelings)’ but deep inside I had always cared about my appearance. In photos of my younger self, I’m in outfits ranging from massive meringue looking dresses to double denim doing the weirdest poses. The girl whose clothes and hair were perfectly crafted decorations for her bubbly, complex personality was, and still is, me. So my decision to get Instagram was an attempt to reconnect with that girl.

Our appearances are complex- beauty, insecurities and the male gaze are all intertwined. Being bombarded with profiles on social media, as one Twitter user told me, “makes you think of many more ideals you could be,” and it becomes easy to start “questioning your own beauty.”

Famous or not, and despite her persona of the goofy and relatable girl next door, maybe Lena really did want to be noticed. She made her fashion statement with a suit with an exertion of confidence and coolness. However, this ideological structure seemed to fall apart when the absence of a male gaze made her feel like ‘a sack of flaming garbage’ and suddenly, we could all smell her insecurities from a mile away.

Lena assumed OBJ considered her unattractive, unworthy of conversation and it made her feel devalued, and it just goes to show how other people’s perceptions of who we are can impact the most important thing- our perceptions of ourselves.

No one is ever going to feel 100% comfortable with their appearance, but it’s high time we make peace with what’s staring back at us in the mirror because it’s pretty awesome.

Taking these good vibes and running with them is social media movement Style Like U, whose mantra reads ‘style is self-acceptance.’ Their What’s Underneath project features models and activists talking about the most intimate aspects of their lives whilst removing items of clothing, smiling or in some cases crying at how emotionally opened they were granted to be.

We all get insecure and question our beauty. Sometimes we feed off external forces to feel validated but being yourself and presenting yourself as you are, as opposed to trying to fit a mould, is so liberating. Not only does it help you on your road to self-acceptance but it fights back against standards that say who you are and what you look like is not enough.

So, Lena if you ever read this although I think what you did was kind of crappy, I hope you reach a point where you can sit with a hot man at an event and still feel good about yourself even if he doesn’t talk to you.

Smile and slay