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The rise of social media and body dysmorphia

At 16 years of age, I joined Instagram, excited to be part of the grown-up world. Coming from a family of techies, I was well-aware of the disastrous effects of social media. But nothing could have prepared for the truth.

By Twenty20

Growing up as a British Indian girl, I was aware that I failed the Eurocentric beauty standards. But caught in the daily festivities of my vibrant household, it was easy to forget. For most of the part, I was confident, my pride pinned onto my intelligence.

Joining social media gave the world unrestricted access to my mindscape. Within a few weeks, my feed flooded with pictures of blue-eyed, blonde-haired girls with pearly smiles. I would scroll through endless photos of them flaunting their bikini bodies and travelling the world. Every time a Barbie-Esque girl popped up on my screen, a part of my self-esteem would wither away.

Despite knowing how heavily edited most pictures were, I found myself inadvertently compare myself to them – was my hair glossy enough? Is my waist tiny enough? Are my cheeks rosy enough? I spent hours before the mirror, tears streaming down my face as I tried to conceal the acne that decorated my face. Days started with me cussing at my coarse hair, embarrassment taking over as I tied it up for another day of school. Bottles of oils and creams adorned my dressing table, claiming to “cure” my stretch marks, lighten my dark skin and tame my frizzy hair.

As my mental health deteriorated, I took a six-month hiatus, crawling back into the safety of my immediate circle, ignoring the itch to know what everyone was doing. While talking about the issue with friends, I realised I was not alone. Most of the content we consumed failed to portray us as beautiful or intelligent, and prevailing eurocentric beauty standards encouraged us to resent our ethnicities. We had learnt, first-hand, what lack of representation can do.

Eventually, I gave in to the itch. But before I rejoined social media, I chose to be more mindful of the content I consumed. I unfollowed celebrities who made me feel small and began following accounts like The Female Lead. Unknowingly, I was being influenced by the Disrupt Your Feed campaign. Slowly, my feed evolved. Waking up to powerful women like Michelle Obama, Jameela Jamil, and Jacinda Arden, I felt ready to take on the world! As my focus shifted from my physical appearance to my potential, I began feeling happier. I stopped defining myself by a number on the weighing machine and started reflecting on my contribution to this world.

As I write this, I am 19 years of age and have grown immensely. Confidence now replaces my fear of social media. In fact, I felt bold enough to create my own Instagram blog, Squibble. Here, I share my unique viewpoints on relevant issues, striving to promote harmony. I wish to empower my readers the way The Female Lead empowered me.

In this patriarchal world, it is easy to forget your self-worth and have your opinions silenced. But you can remind yourself of your power by making a conscious decision to surround yourself with inspirational people and brilliant ideas. And what better way to do that than by joining The Female Lead.

Written by guest contributor Anagha Varma

About the author

Anagha Varma is an aspiring Mathematician and Data Scientist, currently studying at Kings College

London. As a British Indian woman, she has had plenty of run-ins with racism, misogyny, and

religious-bias. Drawing from these experiences, she shares her thoughts on world issues on her

writing account, Squibble.

Follow Anagha

On Instagram / On LinkedIn / On her website

(All photographs provided by Anagha)


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