Lifestyle Shaming: Is the Internet Killing your self-esteem?

The Internet has changed how people share information and revolutionised how people relate. Millions of people observe and participate in each other’s lives, all striving to impress inadvertently setting standards of perfection we all strain to achieve. Whether its Instagram photos detailing fun times at exotic locales, jubilant Facebook photos posing with friends and family, Pinterest photos detailing exquisite décor at majestic mansions or tweets telling you what/who is better than you; what you see affects you how you view the quality of your life.

“We tend to strive for that ‘perfect image’. Yet, perfection is an illusion and the perfect image is unattainable because it keeps changing with time, culture and environment. Also no one can have everything.” Psychologist, Carol Njeri, explains this growing trend. “ So why do we still make the effort despite it being an impossible task?

Psychology behind comparison

Miss Njeri, who has extensive experience guest speaking on social issues on TV and radio stations, explains. “Competition with our peers is a hardwired feature in humans that is magnified by the Internet. As soon as you ‘conquer’ one area, you immediately realize another that others surpass you in, immediately activating a vicious cycle that makes people always see a ‘better’ person.”

“People are programmed to rely on external models to inform their self-perceptions, as informed by Leon Festinger’s social comparison theory. Models for comparison can come from people real-life or media influences. All comparisons are either upward or downward depending on whether the model makes you feel superior or inferior in comparison. There are three basic motivations for self-comparison with others based on social models; self-evaluation for your relative status, self-improvement to learn how to solve a problem or improve a situation, and self-enhancement to feel better about yourself.”

Different is okay

Struggling for perfection makes people lose rational and objective grasp on their strengths and weaknesses, placing undue focus on factors for either side. Society’s perception of ideal is a mirage, as if perfect truly existed; standards would not vary through time and place. The dynamic nature of humans sees us having different opinions, priorities and needs; what pleases one may disgust another even within the same social circles. People striving to be ideal have to change themselves based on where they are and whom they’re with, creating a lot of dissatisfaction.

Women have a harder time in striving for perfection, as we are our own worst critics forgetting that even movie stars are not universally admired. Simply looking at a photograph or judging someone at first glance cannot measure personal attractiveness. Personality aspects like self-confidence, good social skills, sense of humor or being interesting also intervenes. Letting any of your assets (or lack of) define you as opposed to looking at yourself as a whole sum of parts leads to frustration. Although nature sets some constraints on what is attractive vast numbers of people fall within and will be found attractive by some people and unattractive by others. Remember this makes very little difference to the people who truly love us.

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