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It’s hard to talk about the ever-present issue of body image in millennials without highlighting the role of social media in this epidemic. The rise of social media has unfortunately brought with it a rise of hysteria over what the “perfect” body should look like and how we can achieve it.
It is nearly impossible to go on Instagram these days without seeing a picture of someone else’s body that makes you feel bad about your own. We are constantly bombarded with images that, for whatever reason, are presented to be the ideal and something we are supposed to be striving for, even if that particular image is unrealistic for our body type.
Millennials, in particular, are growing up with this use of social media and are therefore more prone to losing themselves to the mass frenzy of body comparisons and negative self-talk. Somehow, it’s become “cool” to put ourselves down and to self-deprecate because, otherwise, you are labeled as being “cocky” or “full of yourself.”
Others can compliment you, but you really aren’t allowed to compliment yourself in a public manner. But, conversely, you are also supposed to have positive self-talk and be your own best friend and cheerleader.
How can we possibly do all of these things at the same time? The answer is, we can’t. And this leads to many body image and confidence issues among this generation.
The issue of comparison is one that is dominant in Millennials. There is always something better, or something we are supposed to be striving for or trying to emulate. Take dating apps, for example. There are a million different options on there, and there’s this idea that if something doesn’t work out, there is always another fish in the sea.
Well, yes, maybe there is. But what is this idea doing to us? It is making everyone feel inadequate, or that they are not enough. According to Remington Layne,  “Our generation has become so fixated on what the perfect body type actually comes down to because they need a standard. They need to compare. They need absolute verification as to what they should be striving for.”
The body image conundrum is something like a report card. It has become a marker of whether we are “successful” or not in the eyes of society. If being “thin” or “fit” is the ideal, then what does it say about you if you are not either of those things? Are you supposed to feel badly about it?
The statistics on how the issue of body image is impacting Millennials is astounding and incredibly tragic. According to High Performance Consultancy,  “Millennials could be guilty of prioritizing their appearance over work as a study has found that two-thirds of the age group would exchange a 20% pay cut for the perfect body. Young women are seven times more likely to worry about their figure than their career, and 17% of millennials have received comments about their weight from a colleague.”
Now, not only is the upcoming generation incredibly focused on body image, but they are actually prioritizing it over their careers. As sad as it is, in the world in which we live, it somehow makes sense-as much as it should not be this way-that some millennials care more about how they look then what they are achieving in the workplace. Why? Because it has become something of an achievement to look a certain way. It has become something of a marker for success.
So, what can we do? Well, what is happening is that we are losing sight of what really makes someone successful and beautiful. We are focusing only on the very surface level and neglecting to highlight all of the many other aspects that make a person beautiful. Furthermore, we need to learn to love ourselves again.
The world of Social Media brings with it so much hate and adversity that we are moving so far away from love, which is what we need as human beings deep down. According to Jules Schroeder, , “Relieving the pressure of body image starts by loving yourself. When you love yourself by loving what you are creating in the world, you can overcome any adversity.”
When we can take a step back from the glossy magazine covers and highlight reels that are Instagram posts, we can return to our own realities and become more attune to ourselves again. And this attunement can lead to self-love and self-care, and less pressure on comparisons and how to achieve some sort of “ideal.”
The world in which we live does, unfortunately, make it incredibly challenging to love ourselves. We are taught to pick ourselves apart, look for flaws, and make changes accordingly.
The most effective thing we can do to return to a place of self-love and confidence is to turn inward and remind ourselves of our strengths and the things we do love about ourselves. Once we can do this, we can bring these strengths into the world, and with that comes confidence and overall a sense of pride in who we are.
Sources: Layne, Remington. Body Image and the General Obsession with It. (2016). https://www.theodysseyonline.com/the-millennial-obsession-with-body-image  High Performance Consultancy. Curves Over Career. (2017). http://www.highperformanceconsultancy.com/2020/02/14/valentines-day-in-the-workplace/  Schroeder, Jules. One Millennial’s Open Conversation About Body Image as an Actress Turned Health Coach. (April 25, 2016). https://www.forbes.com/sites/julesschroeder/2016/04/25/one-millennials-open-conversation-about-body-image-as-an-actress-turned-health-coach/#550725fa5399
About the Author:
Emma Demar, LMSW is a therapist at Intrinpsych Woman on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. She holds an LMSW from Fordham University and holds a BA in Creative Writing from Trinity College. Emma recently completed a 2-Year Fellowship at Intrinpsych where she was expertly trained in Eating Disorders and DBT.
She uses a holistic approach in working with her patients, drawing from her background in Psychodynamic, CBT, and DBT, and she likes to begin where the client is and work from a strengths-based perspective. She specializes in Eating Disorders, OCD and related mental health disorders. Emma uses a direct, honest and open approach in working with her patients, who are generally women ages 12 to 32. She freelance writes for various mental health websites, and she blogs on her own website, thattrendytherapist.com.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Reviewed & Approved on February 28, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC
Published February 28, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com