Do you love yourself? Of course you do! If a quick scroll through Instagram is to be believed, we’re entering a new age of body acceptance, self care, and personal love that makes all women want to share how awesome they are (#selflove)! While we often take to social media, espousing this idea of loving ourselves, both inside and out, is it truly a reflection of how we feel in our skin? In an age where social media allows us to constantly compare ourselves with one another, are we really happy with our bodies? Is it possible to ever honestly love ourselves?
To glean some answers, I spoke with Dr. Deepika Chopra, Optimism Doctor, professional psychologist, wellness media expert, and founder of Things Are Looking Up, about women’s happiness with themselves. With a doctorate in clinical health psychology she’s been studying the science behind happiness, optimism, and resiliency for over a decade. Combining holistic and scientific medicine, she works towards finding a way to cultivate hope, happiness, and optimism through her research.
So… are we as happy with ourselves as our Instagram claims? Not exactly.
“According to recent statistics, women’s happiness has been declining for the past 30 or so years and we know that women are twice as likely to experience depression compared to men,” Dr. Chopra explains.
“Women experience societal pressures to ‘have it all’ while also historically being somewhat disadvantaged. I think it is amazing that we are living in a time where we are awake and empowered to go after all the things we want, however, we have been sold this idea that we can have it all and all at once — and that is just untrue.” She notes that social media highlight reels further this disparity between what we expect and what we actually have, and this divide is further detrimental to our happiness.
“I recently read a statistic that approximately 90% of American women are unhappy with their bodies and body image, and only 5% of women naturally possess the desirable body type often portrayed by American media,” Dr. Chopra says. “It’s really tough; we were already in a place where we were inundated with unrealistic body image ideals by print and televised advertising and now it has been taken a step further by social media.”
Following body positive accounts can make a large difference in the way we view ourselves… but even these are not without flaws.
To give your mental faculties a break, Dr. Chopra recommends going outside, trying a new hobby, and giving yourself the time and space to find what truly brings you happiness. Sign up for an archery class. Take up scrapbooking. What did you love to do as a kid before social media swallowed up your free time?
As easy as it is to point fingers, social media isn’t entirely to blame. Women have had body issues long before double tapping was a thing.
In Instagram’s defense, there are body positive movements that are trying to pave the way for self acceptance and love. “I do believe that a shift has been brewing and people are sharing more transparently, or at least making the attempt to,” notes Dr. Chopra. “Doing what I do, I absolutely believe in the ability to shift mindset and make real belief change from a neurological standpoint. I believe in hope and resiliency and I don’t believe it is easy or immediate. This kind of real lasting change from the brain level takes real work and mental fitness and investment. Once you redefine what self happiness and fulfillment means to you and you are willing to roll up your sleeves and put the work in, you are truly capable of creating a new belief — one that is rooted in love and appreciation for who you are and the body you are in.”
So do you love yourself? If you answered that question with hesitation, you are not alone. Looking in the mirror and absolutely loving the person you are takes time — it can’t be fixed with a hashtag or a weekend yoga retreat. “The goal is to always be able to find hope and resiliency… to connect to other humans in a meaningful way and feel supported, to practice gratitude, to notice and give light and energy to what brings you joy,” explains Dr. Chopra. “I believe that is happiness.”
Marissa Stempien is a freelance editor and writer that spends way too much time on Instagram. With a degree in English Literature and a minor in Asian Studies, she has written on travel, fashion, beauty, technology, culture, and food, and enjoys writing short stories in her spare time. Find her on social media at @paperandlights.