Not so long ago, I found myself in a funny kind of situation, but not the funny ‘haha’ kind. It was a funny, makes your insides squirm kind. And the thing was, it wasn’t the situation itself, but my reaction to it that made me feel this way.
See, I am in a Facebook group chat full of boys, because they just happen to be some of my best friends. They talk about football and send stupid memes and generally I just laugh at them. But recently, a screenshot of a girl’s Instagram picture was taken and it was sent to our chat. She was beautiful and things were said about her. Some of them nice, some of them… not so much.
You would think my immediate reaction would be to say “that’s disgusting”, or “I don’t think she asked for your opinion”, but no. For some reason, my first thought was; “Why don’t they think those things about me?” followed by “I bet no one would ever send my photo to their group chat.” And then I realised what I was saying to myself and I was horrified. I was asking to be objectified, to be sized up and approved of by some lads, like I couldn’t determine my own self-worth. That is not me, I don’t do that. I am strong and independent and above such ridiculousness.
Since that incident, I have caught myself so many times in acts of shallowness: “Christ, she got 100 likes on her Instagram, I only ever get about 30” … “I can’t believe he didn’t like my profile picture” … and I have to check myself every single time, remind myself of who I am, and what I stand for, because, it certainly isn’t this. What is it that makes me think this way? Whose approval am I seeking? Do we all feel like this? At times I feel like I’m stuck in a Louise O’Neill novel. This is the age of the selfie, the swipe right culture, the rat race for Insta-worthy ‘perfection’ and I sometimes I fear I’m going to get lost in it.
Every day, on my phone, on my laptop, on my TV, there are images of women with bronzed skin and endless legs and perfect faces. Mostly, I admire them but some days I envy them because I will never look like that. At those times, I have to remind myself that I look like me and that’s okay, because it’s just the way I’m supposed to look. I’m 5’5” and have the short legs that goes with it, my top is totally out of proportion to my bottom, I have weird slanted shoulders and tiny thumbs. I also have bright eyes and a warm smile and shiny hair. They are parts of me.
But I am more than just a collection of mismatched body parts. I am hot-headed and warm-hearted. I am brilliant at English, terrible at Maths. I’m awful at sports, yet I love my job in a sports shop. I sing in the shower, smile at babies and hug my mother constantly. I am all these things and a million more. We define ourselves and we determine our own value. We do not need to focus on physical appearance and social media popularity as the determining factors of our lives, to be decided by people on the outside looking in, even if some days it feels like that. So let go of conventions and expectations. Make mistakes, make memories and be your own person, not who you think people want you to be. Because boys will take screenshots of girls and girls will do the same to boys and they will all make comments.
They don’t decide our worth.
-By Aoife O’Donoghue