The Offices of Jessica C. Sullivan LCSW, PLLC

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We live in a time where we are never truly alone. Our friends’ lives are constantly flowing through the apps on our phones, influencers are always advertising the best new trends, and there is no way to escape the pressure of comparing yourself to others. Growing up in the era of social media leads to the pressure to conform while also being thrown into the process of figuring out who you are and what you stand for. 

Many individuals struggle with creating a social media platform to project who they think they should be while not cultivating who they actually are. The more that individuals are encouraged by likes and follows to continue projecting this idealized identity, the less confident they feel about themselves, leading to an increase in depression and a decrease in self-esteem. 

Many people use social media as a way to feel less lonely, but as soon as they exit the app or website they feel more isolated than before. This is because creating friendships and important connections requires some risk-taking and honesty, both of which are harder to do  and convey through the separation provided by screens. Learning to disagree with others is an important aspect to forming your own opinions and identity, and natural and healthy disagreements and arguments are easily avoidable online. 

Our society is one that encourages all individuals, but mostly girls and women, to constantly compare themselves to others and to the idealized concepts of having the perfect body, nicest clothes, and coolest friend groups. If a young girl has grown up with social media present in her life, she is conditioned to seek acceptance from her peers through likes and followers even if it means presenting herself as a different person than she really is. Constantly comparing yourself to others and trying to be like them is mentally draining and any successes  in doing so are usually impermanent. 

It is easy to be caught up in the excitement and short-lived confidence boosts of social media. It is also easy for these same platforms to aid in implementing poor body image, feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety within the same individuals. So, how can you keep yourself from getting caught up in the idealized conceptions of perfection and happiness? 

Setting time aside every day for doing activities offline can help you figure out what you like to do without the pressures of seeing what all of your peers online may think. This offscreen time can be really beneficial if you use it to spend time alone. The old cliche is true; before you can be a good friend or partner, you have to be able to befriend yourself. Since we are always a few taps away from reaching out to people online, we aren’t used to being alone with our own thoughts, but being alone with your thoughts is exactly how you can figure out who you are when there is no pressure to be anyone else. 

Give yourself time to make decisions. In the present day, it is common to feel pressure to respond to others immediately, but this doesn’t give us enough time to actually think about the decisions that we are making. It’s also important to be comfortable with saying no to others. Don’t agree to things solely because other people want you to, but choose to do it because it feels correct to you and fits with your values and morals. 

The hardest barrier to overcome is letting go of our dependencies on others and focusing on doing things to please ourselves. By being unapologetically yourself, standing up for the ideas you believe in even if they go against what your peers say, and learning to be content alone you will feel happier and attract other individuals who want to see you be yourself instead of those who want to pressure you to be someone else. 

– Haidyn Emmerich
Nourish Your Mind Blog Contributor
Neuroscience & Psychology Student – Syracuse University
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