I've always had a love-hate relationship with social media, especially Instagram. On a positive note, the platform allows you to connect with likeminded people, get inspired, and scroll for a few minutes (OK, hours) through hilarious yet relatable memes. On the other end of the spectrum, it can bring out your deepest insecurities, incite constant comparison, and mess with your confidence. This is what we need to stop, or, at the very least, we need to remind people that what they see is a carefully curated feed of edited, filtered pictures. In other words, it’s not real life. I think this is especially important to remember when it comes to body image, specifically the unrealistic “#bodygoals” we place on ourselves based on the media we consume. I know that I’ve been guilty of putting myself down after scrolling through the black hole that is the discover page on Instagram, stumbling upon picture after picture of modelesque women with abs for days. What’s funny is that I don’t open the app feeling insecure about my weight, it’s only after I’m exposed to the saturation of photoshopped, unrealistic images that I start to nitpick myself. I start to only focus on why I don’t have a certain body type instead of loving what I was given, and more importantly, loving what makes me, me.
I still remember when I first became aware of my body issues and started to perceive my weight in a negative way. I was around 11 or 12 when I looked in the mirror one day and was unhappy with what I saw reflected back: No thigh gap, untoned arms, a soft stomach — in my pre-teen mind the list could go on. It didn’t help that around the same time I was feeling insecure, my friends were too, and soon it became all we talked about. We would say things like “I’m so fat. I need to stop eating so much,” so often that we would feel the need to religiously repeat this after meals or whenever we bought anything from a school bake sale. Looking back, I wish we had just enjoyed our lunches spent together and just ate the damn brownies — sans complaining. But it’s hard to break from this type of mindset, especially at a young age, when the image of the “perfect” body, or what the media perceives it to be, is so deeply ingrained in us. The lack of body diversity in television, magazines, and films is an issue that’s really not that difficult to solve: Represent all body types in the media. Full stop. There is progress being made with outspoken models and actors who are paving the way for body inclusivity — like Ashley Graham, Melissa McCarthy, and Mindy Kaling — but more needs to be done so that young, impressionable girls and boys grow up with a positive image of what a healthy body looks like instead of the “ideal” one you feel pressured to achieve. On top of that, we need to remind ourselves and the people around us that we are so much more than our weight and our complex personalities far exceed what a scale says.
Enter Jameela Jamil. I know, I know. You’re probably thinking “how does the extremely talented, hilarious star of The Good Place, and person that I wish was my real-life bestie fit into all of this?” It may seem random, but I promise it’s not a bunch of bullshirt. (Side note: the puns and censored curse words in The Good Place are used masterfully, and if you haven’t seen the show, for forking sake please do.) It was my obsession with Jameela’s character, Tahani, that introduced me to the actress and ultimately led to stalking searching for her Instagram page. On it, I was inspired by the number of posts that featured lengthy captions detailing Jamil’s frustration with everything from photoshop to harassment to political issues. I also discovered that the actress had another Instagram page, @i_weigh, an account that focused on celebrating women’s achievements over valuing what their figures look like. The idea for the social media movement was fueled by a post that Jamil saw on her Instagram feed: A picture of the Kardashian family with their weights placed next to each member. Needless to say, it infuriated her. Taking matters into her own hands, Jameela posted a picture of herself and wrote out qualities that she valued about her life: her job, friends, financial independence. Through this, the actress demonstrated that the healthiest way to "weigh" your self-worth is to remind yourself of the features in your life you are most proud of. With it came a ripple effect of other women sending Jamil similar posts, ultimately creating “I Weigh.” And with over 1,000 posts and 48,000 followers, it appears that the movement isn’t going anywhere.
Around the same time that I discovered the “I Weigh” account, I was coming to a self-realization about the way I talked about my own body. My relationship with my figure has improved a lot from my 11-year-old self who used to criticize her curves in the mirror, but I still get insecure every so often. What I wasn’t aware of until recently was the way I talked about my body when I was around other people. It wasn’t until someone pointed out to me that I talked about my weight a lot in passing conversation that I realized it was a go-to topic for me. Because that’s what I was accustomed to. I was so used to constantly feeling like I had to put myself down to justify a slice of cake or an extra piece of pizza that I didn’t even know I was part of the problem. By talking about my body in a negative way, I was perpetuating the stigma of shaming oneself to warrant “bad” eating behaviors. I instantly felt guilty because I wondered what would have happened if a young boy or girl overheard me speak this way. Would that influence them to adapt that same behavior? That wasn’t the example I wanted to set. Which is why I’m grateful that I found the community of women on “I Weigh.” People of all races, sexualities, and backgrounds are erasing the idea that our value is based on our weight. Instead, these women are celebrating their achievements, imperfections, highs and lows.
I don’t think I’ll ever be at a point where I 100% love my body. And that’s okay. As long as I’m happier with who I am as a person, I know I’ll be fine. And whenever I find myself scrolling through Instagram and those insecure thoughts start to creep up, I’ll remember the inspirational community on “I Weigh,” Jameela’s general badass attitude towards weight, and my own values. Social media can have a positive impact, you just need to know the right people to follow. And, now that I’m not concerning myself with insecurities regarding my weight, I have all that extra time to rewatch The Good Place. You should too.