Health experts have blamed social media for a worrying new trend that has seen a woman’s impulse to criticise their own body increase exponentially.
A survey of 2,000 British women found that one in seven were harshly critical of themselves frequently over the course of the day.
The self-judgements usually resolved around appearance and weight. Shockingly, some of the women surveyed admitted that they begin criticising themselves as soon as the day starts, with around half the group having a judgemental thought about themselves before 9:30 am.
Louise Adams, a Sydney psychologist behind Treat Yourself Well, said that women were not always aware that the negative thoughts they had about themselves were so damaging. In fact, she said that many of her clients didn’t see their personal criticisms as self-judgements at all, but rather as the truth.
It’s scary stuff, and hard to avoid according to Adams. In particular, she describes the dissatisfaction that a woman has with her looks as an incessant nagging voice that harasses them “from the moment they open their eyes and think about what they’re going to wear”.
Our Favourite Self-Hates
We’re all individuals, and yet, when it comes to the things we criticise ourselves about, patterns are as clear as day. Weight came in at the top of the list of what we judge ourselves on, followed by our appearance, our career, our financial situation and our relationships.
In a compiled list of the 20 most common criticisms that women surveyed gave, body image issues relating to size and appearance took up several of the top spaces. These include lines like “you’re too fat”, “your belly looks big”, “you don’t do enough exercise” and “your bum looks big”. Women also reported that they judge themselves critically when they think they can’t pull off certain outfits, when they feel underdressed in a group of women, when they don’t wear enough makeup, and when they aren’t as photogenic as their peers.
No Compliments Here
It’s hard to imagine a world without compliments, but of the women surveyed, two-fifths admitted that they never complimented themselves on an average day. They consider their self-judgements to be a normal part of their lives, and yet almost 90% of the respondents said they wouldn’t criticise others in the same way they judge themselves.
So what’s causing women to be so dissatisfied with who they are, what they look like, and how they compare to others?
It’s no surprise that social media is at the centre.
Adams said that the way the media has latched onto “body perfection” as the ultimate goal, along with a built-in tendency to self-judge has left woman powerless against their own self-hate.
“We not have a whole new way of being in a world that’s even more focused on appearance all the time,” she said.
She also warned that a tendency towards self-criticism could be damaging to your everyday life, because women who were harshly critical of themselves tended to also skip social events, avoid shopping for clothes, and even sabotage their own love lives and relationships. Adams also drew attention to the strongly established link between self-judgement and eating disorders.
Silencing Your Inner Critic
For both men and women, it’s hard to silence that little voice inside their head that tells us we aren’t good enough, but there are always ways. One of the first suggestions according to Adams is to have a social media detox. Avoid Facebook, Instagram and even celebrity news to avoid the expectations and stereotypes, instead, focusing on a healthier you. In particular, it’s important to target those negative thoughts and criticisms, reframing them in a positive way.
“It takes work, first you have to recognise how you’re talking to yourself and recognise it as judgment, and then push back on it with a voice that’s calmer and caring,” she said.
“It’s about getting out of what’s like an abusive relationship with yourself, and becoming your own best friend.”
At the end of the day, using social media as a base for your perception of the world is doomed to fail. Social media is all about what people see, not what actually is, and reality is never as glossy or perfect as the magazines would have us believe.