YOUNG VOICES

Teen Instagram Star Essena O'Neill Reveals She Restricted Calories And Staged Photos To Fake Perfect Life

03/11/2015 08:34 GMT | Updated 04/11/2015 09:59 GMT

From the outside, teenager Essena O'Neill looked like she had it all. Nearly 700,000 instagram followers, a quarter of a million YouTube subscribers, offers to model in LA and sponsorship opportunities.

At first, the Australian thought she had the dream life. But recently, she realised she was "addicted to what others thought of me" and felt "lost, lonely and miserable".

"I believed how many likes and followers I had correlated to how many people liked me," she explained on her new blog, 'Let's Be Game Changers'. "I didn’t even see it happening, but social media had become my sole identity. I didn’t even know what I was without it.

So, last week, the 19-year-old announced she'd be quitting social media, deleted more than 2,000 of her Instagram images which she said "served no real purpose other than self promotion" and edited the captions to tell the truth behind her "perfect photos".

O'Neill revealed even as a 15-year-old she restricted her calories and excessively exercised.

"[Those are] not goals."

The teenager is now exposing what was behind her "candid" Instagram shots - "stomach sucked in, strategic pose, pushed up boobs" - to show young people how fake social media is.

"I just want younger girls to know this isn't candid life, or cool or inspirational. It's contrived perfection made to get attention."

essena

"NOT REAL LIFE - took over 100 in similar poses trying to make my stomach look good. Would have hardly eaten that day. Would have yelled at my little sister to keep taking them until I was somewhat proud of this. Yep so totally #goals"

essena

"The only thing that made me feel good that day was this photo. How deeply depressing. Having a toned body is not all we as human beings are capable of. A photo posted by Social Media Is Not Real Life"

essena

There is nothing zen about trying to look zen, taking a photo of you trying to be zen and proving your zen on Instagram.

essena

"Edit: 'Please like this photo, I put on makeup, curled my hair, tight dress, big uncomfortable jewellery... Took over 50 shots until I got one I thought you might like, then I edited this one selfie for ages on several apps- just so I could feel some social approval from you.' THERE IS NOTHING REAL ABOUT THIS. #celebrityconstruct"

essena

Edit real caption: This is what I like to call a perfectly contrived candid shot. Nothing is candid about this. While yes going for a morning jog and ocean swim before school was fun, I felt the strong desire to pose with my thighs just apart #thighgap boobs pushed up #vsdoublepaddingtop and face away because obviously my body is my most likeable asset. Like this photo for my efforts to convince you that I'm really really hot #celebrityconstruct

essena

"PLEASE VALIDATE MY EFFORTS TO LOOK SEXY WITH MY BUM BEING THE POINT OF THIS PHOTO." I wish someone would have shook me and said "You have so much more in you than your sexuality" at 16. That was all I thought others wanted, that's what got likes, that's what I thought was cool. There is nothing cool about this. This is a photo taken for the sake of trying to get people to like a photo. There is nothing inspiring about that. Social media is an illusion. #celebrityconstruct #behindtheimage"

essena

"Edit real caption: I was 16 here. 16!!! I did not wear this outfit out of the house, just for the photo. What is the obsession with trying to look older, sexier?"

Writing on her new blog, O'Neill adds: "I had all the attention I had ever dreamed of and more. And… I had never been more miserable in my life.

"I was a living paradox of conditional self-love and constant self-hate. What do I mean by conditional self-love? I liked myself based on how tight and toned my body was, how pretty my hair and makeup was, how hot the guy I was talking to was, how happy I looked in photos, how many people liked my photos… my whole idea of self worth revolved around my appearance and my social media status. Basically, my self worth relied on social approval."

O'Neill, we salute you.