LIFESTYLE
07/10/2015 07:40 BST | Updated 07/10/2015 07:59 BST

'Social Media Depresses Me' - How To Stop The Internet Lowering Your Self-Esteem

Have you ever scrolled through social media and started feeling suddenly, and inexplicably bad about yourself?

You're not alone.

With countless accounts and constant access via our smartphones, we're more 'switched on' than ever - but it's also creating an epidemic of low self-esteem.

google searches

Some of the top Google searches for Instagram

New research commissioned by the Dove Self-Esteem Project shows that over one million girls in the UK are suffering from low body confidence, with two-thirds admitting they feel prettier online than in real life.

The number of girls who say social networks make them feel worse about their appearance doubles between the age of 13 to 18, with 60% of university age students admitting it negatively affects their confidence.

girls taking selfie

The research also shows social media is also used by girls for self-validation, creating a culture of chasing 'likes' to feel attractive.

The majority of girls aged 18-23 stated that they would avoid posting photos of themselves online if they didn't feel comfortable with their appearance, taking an average of 12 minutes to prepare for a single selfie.

The consequence is that their presence on social media becomes so carefully constructed that it no longer represents the reality of their actual lives.

The images we see every day play an important role in shaping the definition of beauty, so what happens when most of them are staged, filtered and edited?

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HuffPost UK Lifestyle spoke to psychologist Elaine Slater, who explained how social media is affecting our body image, and what you can do right now to combat it.

"We live in a world where appearance is chronically observed by others and over time we internalise that perspective and become observers of ourselves," she said.

"Our cultural climate promotes a belief that the body is almost infinitely modifiable. It is as if the body has become a canvas to be fixed, remade, enhanced, reshaped and updated"

Slater says that we are constantly fed images of perfection and put under pressure to achieve it.

"We spend enormous amounts of time, energy and money - then feel ashamed and guilty when we fail," she says.

"There is no way to achieve this flawless ideal because it doesn’t exist. Our sense of what’s real and what’s possible when it comes to beauty is warped by our over exposure to these images.

"Ultimately the message is you ‘should’ look like someone else. Losing our sense of individuality in this way reduces self-esteem, causes self-hatred, self-devaluation, self-loathing, insecurity, a sense of shame, increases the risk of depression and lowers body confidence."

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So what can you to to stop the negative cycle?

"In order to navigate these pressures it is helpful to become more self aware in how you think of yourself as a woman. An important question for women to ask of themselves is 'do I think I am enough as I am?'" Slater explained.

"We need to acknowledge and value what defines us as women beyond our appearance: intellect, emotional intelligence, professional success, loving relationships, creativity, capacity for empathy and compassion, resilience and strength, loyalty and leadership, kindness and love, health and fitness.

"Avoid subscribing to someone else’s reality in terms of what defines who you are as a woman - it is time to unlearn one way of being and develop another more sustainable one."

To help yourself become more self-aware, Slater recommends the use of mindfulness - which encourages focusing on the moment rather than being consumed by difficulties of the past or anxiety about the future.

"Mindfulness tunes out the white noise and allows ourselves to see the present moment clearly," she said, revealing that studies have shown the practice can actually bring about reduction in stress and improvements in mood.

"Becoming more aware of the present moment helps us understand ourselves better, allowing us to become more aware of and observe the thoughts and feelings that we experience and how at times they can negatively impact us."

Today the Dove Self-Esteem Project is launching a new #NoLikesNeeded campaign at Women in the World (8 and 9 October) to encourage girls to realise the only ‘like’ that counts is their own.

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