Think of your most ambitious dream, your deepest desire… Is it having a smoothie for breakfast? Is it spending hours in front of a gym mirror? Is it obsessing over taking the perfect selfie?
So, if these things aren’t our true desires, then why have they become our #goals?
With over 32 million posts on Instagram using #goals, it’s fair to say that this unavoidable trend is worth taking a deeper look at.
Three of the most common kinds of posts that you find under this seemingly positive hashtag are: “Before and After” fitness transformation photos, flawless makeup selfies, and super healthy food and lifestyle posts.
Health, beauty, and fitness. What’s wrong with any of that?
Well, the problem is not these individuals’ unbelievable transformations, commendable makeup efforts, or impressive commitments to healthy eating. The problem is that we have become obsessed with comparing our lives, appearances, and personal achievements to those that we see being glorified online every day.
We want to be healthy, beautiful and fit, and to lead exciting lives, but what we forget is that these things are all relative. An exercise regime may be effective, but not healthy for you; a meal plan may be healthy, but not practical for you; a makeup routine may be too expensive and time consuming for you. There’s nothing wrong with any of that; people are different, and we all have different needs. Focus on how best to care for yourself, not how to replicate what other people are doing for themselves.
Basing our #goals on wishing we were more like other people – whom we usually don’t even know – and less like ourselves, leads us to be unappreciative of what we have and who we are; we devalue our own lives. This is down to the fact that we are so easily consumed by the things that social media tells us (and shows us) that we’re lacking, and by the pressure this creates to abandon who we are to meet “Instaspectations” – unattainable standards of beauty and lifestyle that are encouraged online.
Dangerous consequences can follow from detaching ourselves from real life, in pursuit of the #goals life. Our views of ourselves and others become distorted along the way, which creates a breeding ground for depression, eating disorders, and other serious mental illnesses that thrive off dissatisfaction and obsession with unrealistic #goals.
What was once seen as an inspiring transformation is now a painful reminder of our imperfections.
What was once a refreshing photo of nutritious food is now a trigger for our calorie obsessions.
What was once a motivational fitness post is now another reason to punish ourselves for not having willpower.
What was once our #goals is now the reason we can’t look at ourselves in the mirror and love the person who’s looking back.
A perfect makeup selfie looks effortless, but the photo will have been subject to filters, great lighting and Photoshop, and hours would have been spent on perfecting the look and judging countless other selfies that didn’t end up cutting it.
Transformation photos do not tell you the whole story. Emotional battles, neglecting friends and family, punishment for setbacks, physical pain from overexercising, and other dark moments, are completely hidden behind the winning smile of the skinnier, fitter “After”.
Those who make smoothies and stick to meal plans every day, and go to yoga classes every week may not have a social life or genuine friendships in the real world. It’s heart-breaking that this fake world of social media can have such a real impact on our lives.
Thankfully though, more and more people are realising the damaging impact of social media’s unreachable standards and are trying to undo it. A trend that is currently supporting this positive change is #30secondtransformations, which involves people posting a typical Instagram-worthy photo of their bodies next to an unedited, unposed one, to remind people that all is not as it seems on social media.
Ultimately, we know that behind the filters and away from the front cameras of our iPhones, nobody has a perfect life. Even the people that we’ve placed on pedestals don’t live up to the #goals that we associate with them. The challenge is to remember this when we’re scrolling through our feeds bombarded with apparent perfection. It’s good to have goals, but don’t let them take over your life!
Let us know what you think by commenting below!
Words: Danielle Wing
Hashtags: #goals #selfie #mentalhealth #selflove