Rachel, a 19 year old college student from Rhode Island, has an atypical approach to body positivity and its connection to social media. Rachel is currently studying to be an elementary education teacher, and is employed as a kid’s gymnastic coach. She is also a semi professional dancer and loves her body, in which she says, “I work really really hard to stay fit and look the way I do, but to everyone else being thin is easy, lucky, and I should not flaunt it.”
As a student and a gymnastic coach, it is hard for Rachel to find time or reason to dress up everyday, therefore opting for the always popular jeans or leggings with a t-shirt or casual blouse. “I am really excited to become a teacher when I will get to dress up everyday” she exclaims, envisioning her future happily, although reinforcing that she does feel most confident in skirts or dresses. She quips, “ it just makes me happy and feel good, and when you look good you feel good, and when you feel good you perform better!”
Makeup is a tool that many love, many hate, and many just do not care about. Rachel is apart of the in-between, but is slowly trying to branch out of her comfort zone. While most days she does not wear any makeup, she has seen trends regarding new highlighting techniques that has caught her eye. Rachel gives the credit to social media, especially famous instagram accounts for the new interest.
Although she is proud of the skin she is in, Rachel is one of many young women who battle with comparing herself to others, not only in person, but within the social media world as well. She uses Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat- all of which share photos, and she is “very active” across the platforms.
Not one to go with the status quo, Rachel uses her social media accounts to connect with the people in her life who are long distance, like her friends who moved away for college or her extended family, and not so much for the popularity aspect. Emphasizing that her presence across the various platforms is not related to her confidence whatsoever, Rachel does include that the type of content, and not so much the number of likes or comments that other people post affects her mood. “Sometimes what people post on Facebook can get me fired up about a cause or problem, especially if it relates to me”.
While straying from internet for a moment, Rachel describes her idea of beauty as, “feeling happy and confident being yourself.” Right after this, she realizes that real life and idealistic feelings are two very different things.
“Of course my idea of beauty is skewed…I am not above anyone and I am not going to say that growing up in this society has not shaped my view of “pretty”- of course it has. It has done that to everyone.“
Just as her current interest in highlighter is taking her time now, Rachel remembers times when other’s actions on their accounts have pressured her to change her appearance. However, she does not feel that is is necessarily a negative part of the social network.
“I have fallen for a few fads…It is just influencing me to explore some new horizons.”
Even through the stress of dealing with what is in the magazines and on her news feed, Rachel perseveres onward and rating her confidence a solid 8 on a scale of 1-10. For her, the real issue is not with social media or the glitz and glam of photos, but rather the ever present problem with casting calls. The biggest factor in her level of confidence stems from her life as a performer.
“I tend to be hard on my self in regards to performance. As a dancer and performer, we are compared to everyone based on looks, so not getting cast in something can really mess with your head. You never know why so its easy to just assume its because the way you look.”
Where the usual response to her final comment is reversed, Rachel reveals that being her confident self has caused some outrage among her circle of friend groups. She goes so far as to say that she has been bullied for being so skinny and fit.
“Most people do not believe that skinny girls have a right to talk about beauty and confidence. But I have been shamed so many times because I am thin. I have felt like I could not wear crop tops or exposing outfits because I would have gotten tormented for showing too much.”