Why does my mirror think I'm ugly?

Maleika’s story 

Hello, I am Maleika, 21 years old and I would like to share my story with you today. I am in fact a very happy, cheerful and exuberant personality. I love being around people, going out, partying, just enjoying life. However, since about half a year now, this has changed drastically. Until recently, I was even of the opinion that it was my own fault, that I had simply gone crazy….  

What is my problem?   
My body! Well, that’s not quite true either, actually the perception of my body which has changed dramatically over the past year. 

I had always been a slim and athletic girl and had never worried about how I looked, whether I was too fat or whatever. I was happy and content the way I was. But that changed very quickly and unfortunately I can’t say exactly when it started. At some point during the lockdown, I started to constantly observe myself in the mirror, to get on the scales several times a day and to think about what healthy food I could eat.   

I started hating my body.   
“My belly isn’t flat enough, I don’t like my legs at all and let’s not even talk about my butt.” I started putting pressure on myself and doing home workouts every day. I constantly googled for healthy recipes and thought three times about everything I wanted to eat, whether I really needed it or whether I should perhaps do without it. Every day was torture. I was under so much pressure that I felt I couldn’t cope any more.   

Suddenly everything was black.   
It’s been about a month now since I had my breakdown. Before that, I always thought that I was the problem, that there was something wrong with me. Slowly, however, I have begun to understand that I am not sick or crazy, but that I have developed an unhealthy behaviour.    

I have been using social media since I was 15 or 16.   
Back then I started with Facebook, but now I also use Instagram and Snapchat. Before the pandemic, I had hardly used it at all. Once in a while to see what my friends from school days were doing or to connect with new people while travelling. During the lockdown, I started to discover the Instagram world for myself. It was also a very good way to pass the time, with exciting and cool content constantly being suggested to me. Since I didn’t have much else to do anyway, I liked to spend my time on the “Explore” feed. Some days even up to six hours. I never thought I’d spend so much time on it. For some time now I’ve been tracking this and I’m sad to admit that it’s much more than I would have ever estimated.   

For two weeks now, I’ve been in therapy.   
Unfortunately, I can’t tell you yet whether the whole thing will help me, but I can tell you what I have learned. Looking at my Explore feed now, I can understand more and more how it happened that I feel this way.   

As I’ve learned, Instagram is like a different world to us.  
It’s a world we can explore and experience just like the real world. The problem, however, is that we are led to believe that it is a representation of reality. I somehow had the feeling that everyone has a perfect life despite the difficult circumstances. On the one hand, they all look so sporty and attractive and on the other hand, everything seems to be going as planned in their lives.   

I have always liked to compare myself with others.   
Comparing myself with others always taught me something new and also gave me strength and self-confidence. My therapist thinks that it is precisely this urge to compare that has now been my undoing. I didn’t stop comparing myself during the lockdown, but started playing this game in a distorted reality. What that did to me, and especially how quickly it happened, simply shocked me. Moreover, I still have frequent moments when I feel I’m not good enough, I don’t live up to the ideal and it feels like I’ve failed at everything.  

My advice for you.   
Please be careful with the content you consume and also the amount of time you spend on social media. For me, I didn’t notice the change at all, it felt like I suddenly became unhappy. My therapist says that this is often a gradual process that happens mostly unconsciously.   

Never lose sight of the real world!