The Real Bodies of Instagram - In Conversation with @rbekhaj

There's nothing more empowering, liberating, and refreshing than seeing the rise of body positivity and self-love on the platform most notoriously known for its fake-it-til-you-make-it attitude. Littered with posing, teeny-tiny bikinis, and photoshopped images, Instagram is a greenhouse for growing the best possible generation of brainwashed people. However, as big-time influencers, small-time influencers, and even brands start jumping on the self-love bandwagon, Instagram is slowly but surely becoming a lot more body positive.

Admittedly, there's still need to manually filter out this fake-ness as it seems to want to stick around like a bad smell, but with more and more people latching onto the confidence to feel better about their body, ditch the face-tune, and give themselves a goddam break, day by day, we're getting closer and closer to a more real selection of bodies on Instagram.

After deciding to post a picture on Instagram of her stretch marks, lifestyle and mental health Blogger Bekah received an amazing response. Exceeding 1k likes, Bekah's image left me wondering why. Why did that image blow up? Why Bekah uploaded it in the first place? Why there's a need for this kind of content? And, why everyone wasn't posting pictures of their stretch marks too?

ALICE: You’re a brilliant mental health advocate who has previously preached the importance of self-acceptance, publishing more ‘revealing’ posts in the past...

 ...why do you think that this particular post blew up so much for you?

BECKAH: I'd say this is the rawest post I've shared in regards to my body... While I've been very open about my struggles with mental illness in the past, I haven't really shared much of the struggles I've had with loving my body.
I suppose the majority of us have stretch marks - whether they only have a few or are absolutely covered in them, it's comforting to get a visual reminder that other people have them too.

ALICE: How did you feel when hitting publish for this post? Did you expect the reception that you were going to get?

BECKAH: When I hit publish, I was nervous but I was also weirdly excited. I have ALWAYS loved seeing stretch marks on other people, I think they are so beautiful, but it's taken me much longer to see the beauty of my own. It felt strangely liberating to share the picture. Lots of lovely people reached out and said that they were grateful to see another body that looked like theirs. That made all the anxiety about posting it totally worth it! 

ALICE: Why now? Why did you feel the people of Instagram needed to see that picture at this point?

BECKAH: I think we're all learning to love our bodies and I just wanted to share my personal journey with that. I don't know about you, but I rarely see pictures of red and purple stretch marks online. While people have started sharing their gorgeous silver stretch marks, I think people are perhaps a bit more hesitant to show those raw red ones. I've had stretch marks for years, but the majority of mine have not faded to silver. I guess I just wanted to show others that you can love those more noticeable stretch marks too. 

ALICE: You said you were going to try publishing more content like this - what kind of things do you have in mind?

BECKAH: I don't really have anything planned yet. I just want to continue learning to love my body and show others that they can learn to love theirs too, no matter what they look like. I'm looking forward to sharing more of the unedited, "imperfect" parts of life and hopefully learning to love all my wobbly bits in the process. 

ALICE: Do you think there is a need/desire for these body-positive and more ‘real’ images on social media? 

BECKAH: Definitely! When our social media feeds are so often filled with filtered and 'facetuned' images, I think it's important to be raw and real. It's so easy to compare yourself to the bodies you see on Instagram and forget that they may be edited. I rarely see bodies that look like mine on Instagram, and it has definitely made me feel insecure in the past. However, since sharing that picture and receiving so many messages, I now know I'm not alone and that is a huge comfort. 

ALICE: The image blew up in a matter of hours - congratulations! Why do you think that this kind of content isn’t all over our feeds when it obviously does well?

BECKAH: Firstly, I think it's important to say that people shouldn't share this kind of content if they're only doing it in the hopes that it will gain likes and followers. That had absolutely nothing to do with why I posted my picture.
As for why it's not all over our feeds, I think it depends on who you follow. I do my best to follow a diverse range of people and as a result of that, I do follow some amazing body positive people. 
However, not everyone shares this kind of content and there is no obligation to. Being vulnerable is SCARY, and learning to love your body is a journey. I'm not 100% there yet, in fact, most days I don't really like my body, but I'm learning to. Choosing to share that post was definitely part of my self-love journey, but you don't have to share your journey online if you don't want to

ALICE: I completely love what you're saying here. I'm also on my own journey of self-acceptance right now but you don't see my Instagram flooded with images of my lumps and bumps. Why? Because I'm not ready yet. After all, this is a journey and I certainly don't love my body yet. I also completely agree with the idea of following the right people. I do try my hardest to fill my feed with images of reality and honesty.  BUT, one thing does still frustrate me. If these things are so 'normal' why is there's such a fuss about it? I guess the answer may be that while it's ordinary in terms of health and when you ask the doctor, it's not what we're used to seeing on 'successful' people.  
We're slapped with images by the media of models and athletes, people to aspire to, and over the past few generations, these people have always been thin, 'perfect' bodies. Even after the era of Marylin Monroe, the media still seemed to struggle with presenting varied beauty. Unfortunately for us, the idea of 'normal' became different in the media than what the facts gave and, as we all know, the media can effortlessly cloud over the facts and tell us what it wants to say.

ALICE: Who inspires you in the world of body confidence and self-acceptance?

BECKAH: I'd say a lot of my inspiration comes from the people I follow on Instagram! Some of my favourites to follow are @bodyposipanda,@gracefvictory@kenziebrenna@calliethorpe and @ohhhhhhhhhoney. They are all unapologetically themselves, and I love them for that! I've also recently started following Love My Chub Club - they are an Instagram account dedicated to celebrating fat bodies and I love when one of their pictures pops up on my feed. 
ALICE: Those accounts are amazing! It's so important to see many people sharing such impactful content. I'd also like to add in @chessiekingg, @em_clarkson, and @maryscupofteaa to that list as well as showing my praise to brands such as Gillette, Monki, and Dove for making it part of their mission to advertise using real women and help normalise the real normal.

There's a long way to go for Instagram, or perhaps it's at a steady level that it will now stay at. Only time will tell.

Tell me one thing you love about yourself in the comments below.

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