It’s hard being a young girl these days. Someone always has a better instagram than you, with more pictures of green detox smoothies that have more likes than your profile has put together. It seems that everyone else is exercising more, is doing better career wise than you, and has perfect hair while they do it.
Like many girls, I grew up influenced by beauty vloggers. As a 13 year old I was engrossed by glamorous American teens who used their seemingly bottomless piggy banks to buy high-end beauty products. I owe a lot to them, and nights spent amusing myself with terrible blue eye shadows as I learned how to define my crease (after learning what a crease actually was) is probably the reason I can pull off a basic smoky eye today. This was back in the days when internet fame was a new invention, and instagram didn’t even exist.
Fast forward to 2016 and “ordinary” beauty bloggers have more influence on teenagers than pop stars. You feel like you know them – that they are real people doing normal things, but just that tiny bit better than you.
Recommending beauty products has turned into recommending the perfect lifestyle. Recently I came across a video titled “Hangover Routine! Recovery, Beauty & Food!” by Youtuber Ingrid Nilsen. Even in your most fragile state, you are expected to spend hundreds on cleansing oils, eye masks, and £37 “Daily Reviving Concentrate”, whatever that means. Girls-who-have-it-together don’t eat greasy hangover food – they instead whip up wholemeal toast, avocado, smoked salmon and poached eggs. They spend over a fiver on green juices, which probably cost more than the wine you drank the night before. Although I really admire Ingrid and think she sends out a really positive message in a lot of her videos, the culture of life routine advice really gets me down. Beauty vloggers like Zoella have stopped being just another girl writing about her favourite drugstore mascaras, and have become a successful brand, surviving on appearing to have a great life, while trying to sell you the products to do it. We have become so obsessed with every tiny detail of our idols, with platforms like the ‘Kim Kardashian West Official App’ letting us access every facet of their personal lives – all the while earning money from our interest.
It’s easy to feel guilty. You only need to follow a few vegan instagrams before you question every meal you make. Your tuna sandwich with a bit of salad suddenly looks pale in comparison to an Acai protein smoothie bowl. You feel good after going for a run, before you see someone’s status about their 4 hour gym session.
A recent Tab article titled “Girls who have it together: Who are they and how do they do it?” referred to these seemingly perfect humans as “another species” and basically begged these elusive girls to step forward and teach us mere mortals their ways. Putting certain people on a pedestal just because they have chic outfits is unhealthy, and can cause feelings of unworthiness. And all because your daily bedtime routine involves Poundland baby wipes instead of 3 different types of cleanser – and who can afford that on a student budget?
We need to remember that everyone is still a person. No one looks good all the time, and that’s ok. There is always a story behind the façade. The girl with perfect contour might be self conscious from having bad skin, or the fitness addict might have a problematic relationship with food. When someone said to me “you do so much and put the rest of us to shame, how do you fit everything in?” I thought about the image I present to the world. Sure, I write articles, am involved in quite a few university societies and appear to dream my life away in coffee shops on my instagram. But no one sees my permanently messy room or the amount of naps I take in one day (answer: a lot.) Girls who have their lives together simply don’t exist outside of the internet.
Recently there has been progress. Model Stina Sanders (@stinasanders) started sharing less-than glamorous pictures of her life, including ones of her hungover and makeup free, or captions like “I have spots and eczema and I’m sweating because I’ve had four cups of coffee in the space of an hour.” Sure she may have lost followers because of it, but it was a small step to admitting that even models aren’t perfect!
There’s nothing wrong with looking up to someone for their fashion taste, or being inspired by their lifestyle. Equally it’s not a crime to only post positive. However it’s important to remember that instagram or blogs, like everything, only show one side of the story. It’s good to try to be healthy and eat well, but no-one is expecting you to have a perfect workout routine or survive purely on eating plants. Vive la révolucion of not bothering to take your make-up off after a night out and having a sausage butty the day after. Nobody is perfect, and the sooner we start admitting that, the happier we’ll all be.
Beth Hurst should be reading for her English Literature and Creative Writing degree at the University of Warwick, but is probably watching Suits. She enjoys green tea, tap dancing and things that glitter.