Believe that reality is malleable

Self-acceptance in times of social media

There are moments when we are at peace with ourselves and completely satisfied with our lives. These phases of self-acceptance are precious and, above all, they are rare as we live in the age of social media. Self-optimization is very popular and nasty tongues could even claim that self-acceptance went downhill when the internet was on the rise. Or rather: The social networks and here Instagram and Facebook are particularly worth mentioning. As entertaining as Instagram and Facebook may be, the visually powerful self-optimization mania that we are confronted with every day can really get us going. Whatever is being promoted online, self-acceptance is not one of them. And so Ildikó von Kürthy writes very aptly in her book "Neuland":


"It is a bad vice of our time that we believe we shouldn't stay the way we are."

How do we manage to integrate social media into our lives in such a way that it doesn't pulverize our self-esteem? We talked to Instahelp psychologist Isabelle Diwoky about it.


How can we develop self-acceptance for our own body despite Instagram?

The constant bombardment of perfectly retouched and staged models wears us down. A study by the UK's Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) found that seven out of ten users (1,500 respondents aged 14-24) felt worse after visiting Instagram. [1] In addition, what is shown to us on Instagram is rarely realistic. Author and philosopher Rebekka Reinhard states: "The chance of a young girl to look like a top model edited with Photoshop is around 0.1 percent." [2] The mind knows this and yet we try to keep up with these unattainable ideals. And feel bad when we fail. What can we do to develop more self-acceptance for our own body?

Isabelle Diwoky: With frequent, daily consumption of self-esteem-damaging media, self-acceptance becomes enormously difficult. We humans constantly compare ourselves with others. Whether online or offline, this is how we function as social beings, this is how we assess our social status. Knowing where we stand and that we are “looking good anyway” is extremely important to us. Online comparisons, however, are retouched, embellished, and only show selected parts of reality. We can still know that; a part of us that compares socially is faster than we can think and immediately feels envy of others, dissatisfaction, etc. with his (supposedly) poorer status. To increase self-acceptance, it is important to create opportunities for yourself often enough to compare yourself in reality (live) with real people instead of with online self-marketing products.

How malleable is the personality?

The idea that the body can be brought into shape with exercise, dieting or cosmetic surgery as the mood takes you is widespread. In the meantime, however, it is also about personality. It seems as if it were made of plasticine that it can be shaped as desired. And in the endeavor to become funnier, more quick-witted or more courageous, we rely on coaching, advisory literature and much more. - always driven by fluffy Instagram slogans and motivating quotes. The question arises: How changeable is the personality anyway? Can we really just get out of our skin and what do these Instagram sayings do to us?

Isabelle Diwoky: The personality cannot be shaped at will, but it is also not a rigid construct. Everyone has several options for reacting, depending on the situation, emotional state, etc. In your job you have a different role to play than in your private life, to play a different role with friends than with your in-laws. Switching between these different roles is something most people master without thinking about it. On the Internet, e.g. on Instagram or other social media networks, it's a completely different thing than presenting yourself live. It takes a lot of time to look for quotes etc. on the Internet - but posting a funny, quick-witted or clever quote is only partially a sign of personality or your own creativity, but mostly about being able to copy and paste. This should be kept in mind with creeping inferiority complexes.

Live your best self: how much self-optimization is healthy?

In the age of social media, self-optimization is a bigger issue than self-acceptance. Now, trying to become a better version of yourself is not wrong per se. We need challenges and those who only stay in the comfort zone will never be able to surpass themselves. But how do we notice that the normal level has been exceeded and that we are becoming obsessed with self-optimization?

Isabelle Diwoky: Self-optimization is undeniably a big driver of our time. Live better, faster, healthier, more paced, no time for apparently useless breaks. But research has also come to the fore that this way of life can only be sustained to a limited extent. People who don't take the time to "hang out uselessly" are more at risk of eventually suffering from mental illness. It might help to know that most people with an intensive lifestyle do take breaks of several days in between, during which they do nothing “useful”, but hang out in bed or on the couch, watch TV, play on the computer ... - but afterwards simply not talk about. Because it doesn't fit the image of the thoroughly self-optimizing person that they have of themselves and want to show to the outside world. And because they are embarrassed.

Is self-acceptance a question of age?

One might think that self-acceptance increases with age and that the need for self-optimization will eventually come to an end. In the meantime, however, the "new old" have become idols. Women like Iris Apfel (95), who became a style icon when she was over 80 years old. Or the Rolling Stones, which prove that with well over 70 you still fill concert halls and are by no means old-fashioned. The question arises: does that never stop?

Isabelle Diwoky: To increase self-acceptance, to increase acceptance in general, to integrate experiences, to create an overall package so that one can say that despite everything one had a good or meaningful life overall - that is a developmental task of old age. It is no small, easy task to get a good degree, to find the meaning in the whole and to accept: That was it, that was my life. It's going to end soon. I did these things, not these.

To find out from people of older age who do not deal with these “classic” development tasks, do not retire or are sent, but continue to do “their thing” - can and may - can of course be irritating. Especially when they are acclaimed and become idols of the younger generations. Of course, this also gives life a lot of meaning, much more easily than when you have to laboriously search for it in the past. And you accept yourself very well by just sticking to what you can and like.

Your personal strategy for dealing with social media with a cool head?

Isabelle Diwoky: Social media has a wide spectrum. While I like to get information in forums with limited content, use wikis, podcasts and webinars as great aids to learn something, and include review portals in purchasing decisions, I personally have little to gain from social networks, which are mainly used for self-presentation. I don't pursue this hobby.


Photo credits:


[1] Royal Society For Public Health: (08.08.18 )
[2] Rebekka Reinhard: Schön !, Ludwig Buchverlag (2013)