Is social media destroying your self esteem?

Katie Thistleton

Do you look at pictures on the net and feel a teensy bit inadequate? CBBC presenter Katie Thistleton is launching a war on selfies... here's why!

I've just turned 27, but I'm a teenage girl at heart. My two best friends are 19, I have teenage nieces and nephews and thanks to my job as a CBBC presenter, I'm always meeting young girls who come over to chat to me when they see me in public or comment on my pictures on social media.

Because of this, I'm lucky enough to still be 'down with kids', I'm an expert in all things that are goals, turn't up and on fleek. My phone's autocorrect function no longer recognises the word 'bae' as a spelling mistake, my mind conjures up a hashtag for every scenario, and I have enough selfies in my phone to rival Kim K.

At the same time, now that I've officially left my 'mid-twenties' and entered (shock horror) my late-twenties, I've also been there and done that when it comes to that age-old thing us women love to do - hate our bodies.

I've been the tween crying in the mirror because I've discovered my first stretch marks and convinced myself they make me completely unloveable, the teen whose stomach is rumbling during my GCSE maths exam because I'm dying for a chocolate bar but starving myself to fit into my prom dress at the end of the month, the student worrying about whether boys will like my boobs or not and if my belly button is unnaturally hairy.

More uniquely, and for the past few years, I've been the TV presenter who gets to look at a TV screen all day long with my own face and body on it, in all its glory, unflattering camera angles and HD and you name it, often with hair, makeup and clothing choices dictated by someone else, and the fear that someone might be tweeting something nasty about me at that very moment.

I've had terrible self-esteem over the years and more recently, depression, but I'm certainly the most body confident I have ever been at this point. I don't want my young friends, nieces and followers to ever feel the way I have at times, but I know that they definitely will. I worry that they might feel even worse.

Body image has been a hot topic for a very long time. Women have always looked up to their idols and role models on TV and film and magazines and longed to look like them. Instagram didn't exist when I was 16 but my friends and I still found women to compare ourselves to. Even if we hadn't watched TV and read magazines, we had each other to envy and ourselves to hate. This is not a new problem.

That said, the world of social media terrifies me, and whilst the concept is the same - looking at images of perfect looking people and wishing you were them and not you - it is amplified tremendously.

Socks
Should we be looking at socks, not selfies?

I would probably scroll through pictures on social media sites non-stop if I didn't have a job. I love it, and I'm a victim myself. I've followed tons of fitness accounts in the month of January to motivate me to get my 'summer body', only to unfollow them again after realising they made me quite miserable and because I was sick of seeing videos of squats and pictures of avocados.

As well as being guilty of following other women online and wishing I looked like them, I also know that young girls follow me and do the same. It's a sort of 'circle of life'. People comment on my photos and tell me I'm beautiful and that they wished they looked like me.

It's very nice, but if only they knew that at that moment I was thinking the same looking at pictures of Caroline Flack and Laura Whitmore, who are probably thinking the same looking at celebrities and models who they perceive to be perfect. It goes on and on, and round and round…

It makes me worry that I could be part of the problem. I have posted pictures of myself in a bikini online. I've edited and filtered my pictures. Because of my job, I often get my make-up and hair done by very talented people.

I take photos of my face when I'm happy with it and upload them to the internet, because it makes me feel good. I do it because I'm as insecure as anyone commenting telling me my face is on fleek. I do it for that gratification and to prove to myself, and the world, that sometimes I can look nice. I do it because I'm a woman who has good days and bad days but deep-down never feels good enough, just like every other woman.

We seem to have forgotten that our bodies look the way they do for a reason and are fine as nature intended, without constant work and money going into changing them. I want people to stop using the hashtags 'strongnotskinny' and 'realwomenhavecurves' - it isn't fair to body shame people who are thin, any more than it is to degrade those who have muscles or curves, there are a lot of accounts online which claim to be positive but which are really quite destructive for young minds.

Most of all I want young girls to remember that they are incomparable - we all are. They never made another one like you - there is no one else with your exact formula of quirks and characteristics and skills and knowledge and interests, and there isn't one beautiful ideal.

When I think of myself and my friends and how we talk about beautiful women, we all appreciate and envy a wide-variety of people, with different body shapes, skin colours, hair colours, styles, yet when we talk about ourselves it's as though we are the only ones who got the worst collection of features and that simply cannot be true.

So if you have a young girl in your life, please make sure you do whatever you can to remind her that she is good enough - and that she simply is without trying - it isn't something she needs to work hard to sustain.

If you are a young girl reading this - please be kind to yourself. Treat yourself like you would a girl you love. I would never tell my nieces that they are disgusting and fat - I would never critique their bodies, and yet that is how I often speak to myself in my own head. I would tell them they are the most beautiful girls in the world - because they are - and I know they would say the same to me.

It's an on-going part of being a woman, this struggle with feeling good enough, but life isn't forever and you deserve to feel happy most of the time - so please give it a go. I promise I'll try my hardest if you do.