Living for likes

Unlock, lock, unlock, lock, unlock… I locked my phone once more.

And there I laid, letting my mind run wild with the things I’d just read and the things I’d just seen – the cruel world of cyber suggestion. The place that fed my insecurities as though it gained pleasure from seeing me compare myself and seek approval from a world that failed miserably to really know me.

What started with a fun way of sharing my life with friends on social media, began to consume each day with checking how much approval I was receiving, whether that was likes or comments: I needed it. I wanted nothing more than to be praised and encouraged for the ‘perfect’ version of myself that I was presenting. But to do that, I had to buy into the lies and pressures of perfection and expectations and eventually this didn’t just influence who I was online, but it also seeped into how I tried to live my life offline – and to be honest with you girls, living with a need for approval is not only tiring, but it really starts to strip you of who you truly are.

As each day passes in our approval-centred world it feels like it’s getting more and more difficult to be content with every tiny detail about ourselves, to not want to enter the realm of a comparison culture and to not ‘should’ all over ourselves. It’s great to challenge ourselves and want to grow but, when the nasty ‘should’ word starts popping up every day it takes what started as a few personal challenges and then spirals into a web of lies that tells us to be a brand-new person. If we’re being honest your ‘I should lose a bit of weight and dress more like this Instagramer’ really means ‘I don’t like my body and feel I need to be different to fit in’. But you don’t, you really, really don’t, because whether this is the first time you’ve heard it or the 100th, YOU. ARE. VALUABLE.

Loving yourself isn’t just about the outward things, it comes down to your DNA, your heart and your character. Your mere existence has a greater impact on this world than you realise. You matter. Every perfect and imperfect part of you matters – please don’t let anything make you want to change that. You don’t need to dress more provocatively, or hide your mental health struggles. You don’t need to sacrifice working hard at school to work harder at getting your crush’s attention. You don’t need to listen to the same music as the people around you. You don’t need to try and become a CEO if actually you’d love to work with a charity or become something rogue like a geologist. You need to be you!

We all know life is a journey of mountains and valleys and even when we have seasons of being truly content with who we are, it doesn’t always stay that way. So here’s a little encouragement, the view from the top of a mountain is great, but it’s in the valleys where things grow.

Maybe that looks like: coming off social media for a while but carrying on taking loads of photos and printing them off to put in a scrapbook; or using your extra time to learn a new skill; or going and doing something fun purely for the fun of it – not because you want to be able to show it off to the world of cyber-comparison.

I challenge you to try it (or something similar), and I hope that you find the same freedom in muting the need for approval as I did.

By Emilie Radford

I’m a 22 year old Essex girl currently living amongst the dreaming spires of Oxford, working as an Events Manager by day and spoken word artist… on the weekends.
DisneyWorld still holds the title as my favourite place on earth and I LOVE to write as a way of expressing myself and encouraging others. 
I also eat cheese on a daily basis and have zero regrets about that.  

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