How to Deal with Instagram-related Jealousy and Insecurities

Let me just start off by saying that in my logical, reasonable mind, I trust my partner with all my heart. He’s been perfect, never makes me feel worried about the possibility of him cheating, and reassures me that he cares about me by texting me constantly throughout the day and giving me his full attention when we’re together.

But no matter how much I love and trust him, the less rational part of my mind still worries occasionally (which I think is natural for everyone). When I look through my Instagram newsfeed when I’m bored, I’m afraid I’ll see that he liked a hot girl’s picture and I’ll discover that the happiness I had was all temporary. It’s like I’m just waiting for him to prove that my worst fears are true: that love doesn’t work out and that I shouldn’t trust anyone. I feel incredibly petty worrying about something so superficial as a “like” on Instagram—I know deep down that it’s 100% harmless. And I can’t really get mad at him because I follow way more pretty girls and models than he does, and he never says anything about it (but in my defense, I follow them 50% for inspiration and self-love by seeing more beautiful brown women who make me feel better about myself by extension… 50% because they’re hot as hell and I like to admire them).

When I see he “likes” some girls’ photos, I get this painful feeling in my gut. I imagine him fantasizing about how much happier he would be if they were his girlfriends instead of me. I worry that he is comparing me, with the mole on my face, the rolls on my stomach when I bend over, my meager B cups, to this image of a girl with a perfectly contoured face and a push-up bra.

I know none of this is true. Anyone who uses Instagram scrolls through basically mindlessly, “liking” pictures in a second, then instantly forgetting the previous post once it leaves the reach of their thumb. These worries are part of a story I’ve made up in my head that is a manifestation of all my insecurities and trust issues I’ve developed from past relationships, with exes who had wandering eyes. Seeing the person you love give validation and attention (even in the smallest form, a “like” on social media) feels like a betrayal, in a world where a large part of the construction of self-worth relies on how many “likes” you get and who gives them to you—as much as we’d like to think we’re disconnected from social media, it affects everyone.

When I stop and think about it, my worries have nothing to do with my partner. He could tell me he loves me every day, never hang out with any other girls, do literally everything right, and I still would feel this way (and it makes me feel terrible that I do).

At our very core, when we feel jealousy, it’s not about our partners being disloyal about something so small—it’s about our deep need to be loved and to be given attention and loyalty from the person we love. The jealousy stems from the small child in each of us who needs love and worries that the flaws we see in ourselves will prevent other people from loving us (sorry, I know I sound Zen-y like my dad here, but it’s true).

The best solution when you’re feeling insecure about your partner “liking” other people’s posts is to realize and remind yourself that your relationship with a person is much more than what goes on in social media, and shouldn’t be defined by “likes,” especially if it’s with someone you have a deep connection with personally. You shouldn’t compare one “like” on a picture to the weeks/months/years of getting to know each other that you’ve had with your partner (and if he/she really wanted to be with that other person instead of you, don’t you think they would?).

Don’t compare yourself to others, especially not you in real life, right now, vs a staged photo. I feel like shit when I compare myself to a picture of a girl with her makeup done, while I’m lying in bed wearing my oversized “I [heart] gays” t-shirt and no bra. Your partner doesn’t love you because you look on point all the time, they love you because you have a real connection and because of your personality. Plus there’s no way those girls online look like that 24/7. Instagram is performance (repeat that to yourself 100x every day and you might turn out okay).

Some steps to take when you get into a negative mindset with these insecurities:

Get off Instagram! Be productive, take a walk and enjoy nature and keep your phone on “do not disturb” if you use it to listen to music, interact with the people who are around you in real life, work on a project. Create, don’t get into a negative spiral.

Do something that makes you feel good about yourself. Don’t base your self-worth off of whether a person double taps on an image of you. Remind yourself why you are a good person, why you are beautiful, and why you are attractive and worthy of love—most of all, your own love.

What I do:

    • lift weights (makes me feel strong and proud of myself)
    • go for a walk (sunshine makes me happy, gets my sun-kissed skin back)
    • put on a little makeup or curl my hair (doesn’t take that much effort and ends up making me really happy and feel pretty)
    • wear something I wouldn’t normally wear (anything besides work/bum clothes)
    • write (makes me feel smart and capable)
    • tidy my room (makes my living situation more comfortable)

Also, it’s hard to be in a happy relationship with someone who is insecure and doesn’t see their own self-worth (me at times, in this case). You need to remind yourself why you are valuable as an individual and as a partner, both for your own mental health and for the sake of your relationship.

Talk to someone (or at least write it out to yourself). Saying your fears out loud makes them sound a lot less real and will show you they aren’t actual reasons to worry. It helps a lot to get out of your own negative self-talk and train of thought if you have to explain it to someone else, and they can tell you you have nothing to worry about.

Make a list of things to be grateful for in your life. You have more going on for yourself than just one person, anyway!

Make a list of ways your partner has shown they love you. If you’re in a good relationship, these will outweigh the minor slight of Instagram “likes” by far. After I write my lists, I feel so much happier, more in love with my partner, and appreciative of what a good person he is.

Overall, the best thing you can do is to just not look at the feed.

The urge to prevent your partner from looking at anyone else but you (which is impossible) is possessive, and makes me feel small for being controlling in that way. If you want to keep your relationship healthy, you need to just trust that your partner is a good person who does not want to hurt you.

Even more importantly, you need to trust that you are a good person who deserves to be with someone who loves you and will be loyal to you (even if you don’t always believe it, it’s true). The stress of stalking your partner online constantly is bad for the skin anyway, so don’t detract from your physical beauty, and in turn the source of your value as a person (just kidding! internal beauty all the way! *smirking emoji*).

The 10 Commandments of a Healthy Relationship

Writing for Lovescrewed started out as a way for me to reconcile with the bad relationships I had in the past and learn from them, while I went on my journey to becoming a whole person and loving myself. But then I stopped writing early in 2014 because I got into a new relationship and everything was so exciting and fun—and who wants to read blog posts about me being happy and in love anyway? People come to self-help blogs to get raw, honest advice, and I wasn’t dealing with the ghosts of my past anymore to fuel my writing.

Not to say that I’m unhappy now that I’m blogging again, but as my boyfriend and I grow closer to the two year mark in our relationship, I’ve come to learn a lot about relationships, as this is the longest and most serious one I’ve been in.

Needless to say (since it’s evident in my many blog posts), I’ve had my experience with toxic relationships, and learned from my mistakes. I’ve also learned a lot while navigating through this newer relationship. It’s interesting to see how much your feelings for someone can evolve over the span of a couple years—from smitten to infatuated, to learning that they aren’t the person you thought you were falling in love with in the first place, to accepting them for who they truly are and loving that you can learn new things about them even when you thought they couldn’t surprise you.

It’s not always easy, but if you’re with the right person, it’s worth it and hopefully you’ll grow together.

Here are some of the most useful things I’ve learned, and guidelines I try to live by in a relationship (even if I mess up sometimes):

  1. Promise to yourself to never check their phone. Obviously I’m not proud to admit this, but I’m guilty of being the psycho jealous girlfriend who actually blocked girls repeatedly from my ex’s Facebook and Instagram accounts while we were dating… It was hard to stop, but I decided I never wanted to experience that burning angry feeling that made me want to throw up every time I got stalker-y and jealous. I can’t say I haven’t occasionally wondered about whether there’s anything suspicious on my boyfriend’s phone, just out of curiosity (and from seeing way too many Instagram memes about it) but it was important for me to set boundaries for myself. I don’t want to become that distrustful, sneaky person again, and I don’t think anyone enjoys feeling like that either.
    It’s a slippery slope from checking once just to get rid of nagging insecurities, to constantly being anxious about what they might be doing behind your back, and not trusting them enough to believe what they say. If they’re cheating on you, they’re probably smart enough not to comment heart-eyed emojis on someone’s pictures and they’ll probably delete her texts too, so why bother checking? Trust your gut, and if something makes you uncomfortable, try to talk to them about it. But don’t go sneaking around behind their back because if you can’t trust them enough to take their word for it, then it isn’t a great relationship anyway, and it definitely isn’t worth the stress of worrying if you’re being cheated on.
  2. All boyfriends/girlfriends shall remain innocent until proven guilty! Every relationship is somewhat of a gamble of trust, but if the person hasn’t done anything to make you distrust them, try to let go of the pain you’ve gone through during past relationships and don’t just expect the new person to cheat or treat you badly. The worst mistake you can make is to drive a great partner away by misplacing blame on them for something your high school boyfriend did to you 6 years ago. Don’t let the mistakes of your old teenage ex define every relationship you have in the future, or you’ll always expect to get hurt like you did when you were 16 and neither of you knew how to even be in a healthy relationship.
  3. Be each other’s cheerleaders. Encourage each other and support each other’s dreams! This is especially important because a partner should be one of the first people you come to when something good happens to you, and you’d want to be that person to them too. Give good advice you think will help them and show enthusiasm when something exciting happens. There’s no such thing as too much positivity or good attention.
  4. Pick up new hobbies together. If you started dating just because you both liked the same movies or had the same taste in music, chances are that your mutual interests will get old eventually, because your tastes will probably change over time. If you’re in it for the long haul, you have to find activities you both enjoy doing together. My boyfriend and I like to start watching new TV shows together which makes it our thing, and gives us another source of references for our many inside jokes.
  5. Don’t hold their past against them. Try not to get mad or jealous if they slept with a bunch of people before you two dated because that has nothing to do with you. What’s important is how they’ve acted since you met and started dating. You shouldn’t blame someone for something they did before they even knew you existed.
  6. Keep complimenting each other even if you’ve been dating forever. It’s easy to stop doing this over time because you already know you both are attracted to each other. But it’s still nice to hear that the one person you really want to think you’re hot is still into you, or to know that they still think you’re beautiful even after seeing you in the morning all greasy-haired and crusty-eyed. Getting a compliment from your significant other feels a thousand times better than getting 200 likes on an Instagram picture (well, maybe not, but it’s close).
  7. Don’t ask for anything or expect anything. You should definitely expect them to treat you well, but I’m talking about material items. Your boyfriend doesn’t owe you designer bags or jewelry. Although it is nice to receive gifts, don’t be one of those girls who expects her boyfriend to spoil her with expensive things. Follow Destiny’s Child’s lead and be an Independent Woman (The house I live in, I’ve bought it / The car I’m driving, I’ve bought it / I depend on me).
  8. Be grateful and remember to say thank you even for the little things. You’ll become more appreciative of what your partner has to offer if you’re noticing and thinking about the effort they put in to make you happy.
  9. Say “I love you” often, or express fondness in whatever way you’re comfortable with at that stage in your relationship. It’s helpful to remind each other regularly that the love is still there.
  10. Learn how to communicate openly and honestly with each other. This is the most important part of maintaining a healthy relationship. If you don’t express it to your partner when you’re feeling upset with something they did or didn’t do, or when you’re feeling any other emotion towards them, they will not know. This might be obvious, but if you don’t tell them directly, they probably won’t figure it out—nobody is a mind reader (and neither are you, so don’t expect anyone to be omniscient about your thoughts and feelings). If it’s too hard for you to tell them directly, try writing out a letter or a text to them explaining everything you’re feeling, and then try sending it. If it’s a good relationship, then they’re likely to respond well and try to help you meet your needs.
    Another important part of communication is active listening. When your partner is talking to you, don’t just think about what you want to say next—focus on them, then think of how you will respond after. It’s important to let them be heard and be empathetic so you can be there for them and give them what they need. Because while a relationship can be great in that you have someone who will be there for you, it’s your duty (really, it should be your privilege and pleasure) to be a good friend to your partner.

How I Survived 10 Days Without Instagram

In some ways, summer is my least favorite time of the year. Most people love the freedom to do whatever they want, but when I have too much free time I get bored. And when I get bored, I get stalker-y.

For most of this summer (truthfully, for most of the time since I downloaded the app in 2012), I used Instagram as a constant distraction. I idly refreshed my feed every few minutes, looking through the pictures my friends liked to see if anything caught my eye. More recently, I began a mini mission at the back of my head to find quality indie models and follow them, and hopefully get inspired enough to somehow become as beautiful as they were. I also thought that if I found models who looked enough like me, I could feel better about myself because I looked kind of like them.

I must have spent hours a week absorbing pictures of beautiful long-limbed girls with perfect waist-to-hip ratios, flowing ombre hair, and breasts uncannily generous for their weight. How could I ever compare?

I’m not sure how I started this obsession in the first place. Maybe it stemmed from when my ex used to follow dozens of beautiful girls on Instagram like the ones I began to like. When I came out as bisexual, I realized I had nothing to lose by shamelessly following as many gorgeous models as I liked. Maybe this act was some kind of a “f*ck you” to my exes who indirectly made me hate my own body whenever I saw they were checking out other women who I thought were more attractive than I was.

In any case, this obsession began to slowly chip away at my already fragile self-esteem. Spending hours a day looking at models with ‘perfect’ bodies does something to a person’s mind. I carried the weight of feeling imperfect on my shoulders—I spent a lot of time looking at my body in the mirror and criticizing myself for what I perceived as flaws, always comparing myself to the models I could never completely imitate.

In addition to comparing myself to other girls on Instagram, I often compared my life in general to what I saw other people doing through their pictures. This made me feel emptier inside and increased my FOMO—which is the fear of missing out on something or someone more interesting, exciting, or better than what we’re currently doing. This fear leads us to feel like we’re not doing anything productive or special with our lives because we’re comparing it with what we see other people doing on social media sites.  I never felt like I was having enough fun at the moment because everyone else seemed to be out living their lives to the fullest, while I was half-watching episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on my couch while scrolling through Instagram on my phone. I’d see one of my friends post a picture of herself lounging on a beach in Rio, a picture of another friend skydiving, or a selfie of a friend posing in front of the Eiffel Tower, and every other imaginable activity that looked more fun than what I was doing at the moment. (By the way, these are all real life examples. I hate my friends and their awesome lives sometimes.)

I sat on the floor of my room one night wondering how I could get myself out of this problem. The solution was easy: get rid of it. I needed to get rid of the toxicity that this stupid app was causing me, and it was literally as easy as pressing a button. I decided right then that I would go a week without it and see how I felt about myself and my life.

The first day was the hardest, but even then it wasn’t too bad. I deleted the app from my phone the night before and signed out on my laptop, which helped me out a lot that day. The impulse to check Instagram came up so many times throughout the day by habit, but instead of feeling mad at myself or desperate to get back on, I found it funny and interesting to see how often the urge resurfaced. Staying away from the app was a small change, but I didn’t feel noticeably displeased with my body at all that day, since I didn’t have the venue to compare myself to anyone. I did notice myself thinking about different models and girls I followed that day, though, and thought it would be a good idea to unfollow all of them if I decided to use the app again.

Around day three, I started bargaining with myself. The mind is a tricky thing, and it tries to reason its way around what you resolve not to do, so it can get back into its comfort zone. I came up with weak reasons to go back on Instagram, like I thought my friend was going to tag me in a picture, and I told myself it would be rude of me not to go on and like it. But really, Instagram etiquette is trivial and I had to be strong against my own mind tricks. This was a small change in my life, but it was actually a big change in my behavior and daily habits, so it was interesting to find out what I’m capable of and how much self-control I could exercise.

By the fourth day, I started to really think about why I was doing this challenge and how bad I felt about my body. I talked through my self-esteem issues with my cousin and a couple of close friends and resolved to do more things with my life that made me happy internally so that I could feel better about how I looked externally too. I decided to do things that empowered me, like writing, exercising for my health more than my looks, and eating better. After this day, it was easier to finish the challenge without the fear of relapsing.

On the last day, I made up a few rules on how I wanted to use Instagram after the challenge so that I wouldn’t get back into my old habits of comparing my body and life to others:

  1. No “stalking.” No looking at who’s following whom, no looking at the Activity page to see what pictures my friends are liking. It’s none of my business and it doesn’t feel good to think about insignificant things like these.

  2. Unfollow all people I don’t know in real life. I just want to use the app to keep up with my family and friends.

  3. Only use the app at far apart intervals, maybe once or twice a week at most. This way I won’t use it as a constant distraction all day and can focus on what’s going on in the present, in real life.

I unfollowed everyone I didn’t know in person (at least 30 people) besides my favorite celebrities, even my super-fave-crush-models (I paused for a second to consider if I really wanted to remove two of them in particular from my life). I felt good. I avoided logging in all day because I was afraid of what it would be like, or if I would reverse all the progress I’d made. But going without something that was such a part of my daily routine taught me that as much as I think I need something in my life, or if I think I have a problem I can’t get rid of, it’s always possible to take small steps to get better. Getting rid of bad habits is a process that takes time, and most especially compassion for yourself. It’s not easy to change something about your life right away, so go easy on yourself if you mess up at first.

Post-challenge, Instagram is a lot less of a problem than it was for me before. I don’t use the app habitually anymore and delete it from my phone sometimes because it’s actually kind of uninteresting for me now. But now, I realize that Instagram wasn’t a problem I needed to work on as much as low self-esteem and jealousy were. Instagram was only a venue for me to compare myself to other people. I could take Instagram out of my life, but I can’t take away the comparisons in real life. Jealousy and insecurities are problems I know I need to work on, and I plan to explore them eventually.

I wrote this post initially as motivation for me to follow through with this mini challenge, but it was difficult for me to publish it because this problem is embarrassing for me. Why would I want all my friends (and strangers who might read my blog) to know how much I let a stupid app affect my life and self-esteem? As embarrassing as it is to admit I have this problem, I know it’s something other people probably struggle with too (to some degree—maybe not as intensely as I experienced it). If you’re going through some kind of emotional stress because of social media, know that you’re not alone. We’re going through uncharted territory by letting social media sites into our lives and their effects on our minds can be troublesome. It’s important to step back from these sites occasionally to make sure we don’t get sucked into them—to put our phones down, and remind ourselves of what we have in real life that makes our lives awesome, without having to share it with everyone online for it to be real.

Here’s a daily log I kept during the experiment, if anyone’s interested in seeing my process.

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