"the problem with hating yourself is you can’t really talk about it"
what Euphoria got right about self love on social media
In Sunday night’s episode of Euphoria, Kat wrestles with how she feels about her new boyfriend Ethan and their relationship. After Kat makes a vague pros and cons list about Ethan’s qualities, she concludes the reason she’s unhappy is not because of how she feels about Ethan, but rather how she feels about herself.
“Kat hated herself. But the problem with hating yourself is you can’t really talk about it because at some point recently, the whole world joined a self-help cult and won’t shut the fuck up about it,” our narrator, Rue, says.
And as Kat sits in bed, a dozen or so imaginary models and influencers appear in her bedroom to tell her that she’s beautiful, that she’s brave, that she just has to love herself, that these feelings are a byproduct of the poisonous patriarchy and she needs to fight back.
“But that’s what I’m trying to tell you – I fucking hate myself,” Kat screams at them.
They close in around her, chanting over and over again, “love yourself.”
The frustration and suffocation Kat felt as these over-simplified, Pinterest-y mantras were screamed at her is all too familiar. In our daily lives, it’s a little less overt — no beautiful, skinny fashion blogger with 700k followers has ever personally yelled at me to love myself, but the messaging from their posts still has the power to subconsciously eat away at my brain and self-worth.
We’re constantly inundated with bloggers, celebrities and people “just like us” telling us that we need to embrace our insecurities and love ourselves. It sounds great and all, but it’s incredibly difficult to radically love yourself in a world that has groomed you to loathe your face, body, skin, personality, interests, etc. etc. etc and makes money off of that hatred (looking at you, diet and beauty industries). And these insecurities don’t just exist in our head, they are socially reinforced constantly as we move through life. Thin privilege and pretty privilege are real.
With all of that stacked against you, it’s a gut punch to then scroll through your social media feed and see everyone preaching ~self love~. It can make you feel more alone or inadequate; if everyone else can unconditionally love themselves and seem so carefree and happy, why can’t I?
Yet it’s rare that the people behind those very polished Instagram or TikTok accounts go on to explain how exactly we are all realistically supposed to become confident bad bitches. And it’s unlikely that they even feel that good about themselves all the time. You can’t just post aesthetically pleasing graphics and girlboss your way out of a larger societal problem. Never mind the fact that the whole body positivity movement has been co-opted from fat and disability activists and watered down by conventionally attractive and privileged people.
It’s important to point out that Kat is the only main character on the show who is in a larger body. But the issue is not that people in larger bodies (like Kat) need to have more self-love and confidence, it’s that everyone else needs to stop making it so damn hard to exist in a larger or otherwise marginalized body.
So while I agree with this Bustle review that the scene contradicts some of the other messaging and visuals we get from the show, Euphoria nailed what it feels like to be a young woman constantly consuming the white-washed trendiness of self love on social media.
I don’t think there’s an individual solution to a societal problem. But I have found that my personal, imperfect way to minimize the harm of toxic positivity on my social media feeds is to unfollow social media accounts that make me feel like shit and replace them with people who are open and vulnerable about their feelings, insecurities, hardships and mental health. For example, I used to follow fitspo and weight loss social media accounts that posted quotes like “nothing tastes as good as being skinny feels” or “eat for the body you want” or “no excuses” or “love your body for what it can do, not what it looks like.” Bodies, weight, movement, diet and self-care and confidence are much more nuanced than these quotes will have you believe. And guess what, they all made my eating disorder worse. These sentiments simultaneously brainwashed me into thinking it was my fault that my body didn’t look the way I wanted to and made me feel shitty because I admittedly wanted to look different. But in reality, it was a mental illness and society’s fucked up beauty standards that made me yearn for a body that wasn’t mine.
I unfollowed all of those accounts and deleted Pinterest off of my phone while I was at residential eating disorder treatment. Instead, my therapist encouraged me to follow accounts of other women in eating disorder recovery and people who talked openly online about the uncomfortable parts of being human (like hating yourself sometimes or all the time).
Do you watch Euphoria? What did you think of this scene from Sunday night?