Body Positivity


The Simple Way Instagram Is Combating Self-Harm And Body Image Issues

For young women and teens, especially.

Got that "loving myself regardless of societies high standards" glow #perfectlyme

A photo posted by Ugochi Egonu (@ugochiegonu) on

Instagram’s safe spaces just got a little safer.

#PerfectlyMe, a new Instagram initiative launched on Monday in partnership with Seventeen Magazine, celebrates the strength and diversity of communities that have formed on the platform since 2010.

Instagram (along with other social media platforms, like Tumblr and Twitter) has become a space for both organized and individual self-expression. Communities that focus on issues like body image, eating disorder awareness and mental health have flourished on the platform. Now Instagram wants to keep these spaces intact (and arguably make them even more meaningful and effective) by identifying people who need help beyond a positive hashtag.

The platform has created new tools to identify such users and connect them with the appropriate resources. For example, Instagram is launching a support button, which will pop up when a user searchers hashtags or terms that are associated with self-harm. If a user indicates that they need further support, she or he will be connected to specific helplines, tip pages and even other friends on Instagram.

Growing up, Jody Heakes (@jdoday) was frequently bullied about her weight. “I remember (now cringingly), in middle school dumbing myself down, pretending not to know things, because I’d decided that I would much rather be labeled as ‘the stupid girl’ than ‘the fat girl,’” says the 21-year-old. “Today, I pride myself on being a thoughtful and intelligent woman.” Jody was interested in photography, but it wasn’t until she graduated from high school that her mother encouraged her to model. “I was always behind the camera, never in front,” Jody says. “Switching roles and seeing photos of myself made me realize that I wasn’t as unattractive as I felt.” Her participation in the body-positive movement online feels like an extension of her studies at the University of Toronto — she’s a fourth-year student in history and equity studies. “I strongly believe that representation matters, and not only representation of different body types, but different ethnicities, ages and abilities,” Jody says. “Confidence comes with time. It has taken me over five years to reach the level of acceptance with myself that I have now. I can only imagine how much better I’ll feel five years from now.” Who or what inspires you to feel #PerfectlyMe? This month, we’ve teamed up with @seventeen to celebrate people who are redefining body standards and inspiring confidence on Instagram. Use the hashtag to share your story. Photo by @jdoday

A photo posted by Instagram (@instagram) on

If users search terms related directly to self-harm or suicide, they will be redirected to a help page. Additionally, if a friend notices a concerning post, they can anonymously report it to Instagram. The person who posted the flagged content will receive this message: “Someone saw one of your posts and thinks you might be going through a difficult time. If you need support, we’d like to help.” That user can then choose to be directed to a help page or “skip” the message. 

Instagram will have teams working 24 hours a day to review these reports in order to prioritize and respond as quickly as possible.

Below is what a user will see if a friend flags a posts as concerning.

The message a user will receive if one of their posts has been flagged. 
The message a user will receive if one of their posts has been flagged. 

Below is what a user will see if she/he searches a hashtag or term related to self-harm.

The message a user will receive if they search any hashtags or terms related to self-harm. 
The message a user will receive if they search any hashtags or terms related to self-harm. 

In addition to launching these tools, as part of their partnership with Seventeen, Instagram hopes to actively promote positive body image and self-love using the hashtag #PerfectlyMe. Users can post photos of themselves with the hashtag to show their support for body positivity and self-confidence.

COO of Instagram, Marne Levine, explained to The Huffington Post why this initiative is so important to young women specifically.

“Young women and teens, especially, have so many incredible stories to tell,” she said. “We want to make it easier for them to do that and to build a platform where they are surrounded by a community that celebrates and supports them.”

Levine added that keeping the platform ― and the communities that have formed on it ― safe and positive is one of the most important goals for Instagram. 

“Instagram is where people go to tell their visual stories,” Levine said. “It is important that they feel safe and comfortable and have control over what they share. When people are able to be open and honest, they can find incredible communities of support on the platform.”

Scroll below to see a few #PerfectlyMe images.

Head over to Instagram to see more images from the #PerfectlyMe hashtag.

If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.



Refinery29's 67% Body Image Project