Whether or not you’ve participated in the viral “How Hard Did Aging Hit You?” also known as the #10yearchallenge on social media, chances are you’ve seen friends share photos of themselves depicting how much they’ve changed in a decade. I appreciate a good blast from the past photo and seeing how friendships and relationships have evolved over time, but this seemingly innocent trend has done what the internet does best. It started to go a bit off the rails. Posts intended to take you on a trip down memory lane, have quickly become self-indulgent and more of an opportunity to brag for some. “You can look younger, sexier, smarter and richer than you did 10 years ago, but if you’re still just as immature as you were then — does it matter?,” says life coach and HipLatina contributing writer, Kamari Chelsea.
Although we’re constantly fighting society’s beauty expectations by practicing self acceptance and focusing on self-growth, it’s evident that remaining youthful is highly valued and the fear of getting older plagues most of us — especially women. It’s no surprise that social media only adds to these social stigmas and it’s affecting women at even younger ages. A recent study by the UK Millenium Cohort looked at about 11,000 14-year-old children to study how social media and depressive symptoms were correlated— if at all. The results showed that girls were more likely than boys to spend more time on social media and display signs of depression because of online harassment, poor body image, and low self-esteem.
And let’s not forget about how pregnant women also face the pressure to snap back quickly after giving birth. With celebrities being looked up to and praised for bouncing back to their pre-baby weight, it adds to the pressure women put on themselves to do the same. For example, I’ve been a big supporter of J.Lo’s latest strong physique. But I was let down when she chose to use a recent scantily clad photo of herself as part of her #10YearChallenge. I normally wouldn’t give something like this much thought, but it was alongside a photo of herself, heavily pregnant with twins back in 2008. I found this a bit insensitive towards pregnant women and new moms who are adjusting to their postpartum bodies. Women should feel secure in knowing that this lifestyle may work for J.Lo, but they don’t need to aim for this kind of physical transformation to be accepted. If J.Lo had chosen her pregnancy photo and then explained how motherhood changed her life in the past decade, it would’ve made her #10yearchallenge a stronger and equally touching post.
Which brings me to my point: The problem with challenges such as #The10YearChallenge is that they’re only looking at change from the outside with no indication of the struggles a person has gone through or if/how they overcame them. To be fair, I have seen some posts that explain how the individual has grown and how they’re a happier and more confident person today, which is why we have to remember that the photos only tell a part of your story.
“This only reinforces a culture that cares about whether you look more amazing with each passing year and disregards how people feel year over year,” explains Kamari. In fact, she says there’s too much of an emphasis on a physical glow-up. “This isolates people who are feeling physically not their best,” she says, adding, “and it doesn’t allow for people to acknowledge all the other values we should have in place, like financial growth, spiritual growth, emotional growth, etc.”
If challenges such as this one trigger some insecurities, just know that it’s normal and sometimes the best thing you can do is take a break from social media. If you want a more fulfilling 10-year challenge, why not reminisce with a good friend and exchange stories from back in the day. Those memories may remind you of how far you’ve come, and that you still have lots of potential waiting to be unlocked.