Jameela Jamil on Self-Love and Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic

“Now that the world is starting to open up, it feels important to urge people to hang onto the lessons they learned in the past year, and really learn fundamentally what self-love means, because it’s not a day in the spa,” Jameela Jamil tells me over Zoom.

The actress-activist is the face of The Body Shop’s Global Self Love Index, a global study commissioned by the brand to assess and improve self-worth, self-confidence, and wellbeing. The partnership is fitting, as Jamil has been a mental health and body positivity advocate for years, and a whistleblower of the harmful effects of diet and detox industry and the celebrities and influencers, like the Kardashian family, who promote their products.

“[The Body Shop] didn’t just tokenize the term ‘self love,’ but went the extra mile,” explains Jamil when speaking on what drew her to the campaign. “They actually did the research to show the areas in which we are in crisis and the areas in which we are improving — especially with the self love index. It just felt very authentic, and it’s also very needed in a year where women, in particular, are being targeted almost more than ever about the way they look.”

Jamil also notes the influx of diet and detox ads she’s been served on social media while quarantining at home during the pandemic.

To the actress, self-love isn’t a frivolous or unimportant subject — it’s the foundation of humanity. “If we loved ourselves more, we wouldn’t be such dicks to each other on Twitter,” she shares. “If we loved ourselves more, we wouldn’t filter photographs of ourselves and maybe even our babies. We would make better decisions. We would live better lives if we replaced self-hatred with respect and love.”

The Body Shop’s research found that nearly one in three people who spend two or more hours on social media per day have the lowest self-love. Given the pandemic has forced us to live the majority of our lives online, screen time is inevitably up between Zoom calls and FaceTime, and of course, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Jamil’s advice for using social media without sacrificing your mental health is actually pretty simple. Just block, mute, or delete whoever and whatever triggers any negative thoughts about yourself or your worth.

“Be very careful about who you follow online, what magazines you back and where you spend your money,” she says. “Considering how much time I spend on my phone, deleting a lot of those people and things have revolutionized my life. I never get off the internet feeling bad about myself anymore. Instead, I always feel like I’ve learned something. I follow educators, artists, writers, amazing makeup artists. I want to learn when I go online — that’s what the internet is supposed to be for; not to make us feel like are less when we get offline.”

The actress-activist also recommends “reporting the living shit out” of diet and detox ads the algorithm bombards you with.

Jamil goes on to point out that it’s us and not the brands, magazines, and social media companies that have the power. And the only way to really change unrealistic beauty standards that can negatively impact our self-esteem is by demanding it.

“I’ve made huge financial debts in the diet and detox industry and that makes me feel extremely happy. So if I can do that, imagine if women got together and stopped giving our money to the algorithm and our attention to tabloids, which hate women and shame them about the way they look?” she questions. “And if we stopped buying the filtering apps and stopped supporting brands and magazines that edit their photographs. If we start backing authenticity financially, everyone will become authentic because this is all operated on greed. It’s all sell and demand, so let’s put some demand back in and start to demand authenticity and radical inclusivity.”

VIDEO: Jameela Jamil: Stop Shaming People

Aside from the unrealistic beauty standards being perpetuated by filters and brands on social media, trolling and outrage can be just as damaging and hard to report. Jamil reinforces the fact that it’s OK to take breaks from your timelines.

“It’s also important to note that if you feel like your mental health is being harmed and you feel unsafe, it’s ok to step away from social media,” she says. “Again, if we all were to rebel against social media and say ‘fuck you’ for a week or until they’re willing to become more thoughtful, they would lose millions. These are some of the greatest minds in the world, but they’re just not thoughtful about the ways of which they protect us online.”

And what better reason to go on more socially-distant walks in 2021.

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