With Joe Wehbe Podcast Blog

How to gage insecurity from bikini and 6-pack photos

Thousands of young men will protest me writing this article. It is sure to reduce the number of bikini photos that young women post on Instagram. 


There will be fewer 6-pack photos as well. 


One of the criticisms of social media is that it exacerbates insecurity, that it gives unrealistic standards for the rest of us to compare our bodies and lives to. 


All those people with chiseled abs and luscious curves harm the self-image of those of us out there who will never look like them.


But what if the dad-bods and curves-in-the-wrong places aren’t the only ones suffering? What if the 6-packs and the bikini posters are suffering just as much… if not more?


Modern Extrinsic Traps


Last time out I wrote about extrinsic traps which work like a drug to get us hooked on rewards that might not be authentic. I gave a personal example of how the praise and expectations of others led me to form bitterness and unrealistic standards whilst at school. 


Though I thought we had to spend time pointing to some more relevant, everyday examples, because it can be difficult to know when you’re caught in an extrinsic trap. 


Social Media


On this blog I do not write about current news and events. My focus is on the issues and challenges which are timeless, and the frameworks that should stand the test of time to help us manage and overcome these. 


Whilst social media is a recent and modern discussion point, it’s a fantastic example of an extrinsic trap. 

Social Media: Why did I come here? 


If you’re a business owner or content creator, you might empathise with the following, with that experience of using social media to share a video, thought or idea that is powerful and impactful. 


You share it out of passion, out of drive and commitment. And maybe, it blows up, gets you lots of likes or positive feedback. This feels great you think. 


So you want to make more videos, more content and upload it all. But slowly, you notice yourself moving away from a focus on your message and instead on the social approval element. You start counting likes and shares more than the depth of your impact. 


Hang on you might ask, why did I come here to begin with? 

You might find this with any old upload


This is not an experience reserved for content creators. Maybe you uploaded a photo where you looked good, maybe you were at a wedding, or perhaps it was a hot bikini or 6-pack photo. 


How nice was the feeling of everyone telling you how good you looked? 


Even if you know social media is designed to hook you on this feeling, on the first small dose of this drug, this dopamine hit, it can be hard to resist the drive for more. 


The funny thing is, you might have cared very little about the approval to begin with… maybe it was just a nice photo. But when the next upload doesn’t get as many likes, despite not caring the first time, you now naturally wonder… WHY? 


And they’ve got you. 

The unwritten laws of being a young woman on social media


Law One: If any of your gal pals uploads a picture, make sure to comment on how beautiful she looks (even if she doesn’t). 

Law Two: If someone has commented on your photos, you are now contractually obligated to comment on theirs in the same way. 


“OMG babe, you’re stunning!”… “Stop it! Absolute stunner!”… “Gorgeous woman!”… “This cutie :)”… “How the f are you so attractive?”


My rule-of-thumb and formula for calculating insecurity


There is a sad little discovery I’ve made, a rule-of-thumb, based on the number of bikini and 6-pack photos a given person uploads onto social media. 


My rule-of-thumb is that the greater the number of such photos, the greater that person’s personal insecurity. Not always, but in general. 


I know from time-to-time I’m sarcastic and humorous here, but when I say this, I can assure you, I think it’s the furthest thing from a laughing matter. It’s sad and it’s worrying. It’s not a criticism of these people by any means. It’s a symptom that is disguised and lurking undetected in plain sight.  


Many of these people may have been perfectly secure starting out, but have become dependent on this drug for their self-esteem. The regular posting happens so that the approval can be given regularly, so it can be maintained Pleasure Treadmill-style.  


Because they don’t get that approval from themselves, they try to get it from others, strangers out there in the audience of the world. 


Other common extrinsic traps you may have missed. 


If you have a LinkedIN, go and scroll through everyone’s job titles. You’ll have some good fun. 


I’m doing it right now, and here’s just a few: 


Senior Security Consultant (is this a security guard?), Senior Resourcing Specialist (this could be someone who gets coffees) and Wizard of Light Bulb Moments (That must be self-appointed). 


Here’s an interesting test. 


How satisfied would you be with your current job, or the job you’re daydreaming about now, if the title was “Shit-Kicker”? If you’re not as interested in the role anymore, you might just be after the extrinsic! The flashy title or status!


The first employee I ever hired placed more emphasis on anything else over what we would name his role and how it would be written on his business card. He turned out to not be the greatest employee. Small sample, but the lesson has stuck. 


Being the Go-to. 


Are you the movie buff in your group of friends? Are you the relationships guru, or perhaps the business expert? How much do you enjoy having your advice sought?


What happens when people go to someone else for the movie, relationship, or business advice? Do you feel a little wounded?


Another version of extrinsic trap is getting an image of yourself you didn’t have before, and then getting upset when that image is threatened. Of course the great irony is, you were probably very content before you had that title, that image of yourself as the go-to. 


Charitable work. 


This is one I’ve had first hand experience with. A subject of a long-term writing project is sharing some of the experiences and conversations I had with my friends from our time working on From the Ground Up in Nepal. 


As my favourite all-time author Anthony De Mello said, “Charity is really self-interest masquerading under the form of altruism.”


Do you donate, give or volunteer when only others are watching? Are you seen as a charitable person in your community, and does this bring you their love and admiration? 


Worst still, do you feel threatened by people who are more charitable than you? Isn’t that a funny thing to catch yourself doing…




People-pleasing is often regarded as selflessness – these people are regarded as incredibly nice and affectionate – we typically treasure them. Don’t worry, to some extent I’m one of them. Though people-pleasing comes from a fear of confrontation, of a self-image that is so fragile that it can’t handle the disapproval of others. 


This is not admirable. Actually, it is paradoxically self-centred. 


How to tell the difference between people-pleasing and genuine niceness? Well, ask this – are you holding back from being honest, and telling someone something they need to hear, because you’re afraid of how they’ll take it? That they’ll kick back? 

Combat extrinsic traps with awareness


This is the very motivation behind the Audience-of-None test that you can use. 


“What is your performance, just one performance, that you’d happily perform for an Audience-of-None? That you could see yourself expressing fearlessly and passionately in front of an empty theatre, where all the seats are vacant, taken up by nothing but dust and air? 


What is it that you would perform, that would fill you with joy and excitement simply because you got to perform it? Where the act of doing it itself is the reward, rather than the applause at the end. 

For the only one who can applaud at the end of a performance for none is you, the performer.” 


Don’t be jealous of the 6-packs and bikini pictures of others. The people who trigger your insecurity the most are the most insecure. 


That’s worth repeating


The people who trigger your insecurity most are the most insecure. 

The people who trigger your insecurity most are the most insecure. 

The people who trigger your insecurity most are the most insecure. 


Who do you think of when you read this? Would this piece ‘open a door’ for someone you know? If so, please share it with them. 

Remember, the best way to open a thousand doors for you is to open doors for others.

With Joe Wehbe – The Podcast

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