“Love Island just exposed our misconceptions about anxiety and insecurity”

Posted by
Sarah Biddlecombe
backgroundLayer 1
Add this article to your list of favourites

Before we begin, let’s get a well-known truth out of the way – you have to be insanely hot to be a contestant on ITV’s hit show, Love Island.

And by insanely hot we mean you look unfeasibly good at all angles, while wearing a thong bikini and sitting under the beaming midday sun (do these people not sweat? Does their make-up not run?!)

It’s therefore easy, as normal people watching the villa’s contestants flaunt their wares from the comfort of our own sofas, probably while eating crisps, to feel insecure about our own looks and bodies. It’s equally easy to assume that the people on the screen, just like the ones we see on Instagram, or in magazines, or splashed across the side of the 137 bus, are incredibly self-confident and self-assured.

However, we would be wrong. Totally and utterly wrong. As last night’s episode proved, anxieties and insecurities can arrive like rainclouds for each and every one of us, regardless of what we look like.

So three cheers for our new hero Gabby, who unashamedly let her self-doubts be known to all and sundry when she suffered a confidence crisis in front of her collective housemates and, of course, the nation.

Breaking down in tears at the news that she hadn’t been selected by either of the villa’s new male contestants, Theo and Jamie, to join them for a date, she took fellow housemate Montana outside to explain her misery.

“It literally makes me feel so f*cking ugly,” she said. “Every time someone comes in they don’t even try and get to know me, and it’s not that I want to get to know anyone, but it makes me think ‘what the f*ck’s wrong with me?’

“I know it’s so stupid and selfish and I shouldn’t feel like that,” she continued, “but I feel like since I came in here I’ve just had a massive confidence knock.”

While some viewers chose to knock Gabby’s admission of insecurity as being self-indulgent, mental health experts know the importance of acknowledging when we feel low, rather than smothering our feelings in fake smiles. Online resources such as Mind and Mood Gym both emphasise the healing power of turning to loved ones for help when we feel down, with Mind’s website noting that “shared experiences and perspectives are valuable and powerful”.

So the 25-year-old Liverpudlian was right to open up about her feelings to her boyfriend and fellow contestant Marcel while the pair were sat on the villa’s terrace, when she went on to reveal that she is just as prone to self-comparison as the rest of us.

“Obviously everyone in here is so fit, all the girls are gorgeous, and I just feel so insecure,” she said through tears. “I feel like no one’s even looked at me because I’m not as nice as everyone else.”

She even said she wanted to get hair extensions and plastic surgery when she left the villa in order to make her feel as if she was on the same level of attractiveness as everyone else.

“I want to do all this s*** to myself because I’m not as good as everyone else, they’ve all got something that I don’t have,” she sobbed.

While the episode made for hard viewing, it was undeniably refreshing to see an outwardly confident woman like Gabby make such a raw admission about her insecurities over her looks.

Here in the UK, we have one of the lowest body confidence scores in the world, with a 2016 report finding that just 20% of women like the way they look. Unsurprisingly, more than two-thirds of the women questioned for the study pointed towards unrealistic beauty standards set by advertising and the media as the main reason for their insecurity.

And while we are all well-versed in the smoke and mirrors illusion of people living their “best lives” on social media, countless studies have found that browsing through Instagram and Facebook can still have a significant impact on both our confidence and feelings of self-worth.

So thank god for Gabby for being able to make us mere mortals feel like humans again with her admission of not feeling able to measure up to her fellow housemates, who represent a living, breathing version of Instagram’s hierarchy of aspiration. 

Because while the Gigi Hadids of the world can speak out against the pressures of social media until they’re blue in the face, it feels completely two-dimensional – after all, such A-listers are back on Instagram five minutes later to share another perfectly filtered snap.

In comparison, Gabby’s confidence crisis felt real, and it was all the more relatable for it, as shown by the hundreds of messages of support that flooded into Twitter as the show was airing.

“I think every girl watching Love Island completely understands where Gabby is coming from right now,” wrote one user.

“Gabby is every one of us. We all feel insecure at times and need validation from people we don’t know. Her vulnerability is beautiful,” wrote another.

Of course, these messages of support went hand in hand with ones of abuse, as other fans of the show questioned why Gabby felt the need to be asked out on dates when she is already in a relationship with Marcel.

To this, we would argue that being in a relationship doesn’t protect you from feelings of self-doubt, and nor should it be expected to.

As Gabby herself said to Marcel, “It’s not a reflection of me and you, it’s a reflection of me.”

And we’d argue the idea that a boyfriend doling out a few simple compliments sweeps all of our insecurities under the rug is a reflection of how backwards our culture has become.

Images: ITV