Self-Image and Selfies

After seeing myself in a series of less-than-flattering photographs the other day, I posted a Facebook rant about how cameras are basically the source of all evil. OK, that may be overstating it a bit. Essentially, I said that although I am able to accept my physical appearance as flawed but lovable in “real life,” whenever I see a picture of myself, I’m aghast at how fat, shiny, and generally awful I look. And it turns out I’m not alone. The response to the post was incredible.

First, to my friends and family who posted or sent the most wonderfully supportive, beautiful thoughts my way, I will forever be grateful. I was having a low moment and your words really touched me, made me laugh and even made me cry. Thank you. You make my world better.

Second, I found that I am not even close to the only one who feels that pictures do not show the person we see in the mirror. Which truly doesn’t make any sense. It’s the same thing, right? So, I started to think about this and I came up with a theory. And here it is…

Mirror vs. Pictures – What Gives?

When we look at ourselves in the mirror, we expect to see, well, ourselves. Duh. We know what we look like. We have imperfections, things we might like to change, but we see what we expect to see.

I know some struggle with accepting that mirror image, and to you my heart goes out. Loving and accepting yourself is one of the most important things. Find a way to do it. Stop comparing yourself to others and just look at you, who you are, who you are trying to be and find a way to love that person. It’s OK if you don’t love that person today, but keep working towards loving that person tomorrow. Because you deserve it, even if it doesn’t feel that way today. Sometimes today just sucks. Tomorrow will be better.

Utilizing technology to alter photographs creates false and unachievable beauty standards that are setting us all up to fail.

When we see ourselves in pictures, we expect to see something different, better. Think about the pictures you see every day. You see actors and actresses, athletes, models, all dolled up and airbrushed and photoshopped for the cameras. Pictures rarely show us reality. They show us IMPROVED reality. Even in my own personal life, when I’m in a picture, it’s not at 9 am on a Sunday morning in my pajamas, it’s when I’m out on Saturday night, dressed up with makeup on. In pictures, we expect to see ourselves airbrushed, or at the very least with hair brushed. So when someone catches us in a candid picture and our reality shows, it’s jarring. We’re expecting (or hoping) to look like models who’ve had a dozen shots to look through before picking just the right one.

The rise of social media and the invention of “Selfies” has made photographs even more unrealistic for the average person. I remember being at the famous pier in San Francisco that overlooks Alcatraz, having dinner with my husband. From our table, I could see people getting pictures of Alcatraz from the end of the pier. But I noticed that they weren’t actually taking pictures of Alcatraz. They were taking “selfies” – the pictures where you snap a shot of yourself doing something (or nothing) and share it with your friends. They weren’t taking A selfie. They were taking literally dozens of “selfies.” With this pose and that pose. Like a full-on selfie photo shoot. They stood there, in the freezing cold wind, snapping and snapping away until they got the “perfect shot.” Rather than enjoying the view or experiencing the city, they stood there for 15 minutes to capture one moment in time. Why do we do this?

Today, pictures are held to a higher standard. We are able to easily snap 100 photos until we get the one we like. And to go even further, with photographic technology of today, there are a shocking number of filters and touch-up options that can artificially remove quite literally anything you don’t like in your picture. Want to look thinner? Chop-chop! Don’t like those wrinkles? Away they go!

But here’s the thing, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should! We’re creating false and even unachievable beauty standards with this “better than reality” world of altered photographs and I think that it’s ultimately damaging. Some of this has started to change thankfully. The world is realizing that utilizing this technology is creating beauty standards that are setting us all up to fail. Reality simply can’t achieve what technology can produce. Doesn’t stop us from trying though. And it doesn’t stop us from feeling “less than” when we can’t meet or exceed that level of perfection.

Whoever decided that flawless was beautiful anyway? Or thin? Or tall? Why can’t it ALL be beautiful?

I think we can all agree that physical appearance is only one small part of a person. What makes a person beautiful is a lot of different things, most of which has nothing to do with what they look like. But even though we know that our appearance is not the most important thing, beauty standards impact us all in some way. None of us is impervious. So, why don’t we create better, more inclusive standards?

I want to see REAL people – all kinds of different people – in REAL photographs. That’s what I want as my beauty standard. I want to expect my pictures to look like me. Not an “improved” version of me. Most days, I like mirror-me. I want to like photo-me too. I think we all need that.

I saw this on Facebook the other day and I so appreciated the laugh and the undeniable reality of the pics. It kinds of fits here, so I’m sharing…