Last week, you may have seen more social media posts on body image, eating, disordered eating, recovery stories, and more. To honor National Eating Disorder Awareness week, many people posted their stories; discussed their relationship with their bodies, food or dieting; or posted self-esteem building and self-love content. While I love the outpour of information and support in these areas, I noticed that in the midst of doing this, the filters and altered images still flooded my Newsfeeds.
Can we both body positive and self-loving if the pictures we are posting aren’t even of ourselves?
Looking back at Facebook Memories, I see myself 10 years ago in a completely unaltered state. I thought it was success simply taking the cord from my ancient digital camera and uploading the pictures to an album was successful. Now, egos are fed by the number of likes or followers you have. Frankly, I miss the time where you posted real pictures...not ones that have completely smoothed your face, made your eyes set further apart and bigger, nose thinner, and teeth whiter.
Comparison has taken on new forms. CBS News published an article in August of 2018 discussing the uprise plastic surgeons on seeing due to “Snapchat dysmorphia”. We are no longer comparing ourselves or bringing in pictures of Kim K’s nose or lips to get surgery for; however, we ARE requesting to look like the Snapchat filters. Now, it is not just celebrities defining beauty standards, but our friends, classmates, peers. These standards are once again an unattainable and unrealistic version of ourselves.
This article continues to write that more people are seeking plastic surgery because they want to take better selfies.
Now do you think social media hasn’t impacted us?
Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a mental health diagnosis where one sees a particular body part severely different than it actually is. It’s like taking a magnifying glass to your perceived flaw, and filters can be a trigger to this warped type of thinking. People with this diagnosis think about this for hours out of the day and impacts their daily functioning. It's not simply disliking a certain part of our bodies like many of us do, but it's preoccupation with the "defect" to the point where it's impacting decisions, social skills, and view of self.
Humor me for a minute. Scroll through your Instagram and count how many of the pictures you’ve posted with yourself in it include a Snapchat filter. No cheating. I’m guilty of this too.
Some people I know even refuse to take pictures on their regular camera anymore. Some people being myself at one point. The filters made me feel much prettier, even if it wasn’t real and even if everyone KNEW it wasn’t real. I didn’t care. Now, I don’t get on Snapchat more than twice per week, and I don’t use the filters. My brain is so sensitive to images regarding my appearance and how I look that I don’t need anything else to contribute to its distorted views. Somewhere along the way, you start believing that those images are what you should actually be looking like in real life.
So I ask you, where do you fall? Can you relate? Will you decide to challenge yourself to start seeing you for YOU? Can you accept your nose for your nose and your eyes for the color they are without needing to alter that or any other body part?
If you find yourself with discomfort or anxiety when taking selfies without filters, I encourage you to offer yourself some self-compassion. These statements could include:
If these are too hard, think of yourself as a little girl or boy around 6-7 years old, if this kid was being as critical to him/her as you are, what would you say to that little one? I have to keep a reminder to talk to this kid near, so I chose to find a picture of myself at that age and put it as my screensaver on my phone. Comfort the inner child and you’ll soon be able to comfort your adult self.
Robin Helget, LSCSW
Therapist. Millennial. Social Worker. Dog Mom. Friend. Sister. Empath. INFJ. Lover of ice cream.