Image is everything.

Image is everything. Or is it? Today’s world and social media says so. Especially for women. Airbrush this, stick a filter on that, photoshop the fuck out of everything. So many apps that allow you to change your photos to make them look ace.

Which, let’s be honest, they do look ace. You can make something look pretty damn sweet with enough filters and editing. This is nothing new, photographers have been doing it for years. But now everyone can do it with their day to day photos, and then use that to present their life to the world. Which is OK, apart from that makes it intrinsically false and fake.

There’s been loads of talk of this in the media over the last few months, lots of people writing similar posts and sad stories of people who presented the perfect life when reality was actually far from it, some ending in tragic circumstances. I kind of posted about this back in May when the #lifeunfiltered hashtag was doing the rounds.

Today I read a story about a teenager who was making money from social media – mainly the pictures she was posting and the clothes she was wearing – when she decided to remove most of the pictures and edit the captions of certain pictures to reveal the truth behind the pictures.  How she didn’t eat, would take over 100 shots to get the ‘perfect’ picture and so on. What a great thing to do to try to raise awareness of the reality behind these ‘perfect’ lives.

I hate the world today in terms of the media and what we as women get told we should be, what we should look like, what kind of life we should be living. Who is anyone to tell us what we should or shouldn’t do? The life the media and advertising gives us is totally unattainable for most people, and can cause so much unhappiness and low self esteem. It’s like chasing a unicorn across a rainbow; unrealistic.

We should be teaching our daughters, nieces, friends etc. to love themselves. To be happy from within. That looks are not the be all and end all. That how much you weigh doe not dictate your happiness. That being healthy and loving yourself is much more important. That you do not need validation from others to feel worthy. That confidence is much more attractive than make up or clothes. That following your dreams and listening to yourself is a pretty good Thing To Do.

The older I get the more I see younger women unhappy and uncomfortable. I’ve found the older I get the more happy I become (and having chatted to a lot of my friends of similar age or older it’s common). Because the older I get the more I realise what is important (and what’s not). That worrying about what you look like in your 20’s is such a waste. Get to your 30’s and more and you’ll realise that looks wise, your 20’s is a prime time. That you weren’t fat. That you didn’t have wrinkles. That old saying of youth is wasted on the young. And I’m sure it will be the same in my 40’s. And 50’s. And so on.

Back in 2012 I did a photo-a-day blog to document my first year of single life – a year I knew would be spent rediscovering myself. One post was some advice I would give to my 15 year old self. It’s a fairly short post but still stands true today. I’ve recently seen a post about what older women would also say to their younger selves too. And similar articles on the internet. It’s all fairly similar. Tricky though, as I also know that had someone told me this back when I was 15 I totally wouldn’t have listened. Because of course I knew everything, I was a teenager. I was lucky enough to have parents who made me believe I could do anything, and even though events in my 20’s could have quashed that belief, they didn’t, luckily. It just took me a few more years to start putting it into practice.

People need make and learn from their own mistakes, but if we could foster a world where some basic principles become the norm, I’d like to think that the lessons would come from where people had reached for the stars rather than cried over what stares back at them from a mirror. If someone is only interested in you for what you look like, then do you really want to know them? Does their opinion really matter? Why do you feel the need to be validated by them, and especially why do you feel the need to be validated on what you look like?

I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know there are a number of things out there trying to break down the notions of a ‘perfect life’. To encourage and inspire women (and men, this isn’t a gender-specific problem) to believe in themselves, ultimately boosting self confidence and self esteem. And I’m going to try to do that at any opportunity. I don’t have kids, but I have a niece, a god-daughter and many friends with children. If I can be some kind of role model to them and try and pass this message on, then that’s the least I can do.

In the words of Nelson Mandela:

“Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”

Advertisements