In line with an earlier post – Don’t Compare Yourself to People on Social Media, I wanted to take a look at the ‘what you see is not what you get’ phenomenon.
In society today, it’s safe to assume that (almost) every media image used is altered in some way.
With all of the editing going on, I think it’s important to keep these points in mind.
Understand it’s not real
When I was younger (sometime in my early twenties) I regularly bought a monthly magazine called ‘Top Model’. I totally loved it! It was filled with attractive women and the occasional beautiful male model (Marcus Schenkenberg was my PC screen saver for quite a long time after I discovered this magazine).
My girlfriend (who had struggled with an eating disorder) once asked me if I found the magazines depressing. The answer was no because I never really believed it was real. I knew the women were beautiful (each in their own way) but I was also aware of the smoke and mirrors set up that went into the photos (smoke and mirrors = hair, makeup, lighting, clothes and airbrushing).
I remember seeing a photo of Carrie Otis in one of these magazines. Carrie Otis was Mickey Rourke’s (think 9½ Weeks as opposed to The Wrestler) girlfriend around that time. She had a tattoo on her shoulder in real life but in a particular photo, I noticed it was missing.
I realized what you see is not what you get.
Bear in mind – this was all before Photoshop! Airbrushing was all the rage back then.
Now they can completely and dramatically alter any image beyond recognition.
Am I against Photoshop? No. Next year I will be looking into having some professional photos of myself taken for this website. Will I have them touched up a little? Yes, I probably will.
I also know that I will want them to look like me. I will want them to represent who I truly am – not a version of who I think people want or what society tells me I should look like.
Understand it’s all smoke and mirrors.
Assume everything you see has been altered
This isn’t about being cynical (or even judgmental), it’s about being realistic.
I know there has been talk over the years about companies advising people when an image has been Photoshopped. I’ll be blunt, I assume they all have been.
We need to assume that (almost) everything we see in the mainstream media has been altered in some way.
If the image is on the front of a magazine, it’s safe to say it has probably been dramatically altered.
Want a longer neck, no problem. Perfect pores anyone, move that ear, sculpt that nose, get rid of those blemishes, plump that top lip, thin that thigh, go the tiny waist, remove those freckles, get that flat stomach – the list is endless.
Trying to look like the model is pointless, because the model doesn’t look like the model.
This isn’t just about altering images.
It’s about altering perception. A lot of the time it’s about altering perceptions to make money.
Let’s take makeup as an example. Before I proceed, I should point out I have nothing against makeup but I do have a problem with the way it is sometimes perceived.
A classic example is the makeup remover ads. Got to say those ones crack me up! The eye makeup remover ones are my favorite. One gentle swipe and all of the makeup comes off easily – but what’s this – the next shot the person still has makeup on. One, let’s be honest the makeup never comes off that easily and two, if the person has removed their makeup they should be wearing no makeup!
My other all time favorite is the no makeup look. The one that in actual fact took two hours of hair and makeup to look like they weren’t wearing makeup! Come on…
Understand the dangers in believing
The danger lies in us believing everything we see. A problem arises when we change who we are to fit someone’s Photoshopped version of perfection or beauty.
Young girls stop eating to be as thin as their favorite celebrity/model. People rush out to get cosmetic surgery, Botox, fillers, butt implants (seriously what the hell is that about?) to copy a certain look. Often to copy a dramatically altered look.
People lay out in the sun or use harmful tanning beds to look like a tanned model in a magazine (a tan that was most likely Photoshopped in the first place).
We spend a fortune (which let’s face it is the whole point) on replicating a models perfect skin. The perfect skin that the model doesn’t actually have! Everyone has pores. Everyone’s face needs to move in some way to eat, smile and well basically function.
When we are Photoshopping school photos of 8-year-old girls to have flawless skin (something I saw a story on recently) we are stepping into troubling territory.
I understand that humans are visual creatures and we like to look at pretty things but we need to understand pushing an unrealistic image of beauty comes at a cost.
Appreciate beauty in others but know your own
I admire beauty as much as the next person. I see beauty in people, in nature, in animals. I see it all around us. I see beauty in kindness and compassion. I see it in people taking care of one another.
I also know that someone I find beautiful – might not be beautiful to someone else. That is where the true beauty lies – in that we have our own tastes, opinions, values and our own way of seeing the world.
It’s perfectly fine to think someone is beautiful as long as you appreciate and know your own beauty as well.
None of this – “I am ugly compared to (fill in the blank)” crap. That’s just rubbish. Harmful suck the soul out of you rubbish.
Don’t believe everything you see. Never compare yourself to a touched image!
You are worth so much more than that.
The true power of beauty is how each of us is unique and beautiful in our own way.
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Related posts – Know Your Own Beauty Part 1, Know Your Own Beauty Part 2, Know Your Own Beauty Part 3.