Image is powerful. Image is superficial. Yet, image is what defines our standards of beauty. We’re surrounded by aspirational images of beautiful people with beautiful body proportions (many of which are photoshopped) wearing beautiful things, and it forces us to give ourselves certain expectations of how we should look.
But these expectations are unrealistic and a waste of our efforts. How much time do we spend looking in the mirror examining the things we wish we could change about our looks – these uncontrollable traits we were born with? I wish my nose bridge was higher. I wish my lips were fuller. Can those freckles go away? These jeans would look so much better if my legs were longer and skinnier. This top would look better if only my chest wasn’t so flat.
STOP. Listen to me for a moment.
I discovered the below Ted Talk when I was in college and it still resonates with me today.
It’s only nine minutes long and I truly believe it’s worth watching. In case you don’t have the time to watch right now, here’s a quick summary of key points that are relevant to my post today:
Supermodel, Cameron Russel talks about the superficiality of image. She explains she won a genetic lottery and is the recipient of a societal legacy that defines beauty by thin bodies, feminine qualities, and white skin. As a supermodel with all of the above, she should be one of the most confident people on earth right? Wrong. She is insanely insecure about her appearance because she has to think about how she looks on a daily basis. She sums it up perfectly by saying, “If you ever are wondering if I have thinner thighs and shinier hair will I be happier? You just need to meet a group of models because they have the thinnest thighs and the shiniest hair and the coolest clothes and they’re the most physically insecure women, probably, on the planet.”
She then goes on to show her modeling photos of her when she was just fourteen – she looks 25. Russel then juxtaposes these images with photos that were taken of her on the same day on her own camera. In these photos, she doesn’t have makeup on and she’s in a tankini on the beach with her friend. Here, she looks fourteen. It proves that her modeling photos are not images of her. They are completely constructed by professionals – by hair stylists, makeup artists, photographers, pre production staff, post production staff…the list goes on and on.
The point is, we will never achieve body peace if we continue to let ourselves be tricked by the the societal standards of beauty that have been engrained in our brains. These images – the ones that make us wish we were someone else – are fabricated and superficial.
Notice, I keep saying “we,” not “you.” I too continue to struggle with physical insecurities, but I’ve already come a long way. It’s because I’ve realized that changing some of my biggest insecurities, for example my thick short legs, will never translate to happiness. However, recognizing that these muscular legs powered me to walk-on to a collegiate D1 track team does make me happy and proud. I love my legs, short as they are, because they are a part of me and who I am.
I have to admit, I’m being somewhat hypocritical. I’m telling you that image is superficial, yet I’m writing to you on a platform where beautiful imagery is key to success. Those short legs? I totally have Kevin crouch down at an angle when he’s taking blog photos to give me the illusion that my legs are longer. And you know what? I think that’s okay, just as long as I’m happy with how I look when I see myself in the mirror too – when there aren’t any special angles or filters. Just me.
This is part of the reason why I introduced monthly bloopers to my blog. I want to show you the power of photography and that we, bloggers, only show you the pictures that are most advantageous to the look we’re trying to portray.
My goal is to show you images that inspire you, that give you ideas, and maybe prompt you to try something new or think differently – whether it has to do with fashion, travel, or everyday life in general. I hope I can embolden you to think more positively about your own appearance while being more skeptical about the images surrounding you, even if it’s my own!