I hate getting my photo taken.
I know. If you’ve taken a look at my Instagram feed over the past few months, it might be difficult to tell.
It’s hard to resist the urge of getting snap-happy as you’re travelling, asking friends and strangers to get that perfect shot of you looking out into the sunset or even indulging in the odd selfie or self-timer photo. I mean, how else will I remember all the places I’ve been?
But then, somehow I’ve found myself in a total of 7 photoshoots since being in Bali. Most have been with friends, messing around on the beach or in rice fields but then there’s been the odd slide into the DMs as though this is something I do on the regular.
Full credit to the incredibly talented photo I’ve worked with who have somehow managed to capture a side of me that I’ve never even seen myself. Through all the great lighting, the photoshop and the filters, they’ve been able to hide all the insecurity that has built up from years of self-deprecation, body image issues and false comparisons I’ve dealt with over the past 25 years of my life.
The truth of the matter is, I do hate how I look. My eyes are too small, the bags too big, the nose too large, my cheeks too round. My hair never falls how I want it, my belly’s always bloated, my arms are too big and I wish my butt was more perky. Call this just another girl with self-image issues, lingering dysmorphia from teenage eating disorders or whatever it might be, it’s never a healthy narrative to carry around with you.
While I’ve loved how these photos turned out, it’s hard not to say ‘who the hell is that girl in the picture?’ She seems so removed to me without all the make-up and filters. I’m so indifferent to her because that is definitely what I see in the mirror.
I resist the urge to get on the FaceTune and start hiding some of these flaws. And I would be lying if I hadn’t on occasion used that in my past photos. But in my efforts to be more real on my Instagram, resisting the urge and baring it all has been one of the hardest things to do.
Albeit, I don’t talk about my self-image issues much either, let alone highlight them in the photos that I share. The issues get lost in the usual girly banter of our own flaws, as though we’re living out the scene of Mean Girls.
The thing is, criticising our bodies or constantly trying to improve them have become the norm.
Body positivity is a movement. Loving our curves is a form of rebellion. Not photoshopping or filtering is a revolution. When did this all start? Why can’t we just celebrate the things we like about ourselves without it being a joke or seen as too narcissistic.
I don’t know how I could have ever learned what it meant to be fat. I know it was before I understood what a BMI was. Like most people, it was probably from seeing what seemed to be normal, praised by the media or the people around me as looking good or right. Stick thin, not jiggly, perfectly toned. I remember it getting worse; the comments people thought were harmless but went through all the fat and straight to the bone.
And yes, while these standards might be changing to preference strength over thinness, it doesn’t shake the comparison one feels to put one body against another and circle all the differences. Social media has made it all the worse. While the magazines and professional models all looked so perfect, it could often be easy to remove yourself from being the same species as them. They’re not ‘real’ people.
If anything, the proliferation of influencers or even overly well crafted images of the normal person makes one realise that even people like us could look like that too. No it’s not just the celebrities with nothing but time to work out and plenty of money for the best beauty treatments. My friends, people I know, people I’ve come to idolise look like that too. And with the amount of time spent consuming all this content every day, it’s hard to look away and delineate in the same way.
It might be years since I was at my worst, but it’s a constant battle with my immediate instinct to criticise everything and to count the calories, to feel the guilt for indulging or not exercising hard enough.
So where do we go from here? Is this just it? Are we resigned to a life of self-criticism, reminding ourselves that it was all the damn system that screwed us up, trying to feel a little more positive and treat yourself and then hating yourself all over again for giving in?
To be honest, I have no fucking idea. And seeing myself in these shots have not helped one bit. If anything, they’ve just confused me further. I mean, I don’t even know where this blog post is even going.
The thing is that I didn’t want to be sharing all these pics without all the context around it. I didn’t want people to also look at my profile and think that this is unattainable. Because somehow it is.
I am still incredibly insecure and there are hundreds more selects that I may never share on this page. I do curate my feed to show a certain side of me that isn’t always the day to day. I am scared to walk out without just a little bit of makeup and I still compare myself to everyone around me.
But I’m working on it. Putting myself out there in these photos and goddammit, through this blog, is a huge struggle for me. I’d love to just leave the perception of myself to whatever strangers may think of me and never show anything less than perfect. But that would also be going against everything I’m trying to uphold in my values. And I wasn’t prepared for that when I set out on this mission to tell better stories on social. I got myself there.
So there it all is. Me, my struggles, my doubt. Do with it what you will. Because I’m still figuring out what to do with it myself.