Recently, I read a very brave article.
Over at xojane.com, contributor Lesley wrote a piece called “I like looking at terrible pictures of myself.” She posted four selfies at her perceived most “unattractive,” and explained both why she hated them and why it was good for her to get over it. She wrote,
“And so I look at bad pictures of myself. I don’t delete them, I don’t just skim them, I REALLY LOOK. It’s like a workout for my self-compassion muscles. And in time, I find myself less and less bothered by unflattering images. Because if I’m not kind to myself, it’s difficult to expect that anyone else will be.”
What struck me about this article and the accompanying photos was how much of society’s constructs are self-enforced. Lesley talks about her curating photos, her inability to show anyone photos that are less than her imagined self-image. What makes unkind judgments and restrictions possible is too often her tacit compliance.
In our Catfish-culture, or a culture where our online persona is so important that we believe it is a reflection of ourselves, is it revolutionary to show a realistically “unattractive” side of yourself?
When society is being discussed, we’re accustomed to the context being, “enforcing something I don’t like.” Instead of the Merriam-Webster definition, which states society is “people in general thought of as living together in organized communities with shared laws, traditions, and values.” If society is being talked about, it’s because other people are doing something wrong, and often to us.
Lesley, in her own way, subverts that. By putting a full stop to her own participation in negative behavior, she contributes to a culture where self-image is tolerant, rather than curated. Tolerance may be brutal for our fragile egos, but it opens up a whole world of honesty that wasn’t present. And she does it all by herself.
I wish I could say I was brave enough to post all the painful, terrible pictures that exist of me — but nope, those pictures will never go away, and there are way too many people who would love to use them until the end of time. Probably including certain family members, who may or may not be guilty of the “oh but I think you look fine!” strategy Lesley hilariously harpoons. But above is a picture of me that I’m not proud of, but it’s me. Have at, Internet.
To whit, it’s a righteous move; a mutinous action for our world of Glamorous teeth whitener, anti-wrinkle creams, hair dye, fake eyelashes, and a team of waxers and gym trainers. This isn’t a retreat from outward realities — I’m not going Amish here, people — but defying my own inner judge. Because I’ve found that it’s the mean voice inside that’s often the harshest enforcer of society’s so-called rules. And the regular Jane or Joe you pass alongside in the street? Their inner voice is probably the one sending them off to the spinning class or hair salon, too, rather than you yelling at them to get to it.
We are the number one participant in our own Catfishing, and we can be the first or the last participant in a society of truth and dignity.