How Photo Retouching is Destroying Our Self-Esteem

Photo retouching has grown in popularity recently, especially over the past five years or so. With the rise of camera phones, Instagram, and other free apps that allow us to change our looks in the blink of an eye, we can post a picture that shows us as we want to be seen, not as we may truly be.

By the time someone gets a bunch of likes on their photo, they start to enjoy the attention and use these photo retouching services and apps more frequently.

What has started as harmless fun has turned into a self-esteem killer. Picture after picture, we hit the filter button so our eyes look a little brighter or our hair a little darker. It has become almost a habit for Instagram users to automatically apply a filter before posting the picture to their social media pages.

It’s as if the real us isn’t good enough anymore.

Without those filters, we’re left to look ourselves in the mirror at the end of the day and wonder why we can’t look as good as the photos we have filtered.

A Harsh Reality

I admit that I used to enjoy photo retouching just so that I could make my face look smoother or my skin a little less red after a day in the sun. It only took a few pictures for me to find myself buried in the world of altering my image, and I lost a bit of confidence along the way.

Thankfully, I noticed it quick enough and forced myself to get out of the habit before it got any worse, but I can’t help but worry about those people who have gotten so deep that they have forgotten how beautiful they truly are.

What is True Beauty Anyways?

I think the media is partially to blame for this sudden desire to look perfect at all times. Think about it – if you were taking a picture with a bunch of your friends would one of them ask to see it just to see if it was Facebook worthy? Yeah… we’ve gotten to that point.

The worst part? We’re in constant competition without even realizing it!

Instead of enjoying the true beauty of someone or something, we are liking and falling in love with false images.

If you’ve ever done online dating, I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of images that look like they have been Photoshopped or filtered in some way. People think that if they post pictures of themselves at their best at all times that it will make another person like them that much more.

Well, this may be true to an extent, but what happens in the long term? Do you really end up being that much happier with yourself or do you begin to watch as the years tick away and you forget what beauty really is?

Say Goodbye to Society’s Definition of Perfection – It’s Unattainable

I worry for a lot of our younger generation because they are feeding into a false lifestyle.

Rather than looking in the mirror and seeing a beautiful person facing them, they are thinking about how they can tilt their head or lean in the light a bit more just to make themselves look better.

In return, they get a quick feeling of satisfaction as their news feeds blow up with likes and comments telling them how awesome they look, but then those start to fade over time and the high from all the attention goes away.

Once that attention dies down, the desire to feel special and beautiful begins to grow stronger and that individual resorts to photo retouching another image that looks just as good, if not better, than the first one. The cycle goes on and on without any end.

It’s almost like an addiction of sorts – you start with one selfie and get 12 likes, then you post a picture with an Instagram filter that gets 20 likes, so you continue to use the filters because more people give you attention for it.

It’s not just ourselves that are destroying our self-esteem. Look at all the various advertisements that we see every day.

Did you know that we are exposed to over a couple thousand advertisements throughout our day? That’s right –thousands! 

None of the models we see have wrinkles under their eyes, their arms and legs look lean, and their smile is as white as can be. It’s all a show.

Keep Away from Photo Retouching Overload

You have probably heard about the Target Photoshop mishap that occurred just a little while back. This is just one of the many examples of how photo retouching has gone wrong. If a model requires some tweaks with a few mouse clicks here and there, then that should prove that we all have our own imperfections.

Please don’t take those imperfections as a bad thing! Instead, view them as something that is unique to you and your beauty.

I’ll share a secret with you – I felt beyond imperfect after getting gallbladder surgery and I fell victim to the whole picture altering lifestyle so that I felt better about myself.

What I discovered is that I felt emptier than I ever had. I don’t remember exactly how I snapped out of it, but gradually I began to see my scars as a story rather than an imperfection. Today, I am not ashamed of them because they represent strength and being a conqueror over sickness. In fact, every time I look at them I think about my dreams and goals and how I wouldn’t let anything block me from achieving them, or at least attempting to.

Since then, I’ve filtered a few images here and there but I refuse to make it a consistent habit; I know that would be unhealthy for my self-esteem, and I hope you can identify whether it would be for you, too.

I could go on and on about the various changes I wish I could make to some pictures, such as making my eyebrows look better, my eyes a little greener, and my skin a little clearer. None of that matters anymore. Today, I’m not ashamed to post pictures of my natural self on social media because that is how I was meant to be made. According to the people that love me, I’m beautifully made, and so are you!

Photoshop Collage

Make Some Changes

Okay, so what do you do if you’re addicted to Instagram and you practice photo retouching on a daily basis?

First, practice some positive self-talk every morning – stand in front of the mirror and tell yourself that you’re beautiful and were made for a reason. 

Second, stop getting on social media so much. If you aren’t constantly comparing yourself to other people, then you won’t have as strong of a desire to get more attention than them (through likes, comments, and whatever else you can do on social media these days).

Finally, you may need to delete all those apps until you can get a grip on your situation. This one may be the most difficult and unwelcoming of the bunch, but it may just do the trick.

For everyone else who isn’t addicted to selfies, filtering images, and constantly posting on social media, just be aware of what is going on around you.

Don’t let advertisements deceive you into thinking that beauty means being tall, skinny, blue-eyed, and put together all the time.

Also, if you notice one of your friends is constantly posting selfies, maybe you should consider inviting them out to dinner or an activity so that they can have some positive attention. Give them a compliment while you’re out and just enjoy the time you have together.

Ultimately, it’s about getting back to the basics and being true to yourself and those in your circle. Find what makes you content, build your self-esteem from positive sources, and come to the realization that to someone, somewhere, you are absolutely perfect!

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