Okay, straighten your back.
But not so much that it looks like you’re trying to push your boobs out.
Now tilt your head down.
But not so far that you have a double chin.
But not so wide that your eyes get squinty.
Make sure your arms aren’t doing something weird.
Same goes for your hands.
Suck in your gut.
Be as still as possible.
Wait until the picture is taken.
Check and make sure you’re not afraid of letting it go out into the world.
Retake if necessary.
How many times have you said these things to yourself when you’re having your picture taken? How many times have you held your breath and plastered a look of happiness on your face just to get something that was Instagram-worthy? How many times have you edited your picture to make your skin look clearer, teeth look whiter, your eyes look brighter?
I took the featured image on this post earlier this week when I had some time to kill before I had to leave for class. (I should have been working on my take home exam, believe me, I know.) I took this image along with about 23 others so that I would be able to have just one that I could put on the Internet. Plot twist: none of them were as good as what I was wanting. Not. A. Single. One.
When I sat down for this mini-photo shoot, I had eyebrow hairs that needed to be plucked, my hair was still a little damp from showering, my face was red and puffy from not drinking enough water the day before, and I didn’t have an ounce of makeup on. The wind kept pushing my hair out from where it was tucked behind my ears. I felt like my thighs looked like marshmallows in a microwave and my t-shirt (which says, “Women’s rights are human rights…” #I’mWithHer) was pulling in all the wrong places.
I usually hate pictures where I’m sitting because my fat rolls protrude and my posture sucks, but there aren’t that many dynamic places to take pictures around my house. There was literally a plastic bag tumbling down the street as I was sitting on our porch, frustrated with the pictures I had taken. Coincidence? Probably not.
Then, something inside of me just said, You know what? Screw it. I’m sick of taking zillions of the same shot just so that I can have one that looks just right. Especially when I’m out with friends. I cannot count the number of times I’ve asked someone to take a group picture and then impulsively zoomed in to make sure I looked good, usually resulting in a request for a retake. Sometimes it almost feels like documenting all of my social outings in the name of oversharing takes away from the quality time I could be spending with my friends.
I’m not denying that image (even in the most literal sense) is important. The pictures we take and post on social media usually say the most about who we are – they show what we’re interested in, who we enjoy spending time with, and how we think of ourselves. But why, I must ask, are we so consumed with only letting people see the side of us that is (pun intended) picture perfect?
I’m going to let you in on a huge secret: I have very large breasts. Shocker, I know. I went through puberty when I was in third grade, so obviously I’m a lot more developed than most other girls my age. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s nice having something to catch my food when it falls right before it reaches my mouth and I absolutely love having curves, but I’ve never not noticed how “well-endowed” I am. I’ve spent countless hours in front of the mirror figuring out how to pose so that I minimize the size of my chest, but at a certain point, constantly being aware of my body and how it looks becomes exhausting. Sometimes a girl just wants to lean back in her porch swing without feeling self conscious about looking like she has two cantaloupes in her bra.
I want it to be the norm that we post pictures of ourselves when we aren’t feeling so hot in addition to when we feel like we’re absolutely on top of the world. Real life isn’t always pizza with your name on it and bottomless cookie dough ice cream- it’s messy and fabulous and a neck-breaking roller coaster of emotions. It’s good hair days and bad hair days and days when you are just itching to get to the hair salon for a change. It’s days when you flaunt your boobs because you love your body and days when you want nothing more than to hide behind a baggy sweatshirt. It’s days when you’re the plastic bag and days when you’re the wind.
So you should be nicer to yourself. And I should be nicer to myself, too. We’re only human, so trying to be perfect is really just a great big waste of energy. Plus, if we really take a look, I think we’ll find that we’re all pretty great just the way we are.