Written by guest blogger Hannah Maine
Just as we don’t show everything about ourselves in physical interactions, we don’t show everything of ourselves online. However, the handy features of Afterlight photo editor, Instagram filters, text, and the “edit post” button makes this version of ourselves that we present online a little more premeditated and a lot more idealized.
I spend a lot of energy worrying about how I look to others on social media, thinking about the hundreds of ways people will dislike what I say in my posts or the way I look. I panic after hitting the “submit” button nearly every time, as all my flaws run through my head.
But I don’t hear the haunting words of everything wrong with me in my own voice or even from the mouths of bullies. My insecurities come to me in the voices of my best friends.
I compare myself to their pictures, what they do, and the seemingly charmed lives they live. My life and all of its reality is hideous in comparison. My filtered pictures and clever captions seem like pathetic attempts to compete.
I keep these insecurities inside, to eat away at my thoughts while I put my best, airbrushed face forward online in order to seem happy or as good as my friends—in order to seem normal.
But normal isn’t present in these perfectly posed pictures. The thought of everyone seeing my normal, unedited, real pictures would throw panic into my gut. A while ago, I started to realize something about these pictures with the prominent double chin, yellowed teeth, no makeup, squinted eyes, etc. These were captured moments when I wasn’t posed or thinking about how it would look online, but I was just living.
I decided to fight my anxieties that seemed to be filling my days. To fight myself and my own idea of what a good life looks like online. I asked myself, “what do I want to show the world of social media—my best selfie or my best self?”
So I took these hideous and happy photos, put them all together to the track of my favorite song, and posted them all online. Click here to watch.
For about the next hour after I hit submit, I was so on edge I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn’t sleep with all the horrible things others would think of my stupid, cheesy, ugly post running through my head.
And then, the little red notification dot made my heart go into double time and I realized it wasn’t about how I looked or the way I worded the caption. I think it was about the way people felt when they saw it. When people responded, sharing that I was an inspiration or that I looked beautiful—it wasn’t really about me. I think the important part about all the responses I got wasn’t the compliments, but the idea that some of these people felt what I have felt as well.
My best friends are the smartest, most beautiful, ambitious, fun, impressive, amazing human beings in the world. I look up to them. I admire them. But I think they feel the wrenching pain of insecurities too. Maybe they look a little different, maybe the cutting insults they say to themselves aren’t identical, but I think the pain is the same. I could tell my friends how incredible and gorgeous they are, but maybe the best way to support them is by showing them—and everyone—it’s okay to be ourselves.
I honestly hadn’t even thought of it beforehand, but in my attempt to fight my securities, I might have been fighting others’ insecurities too.
My post didn’t take away the comparison, the anxiety, or the desire to whiten my teeth in every photo, but I did feel oddly better after I realized I wasn’t alone and maybe I helped others realize they weren’t alone either.
It gives me hope that my post showing real happiness and raw, ugly insecurities got the most likes I’ve ever gotten (not that I’m counting…)