Did you know it’s only been about ten years since the first iPhone came out?
In the 200,000 years that humans have been on two legs, it’s only in the last decade that we’ve been able to take a picture of our own face and stare at it for hours looking for imperfections.
See, there I was (on a night just like this), elbow deep in asking myself if I’m addicted to affirmation, when I wondered something: were we designed to actually see our own faces?
That’s when I got into a Google loop.
If you’re wondering when the mirror as we know it made it to the market….1835.
*Shockingly*, it was soon after, in the early 1900s, that makeup became all the rage again.
There’s a point to this.
I’m not saying we weren’t meant to see ourselves like we do now in this selfie-world, but I’m pretty sure that #science has said something about how our faces are made they way they are to be attractive to other people, not necessarily for our own eyes.
I think it’s one of those things like how we’ll always hate the sound of our own voices...maybe we weren’t necessarily meant to hear them either.
I’m not saying we should never record ourselves (hello, I’m on an award winning podcast on itunes) ((don’t Google that)), I just don’t think ten short years is long enough for our brains to evolve into self-love of our reflections, that’s all.
And because of that, we spend an embarrassing amount of time filtering our faces and our days to look the way we wish people would see us.
We look at things through filters all the time, don’t we? Things are rarely seen clearly. We are biased by experiences and our thoughts are filtered that way. Our cultures and upbringings filter things in other ways.
Then we get a smartphone in our hands and we spend the rest of our lives filtering out the filters we’re given.
We spend so much time making things look better than they are, or caption things sardonically so we’re not seen as vulnerable, do we have any time left to try to like things the way they actually are?
Now, let me just admit that I am a notorious social media poster of things. There are two reasons for this: the algorithm the Socials use means I have to post all the time for this dumb blog to get seen by anyone; and second, I think I’m hysterical.
I genuinely think if I never got another “like” in my life, I’d still post funny things so I can go back and laugh later.
But there’s a third, secret reason that I’d only be brave enough to admit here: I want my life to look better than I think it is. I want it to look better than yours.
I want you to want my life and my face and my experiences, because maybe if you want them, I’ll want them too.
I want you to look at my posts the way I’m probably looking at yours - with serious cases of lustitis and covetosis.
I think my own body image issues keep me from the selfie life. Me, and every girl I’ve ever known. I won't believe when people post the basic bitch response of "Omgggg hawt", so I don't want to pander for it. Ya dig what I’m saying?
Sometimes I worry about myself. I don't like how I compare. It is a truly rare moment in time that I'll see someone else's beautiful photo and not want to light their car on fire, or worse, want to crawl into bed and cry myself to sleep for not being [insert thing they are that I’ll never be here].
Sometimes I wish I could get more fired up when I see someone's fake Social Media life. I wish I got mad, or overly happy, or scoffed, or anything actually...anything other than just really sad.
The obsession with other people’s lives in comparison is an addiction. One of my many, but no less serious than any other addiction in many ways.
We think of addictions as someone else’s problem. A lack of control, or will power, or a poor upbringing, or a hidden destructive secret. Usually we see addictions as weaknesses. I think we’re wrong. Or at least misinformed.
It can be a chemical that tricks us into thinking we need more, bringing us to our knees. Or, in the case of Instaholism, it can be a maladaptive habit loop like thinking we need someone else’s constant affirmation to be ok. And not just any old someone…*that* someone. The someone that we strive to be and be better than. We all have that person, don’t worry.
This kind of addictive trigger is hard specifically to avoid, though. It’s in front of us giving us the itches. It can be a gateway that brings us to binge eating Cheetos in bed, or compulsively exercising. It can be a catalyst for a depressive episode with all of the “not enough” rhetoric swimming in our brains. It can make us want to be more outrageous than anyone else for attention. Remember: negative attention is still attention.
Comparison is a habit. Habits build compulsions. And addictions are the fire fed by the fuel of a compulsion.
So. Cool. Now what?
I mean, filter the absolute pants off of pictures sometimes (read: literally all the time). Landscapes, food, pictures of friends, trips...and I've had to think about why. I don't think I want the picture to look different, it's just that the camera (read: ePhone) doesn't ever capture what I'm seeing in real life.
When I'm with friends and we're enjoying something, I want to remember how they were seeing the thing I saw. It's the people I remember, not what my DeFazio's looked like. When I'm somewhere beautiful or interesting, and it really strikes me, I really do see the colors in the filters I choose. I just want to show anyone who cares that there's something worth seeing out there if you just look up.
Well, look up, then look back down immediately to put it on social media to tell people to look up. Yeah, I hear myself here, don't worry.
So where’s the balance between wanting everyone to see the beauty I see, and wanting to make my life look more fantastic than theirs?
A cursory search says that this is an issue being looked at heavily these days, and I definitely won’t have *the* answer.
But here’s what I’ve been doing, for what it’s worth. I’ve intentionally surrounded myself with people who lift me up, not drag me down. That’s a start. I’ve gotten super vulnerable with these fools and tried asking them to use language I can hear. So instead of saying, “OMG you look soooo thin and hot,” (#lol) say, “You look like you’ve been working hard, and I love the way your eyes look today!”
It’s a different kind of start.
From there, I’ve stopped following social media models. I took a hard look at the way seeing their posts make me feel. I didn’t feel motivated or inspired, I felt beaten into the ground and exhausted. That’s not the way I want to live. I follow people that admit their scars, and who have lived a real life. I want to know they feel the way I do sometimes.
Then I try to limit the binging. When I’m anxious or uncomfortable in any way (like, when I’m awake and breathing, for example), my hand itches to pick up my phone. I’m trying….trying so freaking hard...to catch myself a few times before my hand reaches my phone. And if I can’t catch myself beforehand, at least see what I’m doing and be more mindful of whether I’m aimlessly scrolling or something even slightly more productive.
I want to stress that I rarely nail this. That’s not the point. I’m aware and I’m practicing.
Then I practice not hating every inch of my face, and letting my girlfriend take a non-sarcastic picture of the two of us. Because she’s the one looking at me, and weirdly, she happens to like my face. Isn’t that all that matters?