CN: diet culture, eating disorder, self-harm
As a culture, we’re conditioned to think pretty critically about ourselves and our appearance. This leads us to experience low self-esteem, a deflated sense of worthiness, and, of course, body image issues.
The truth is, nothing good comes from hating ourselves and our bodies — nothing good for us anyway.
The diet industry makes millions (billions?!) of dollars on our tendency to be excessively critical of our bodies, and don’t even get me started on cosmetics, skin care and plastic surgery that we pursue to improve our “look.” This Valentine’s Day, I want to encourage you to love yourself with some perspective… and maybe a Snapchat filter too!
Now, you may be asking what in the heck Snapchat has to do with self-love. Hear me out on this one. This past fall, I went on a weekend getaway to San Francisco with a dear friend of mine who’s also into some self-lovin’ stuff. She happens to be a pretty active user on Snapchat. Me, on the other hand, hadn’t even downloaded the app to my phone yet. As a Snapchat virgin, if you will, I let her impose filters and fun to her heart’s delight while I admired her work and appreciated it when she tagged me (and my Snapchat filtered face) across other social media channels.
I love the way (most) Snapchat filters make my face look. My skin is flawless and glowing. My eyes are bigger and brighter. Cheekbones are more defined, and I’m pretty sure my chin is narrowed a bit as well. My eyelashes look luscious, and lids are lined without any effort at all! I had to have Snapchat for myself. I felt compelled to master this sorcery as soon as I returned home from my California adventure.
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So I downloaded Snapchat and began using it, mostly to take selfies of myself and my kids, for fun. At first, I was still smitten with my selfie game on Snapchat. Then, I had some mixed feelings. While I loved the way I looked in the pictures, as soon as the filter was off, I found myself looking critically at my unaltered face. In those moments, I felt as though Snapchat had no place in my self-love journey.
Then, I remembered that research shows we see ourselves as 20% less attractive than we actually are. Next, I pondered just how much more beautiful I look using a Snapchat filter. Finally, I decided that, on average, Snapchat’s vanity filters improve how I see myself by approximately 20%.
That’s when I decided that Snapchat shows me how I look to other people — which is pretty damn gorgeous!
And then, I felt the self-love start to flow.
Now, there’s actually no evidence that Snapchat filters improve our appearance by this magical 20%, of course. That said, once I examined this a bit, I felt a bit more self-confident and empowered with a sense of my real beauty. And you can too!
I’m certainly not suggesting you spend even close to the national average of selfie-taking time (which, by the way, is more than five hours per week for young women). I am, however, encouraging you to occasionally take a picture of yourself with excellent lighting (and maybe a filter) so that you too can see yourself as other people see you. When have we previously had the technology at our fingertips to strip away programming from childhood that leads us to believe we’re less than the lovely soul we truly are?
You may be wondering why I care so much… why I believe this whole self-love thing is even important at all, especially around Valentine’s Day. Aside from my own eating disorder recovery experience and mental wellness journey, I have my reasons. You see, in my clinical practice as a child and family therapist, I see clients young and old every day who hate themselves. I see disordered eating, relationship problems, poor academic performance, self-injurious behavior, and the list goes on and on. All of these things are often, in some way or another, a result of poor self-esteem and a sense of unworthiness that comes from seeing oneself as being physically unattractive and undesirable. And the truth is, not everyone needs a therapist to overcome this.
If you’re experiencing clinical symptoms related to a deeper level of self-hatred, please talk to someone about it, maybe even a professional. But, if you’re like most people and carry with you a sense of feeling less attractive than you actually are, consider this your wake-up call. Love yourself a measly 20% more today than you did yesterday because you deserve it, regardless of how you look.
Valentine’s Day is often about loving others, but this year, let’s make it about loving ourselves.
Let’s flex our self-love muscles to include compassion, sympathy and even a little confidence. Practicing this change in perspective and improved self-image will work for us to foster healthier relationships with others and an improved mood overall. Know how you feel as you admire that filtered selfie on Snapchat? Bring that into your everyday existence and feel the self-love simmer.