I have a writer friend. Like many of my writer friends, I don’t truly know her. She’s a professional acquaintance. I like her. But mostly because I like writers.
I don’t even remember how we became friends – or, more accurately, internet acquaintances. But it was many years ago. Maybe our first books came out at the same time. Perhaps we belonged to some Facebook writers’ page and got to talking. I have no idea. She’s got a ton of Facebook friends, though, so perhaps people are just drawn to her. I certainly am.
Katharine writes ChickLit. I’m not much of a fan of that genre, but I appreciate the craft and its popularity. Good ChickLit makes for terrific beach reading. It’s light, enjoyable, amusing, romantic. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I would even argue that it’s pretty darn good to write novels that so many women love. Millions of women devour Romance novels and ChickLit. A voracious reader is every writer’s best friend.
Years ago, Katharine’s social media was just like everyone’s – family occasions, good eats, travel, and of course, writing.
But over the years, I’ve noticed a change. A change that lately has been bugging me. Katharine’s social media is predominantly selfies.
Oh, I like selfies. I love to see my friend’s beautiful faces. And I like to see my own kisser when I’m looking pretty good.
And Katharine is pretty. Very pretty.
But not pretty enough. Not pretty enough for Katharine.
Increasingly, Katharine is “fixing” herself.
Facetune is the most popular selfie editor, and I imagine that’s what Katharine is using.
Scrolling through her Instagram page, I have to go back to 2014 to see Katharine looking like a real human. And she’s very pretty in 2014.
In 2015, her selfies looked a little airbrushed. Nothing too dramatic. Just maybe a fix to an unattractive shadow.
In 2016, the airbrushing and photoshopping stepped up. Katharine looked beautiful. But she was beautiful before. Now her beauty looked slightly unnatural.
And at the end of 2016, the Facetune app was launched.
And Katharine dissolved. There are no shadows falling across Katharine’s face. Dramatic lipstick is perfectly placed. Skin perfect. Hair perfect. She has no pores. She smiles a gorgeous smile, but there are no creases at the sides of her mouth.
And it bugs me.
Why is her beauty not enough for her?
I am afraid that the more she facetunes, the more she hates what she sees in real life. She can’t compete with the enhanced version of herself. Who could?
Some are calling this problem Snapchat Dysmorphia. People are going to plastic surgeons seeking to look like their own internet personas.
But here is when it gets more complicated for me.
I know a different person, (I’ll call her Sally), who recently had plastic surgery. And some of her friends are irritated with her. Why would Sally have surgery, they ask, when she was just fine? And when these friends were criticizing what they considered to be needless surgery, I said, “If it makes her feel better, and it doesn’t hurt you, why do you care?”
Katharine has gone a little overboard in facetuning her selfies.
But how does that hurt me? Why do I care?
Am I really concerned that she will end up hating herself because she can’t measure up to the image she created?
But maybe I am more like the friends who are criticizing Sally.
I’ve taken some time this week to get honest with myself.
Yes, Katharine’s edited version of herself bothers me. Not only because of her insecurities. Because of mine.
Katharine is beautiful. Naturally beautiful. She’s more beautiful than I am. But apparently, she’s not beautiful enough for herself.
If she doesn’t think she’s beautiful enough, and she’s more beautiful than me, then I must be even more unattractive than I think I am.
That is the thought that hurts.
Katharine is raising the bar too high. If she can’t measure up, then I certainly can’t.
Oh, I do wish that we could accept ourselves as we are and not see our uniqueness as imperfections. We don’t have flaws – we have character. We have distinction.
But here I am. With hair dye and makeup and contact lenses and the very latest fashion. Trying to present a better me to the world.
And Katharine with her Facetune selfies, and Sally with her plastic surgery – that’s what they are trying to do too.
So today I say to Katharine and Sally – “You are beautiful. You are beautiful however you choose to be.”
Tomorrow I may say it to myself.