Humans are vain. This much has ever been true. We want to present the best version of ourselves to those around us; both physically and digitally. In this age of social media, the toxic undercurrent of low body confidence that is peddled by digital thinning apps is often presented as a very millennial problem.
But it’s always been there. The doctoring of images has existed for as long as portraits themselves. Historically it has been the preserve of those exercising power, wealth and influence. So really, the difference that technology has made is that image alteration is now fully accessible to anyone with a smartphone. Which is most of us!
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Simply search ‘thin’ in your Appstore and you’ll be inundated with apps offering the ability to virtually slice and dice your own body to your heart’s content. At the touch of a button, you can alter your hips, bust, thighs and skin tone to present an image that is aspirational. It’s how you want to be. So what’s the problem? Well, like Dorian Gray himself, to perpetuate this eternally youthful image, you inevitably trade in a small piece of your soul.
You Can’t Unsee This
The problem is that, no matter how much you know that most of your Instagram feed is retouched, the images remain. They subtly reinforce your own insecurities; and to combat this, many of us resort to further doctoring our own images. Thus the cycle is perpetuated.
The Camera Never Lies
Despite knowing this image isn’t the real you, as you watch the likes roll in, you may feel a moment of exhilaration and delight. But at the end of it all, you are only too aware of the filters that it took to create that image. Which can’t be healthy for your sense of self. Worse still is that you begin to believe your own hype. To no longer comprehend your own self image is to lose touch with your own sense of health and wellbeing.
History already has a long association with the doctoring of images, especially those of women. Anne of Cleaves was lucky to keep her head when she was betrothed to Henry VIII on the basis of Holbein’s complimentary portrait of her. Upon the birth of photography, images were seen to be definitive in their representation. However, even at this early stage, exposure techniques in the darkroom could alter body image. Then the rise of Photoshop eased the process for glossy magazines of the 80’s and 90’s to create an increasingly impossible female body image.
Warts and All
So what’s the solution? There’s nothing wrong with presenting your best self. This is not where the problem lies. The real danger is in the skewed perception of normality brought about by digital thinning. To shape your hips for a night out, don’t take the digital knife to your photos, simply choose a fabulously fitting pair of control briefs or shaping shorts. You’ll look great on the dance floor as well as inside your phone.
A Picture Paints a Thousand Words
The key difference here lies in confidence. The whole ethos behind shapewear is not in illusion, it’s in the way the garments make you feel. Think about the big pants of Bridget Jones. This is a character who was embraced by much of womankind simply because of her ‘realness’. Yes, she toned her tummy with a girdle, but she was so very much more attractive than an Instagrammed Kardashian.
From Anne of Cleaves to Bridget Jones, then, it’s clear that female image has always negotiated a fine line. The real danger now is in social pressures brought about by the rise of the smartphone. So the next time you want to increase your confidence and show your best self, keep it real with shapewear.