I recently downloaded not one but two new apps onto my phone. Nothing new there, most of our lives are more or less managed with a cheeky app or two – but these are for photo editing. Which is fine in itself but after spending a good hour the other night doing ‘minor touch-ups’ to a selfie, I had to stop and have a word with myself.
You’re going to have to excuse this self-indulgent post, I’m afraid. I’m about to bang on for a while.
I’m not against photo tweaking in theory. I’m the queen of touching up a spot or two and choosing a damn good filter. I’m forever adjusting the lighting. This is deemed the new norm in our Instagram world and I’m all for it, as long as we’re honest about it. Life isn’t (always) like the images we use to paint a positive life. If I were being honest, my grid would be full of me lying naked and puffy in bed, avoiding the world.
The addition of these apps to my life is different because I’ve been leaning on them far too heavily. I’ve been changing the shape of my face, tightening my jawline – thinning my nose. More than that, the app can give you the perfect winged liner, eyeshadow and lashes for days – technically you’d never have to put on a face again. But it feels false and it goes deeper than just tweaking a few things ever so slightly – I look like a doll version of myself and it’s creepier than Annabelle*.
The reality is: it’s time for me to admit that I’m not pretty.
Before you say something nice to make me feel better, I know I have some *okay* features and can scrub up when I need to. I also know that ugly girls are never really ugly girls. As the man himself once said:
“A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.” ~ Roald Dahl
Idealistic I know but there’s truth in that statement. However, it’s time for me to come to terms with how I really look.
My lovely friend took and posted a video of me on Instagram at the weekend and secretly, watching it back on my own later, I was devastated. I look awful, all chins and bad skin. But really, so what? I was pissing about in the park with a friend and he cut the video to the chorus of Buffalo Stance by Neneh Cherry (my favourite song of all time). My hair looks good and I’m wearing my favourite outfit. Above all else, I’m having a laugh.
So I’m not beautiful like my friend, who looks like Bambi’s girlfriend on her very best day – I’m still loved and lovable and cool. I have never been beautiful and my life was never meant to be lived like a drop dead gorgeous person – if anything, perhaps I’m lucky?
I am sure I don’t have to worry about half the things my fit friends do. I mean, that sounds cavalier because all women have experiences of being harassed or made to feel uncomfortable – and it seldom has anything to do with looks. But I have been around seriously good-looking women who are treated differently to me. It looks tiring.
If I can truly accept that I’m no looker and tell the world, “I’m ugly and proud” then maybe I’ll be happier? I’m tired of kidding myself.
It’s much easier said than done though, isn’t it? I’ve recently talked about making more effort with my appearance which is quite contradictory to what I’m saying here. Or is it?
I mean, taking pride in my appearance as self-care is different altogether to trying to conceal how ugly I am. There’s not enough highlighter or eyeliner in the world to polish this turd – if anything, it makes me look even worse. I can have fun with it though for the sake of how it makes me feel. Accepting my ugliness has nothing to do with letting myself go.
Really accepting one’s self is a delicate balancing act – on one hand, accepting that I’ll never be a knock out is quite liberating. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of me as long as I’m happy and feeling myself – and I am under no obligation to be pretty and shiny. I don’t need validation from others in the way I did when I was 21 either, though yes it is nice when someone compliments you.
But on the other, man this world is cold and harsh at the best of times – and it’s hard not to compare ourselves to others or covert what they have. A thigh gap, bigger eyes, perkier boobs.
I can’t do it anymore, I need to step away from the Photoshopping apps. I’m deleting them as soon as I finish this post. If I don’t, who knows where it will end? I’ll be Edvard Munch’s The Scream with four inch eyelashes.
From now on, I accept it: I’m not pretty, and that’s a) a fact and b) totally, honestly okay.
*This is absolutely no shade to anyone who edits their photos. Many of my friends are pros at it, and I respect it.
(All images by Juno Calypso)