TL;DR: It’s about “Snapchat Dysmorphia,” a new term used to describe a condition in which people are beginning to expect–to want–ourselves to look as perfect IRL as we do on our Snapchat (or Instagram) filters.
I mean, that is depressing. And also so, so #21stCenturyProblems.
Can you imagine our grandparents and great-grandparents–coming off of decades of intermittent war, finally reunited with their families after years of sacrifice and loss in a country they literally put their lives on the line to protect–aspiring to… look like the puppy filter on Instagram?
We are turning into pretty awful human beings.
There are many reasons to be disgusted by this “trend,” but being the completely non-expert parenting expert that I am, I am officially declaring this condition a marker of extreme psychological distress of our generation and calling! all! to arms!!!
Our little girls are watching us.
They see us, looking at ourselves through the eye of our smartphones. They hear us picking apart our features on the selfies or pictures we take. If they’re old enough, they may even see us tweaking photos–adjusting angles, adding filters, smoothing out wrinkles in apps.
And moreover, they are more susceptible than any generation before to the enervating effects of social media–the constant comparison (and seemingly inevitable depression) made possible by the constant Scroll-Scroll-Scroll.
Why? Because they’re more familiar with their own reflections than generations past. They see themselves more in a week than most of us did over the span of a year, growing up. I remember waiting days to see if the photos we took on our beach vacation “turned out,” which pretty much meant, Did I get everyone’s face in frame? And if it was dark outside, Did the flash go far enough so you can actually you see everyone’s face?
Don’t even get me started on the thrill of my mom agreeing to pony up the extra $10 for the one-hour photo processing. Now that was a rush.
In short, we didn’t live in constant proximity to our own reflection nearly as frequently as our girls do these days. And I kinda feel bad for them.
I mean, I write a blog, for God’s sake. A blog that’s dedicated, at least in part, to telling people about beauty products, fashion, and other topics that focused on outward appearance that I like. And–no shame here–I love that stuff.
But when is too much, too much?
Even without smartphones, our moms certainly cared about their appearances. (Cue the memory of millions of trips to Dress Barn with my mom that I remember sitting through with my sister.)
No, female vanity is nothing new. It’s baked in us for all sorts of reasons, evolutionary and societal.
And nor should we want to conquer this proclivity. To feel attractive is any individual–not only a woman’s–right. (And it’s also the reason that I’m a Sephora VIB Rouge; getting pretty is fun!)
But lest I unnecessarily contribute to my daughter’s–or any girl’s, for that matter–sense of feeling they need to look like an animated puppy in real life, I have started a few simple practices that I hope will help curb that crazy notion that we women have to be perfect to be beautiful.
In short, I want her to know–deeply and in her soul–that her looks are not the most important thing she has to offer this world.
Sure, these steps are small things; and they’re not guaranteed to help, not necessarily. I can only stem the tide, after all. But damn it if I won’t try.
So here are some things I am holding myself to doing, all in the name of teaching my little girls that they are more than enough, just as they are.
I know… I knooooow. “Go makeup-free!” says the lady who is a self-professed beauty product junkie.
But hear me out.
Yes, I wear makeup. When I don’t want to cause a spinal fracture by making the UPS man jump back in terror directly from my front doorstep back to the sidewalk; or maybe just on those days when I want to feel half human again at school dropoff, I wear makeup.
And I like it.
But other days, I make the concerted effort to be bare-faced in front of my daughter.*
I try to, you know, take it easy. Let the skin breathe. Show my girl what real, human skin looks like. You know, that stuff that’s strung across our innards that’s not always the taut and glowing result of contouring, baking and strobing.
If for nothing else than the pleasure of putting on a t-shirt without smothering our faces in a makeup bag or scarf, I plan on continuing this. You won’t find me bare-faced every day, but you will find me trying my mightiest to be comfortable in the skin I was given. Because I think when she sees me enjoying life with all my flaws on display, she’ll be more likely to be okay doing that herself.
And I kinda dig that.
(*And yes, I realize this often isn’t possible for people who work outside the house. Hell, I worked in television for 15 years; three layers of foundation was practically standard to get in the studio door–for men and women.)
Inevitably, my daughters see me putting on makeup. In fact, my oldest daughter has gotten into the habit of asking for lip gloss and “fairy dust” when she’s in my room. Strangely enough, my 15-month-old even seems to have a keen enough sense of Awesome Productness to know to go right for the Beautyblender when she’s perusing my makeup drawer.
So rather than scream, “NO!” when she asks to wear makeup, I tell her that yes, she may try a little, but always with a caveat that goes something like this, “Makeup is fun to wear, but you don’t need it, because you’re beautiful without it!”
I’m not sure she’s old enough to even understand the bigger picture behind what I’m saying… Actually, scratch that… I’m certain she’s not attuned to the neuroses that are motivating me to add this caveat; but still, it makes me feel better knowing that she is hearing those words. And I can only hope they lodge themselves deep into her subconscious, where she will always feel good enough, beautiful enough and perfect as she is. With makeup, and without it.
I’m not saying I’m going to squirrel away my smartphone for the whole day. I’m not even saying I’m going keep it away as long as I’m in the company of my children.
But I will try to resist the urge to pick it up as often as I would like–which, if I’m being honest, is about 10,542 times an hour–because I am trying to model the importance of living life in real life, and not through a screen. To showing them that it’s best to appreciate beauty as it is before us, not only after we’ve thrown five filters on it and put it on Instagram.
I will fail at this more than I succeed, I’m certain, but I will keep trying. I will keep trying because as much as this world has already corrupted our collective sense of self, I’ll be damned if I don’t go down fighting for my girls.
Teaching our girls that they are good/smart/beautiful/etc. etc. enough is herculean a task enough without the added challenge of the Snapchat filter getting all up in our blotchy, pimply, natural faces. But it’s our reality. And just like my non-filter-like dark circles, they ain’t going nowhere.
So we do what we can do. We talk to our girls. We remind them of their beauty. We remind them, more importantly, of their intelligence. Their kindness. Their strength. The gifts they bring to this world that have nothing to do with how smooth their skin is, or how plump their lips are.
We just talk to them. Old fashioned-style. Face to face.
And when we get the itch to ask the doctor for a perfectly-filtered face, maybe we make like those old cameras: We take a moment, take a breath, and just wait to see what develops.
Sonni Abatta is a wife, a mom of three and a writer who runs this Orlando lifestyle and mom blog, and – despite the frequency with which she seems to do it – someone who does not actually enjoy writing about herself in the third person.
Want to chat? Collaborate? Commiserate? Reach out here.
And don’t forget to follow along on Facebook and Instagram for more unique and daily content (seriously, lots more there!)