Retouching Our Perspective

Retouching Our Perspective

It’s time to retouch our perspective on what is healthy and beautiful.

Within the last few weeks, stories have surfaced that present a major issue in our perceptual framework of our body image…the retouching of pictures in media. However, it’s not just retouching of pictures, but also video and other forms of media.

Despite recent awareness around this topic, it seems not many people are aware of this practice or how common it is. And even if we are aware, we get sucked in anyway.  It’s become too practiced to take something for face value…too automatic. We need to fine tune our skills of skepticism and put them into action.
A recent article in Newsweek highlighted a new trend of parents having their kids’ school photos retouched to rid them of “flaws”. Really? Those pictures we look back on later with fondness and remember the fads, crazy hair days and our quirky 1st grade smiles with front teeth missing… Doctor those pictures? Rid them of flaws? These pictures capture the essence of us, in time. Doctoring these pictures rewrites our history, changes the facts.   This presentation of fiction as fact is, unfortunately, the way our media and advertising world operates. Clearly, these parents have bought in. They’d rather present “perfected” images of their children than document the progression as it really transpires.

Kelly Clarkson retouched photo damaging to body image

Kelly Clarkson retouched photo.

The heading of the September issue of Self magazine touts “total body confidence” and features Kelly Clarkson on the cover. The irony is that the photo of Kelly was significantly altered to look, as Self put it, “her personal best.”  Since when has our “personal best” been created by Adobe Photoshop? Self also highlights Kelly’s “self confidence in her own skin” and describes her great spirit. They describe her as a role model for this reason. I totally agree! Unfortunately, the attention of altering of the photo detracts from the story of Kelly herself as a real person. Opportunity lost. Unfortunately, this is all too common.

How often do you buy a magazine because of the cover?  Publishers claim that magazines don’t sell well if the women featured aren’t retouched or if “real” size women are featured. If that is true, then it is us who needs to change our behavior on multiple fronts.

Ralph Lauren was skewered for using a picture of an ralph lauren modelalready-thin model that was altered so severely her head appeared wider than her waist. I’m delighted that viewers sang out on this one…but for each one we catch, thousands slip by.  We’ll never know how many people looked at the picture and appraised it at face value. That’s our problem.  Our unsuspecting brains have been processing this information so long it’s become automatic. Even now, it doesn’t register how destructive it is.

Even if you’ve seen it before, check out Dove’s “Evolution” video,  which illustrates the elaborate process  through which media images are created.

Using photo and video retouch technology, the media world has created and served up as reality a digitally altered view of perfection which individuals digest and  make their priority to achieve. However, the body is not as malleable (changeable) as a photo or digital video image. We have bones, skin, muscles and fat with which to work into the equation. Even more difficult to factor in is self-esteem, mood, distorted thoughts, and the image of our own body, identity, and spirit. At the minor end of the spectrum, we try to eat “right,” exercise and keep everything “under control.” At the far end of the spectrum, we engage in a rigorous process of plastic surgery. The appearance outcome here is ultimately unpredictable and often dangerous. Somewhere along the way, the “real” self is lost. The current image of the self as compared to the latest picture we see on the newsstand becomes our unattainable reality check.

It’s time for an authentic (real) reality check. We need to put on our skeptic goggles and filter the media before our brain consumes it. The images we see in the media are…FICTION…sometimes they are defended as art. Either way, it’s not reality.

The goal is to keep our awareness in the “real” at all times. This requires effort, but over time, can become our new way of being. This new way offers the possibility of daily peace with our own bodies as well as a movement towards societal change. This movement starts with you.

Mindful moment: Open your eyes to the “real” and retouch your perspective.


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