Manipulating Beauty

NMI_2010_FashionYear_00731AAs a magazine editor, I subscribe to a variety of publications as “research.” I always have magazines lying around the house, so I can pick one up whenever I have a free moment to browse through one. There was a particular publication that was sitting around for a couple weeks until I finally had the time to take a look. When I picked it up, I realized I had been looking at the cover for weeks but was never able to pin point who was on the cover. It turns out, it’s an actress I really admire, but I couldn’t recognize her because her image was so heavily manipulated and airbrushed.

In my interview with Kylie Bisutti, former Victoria Secret model, she spoke of a time when she actually walked by one of her ads and didn’t recognize herself. She had to double back before she realized it was her. They had made her breasts bigger, her waist skinnier, chiseled out her face and added volume to her hair.

I work in the media, so I know how much images are manipulated (niNe. magazine doesn’t alter any images unless it’s to cover a blemish or to make the image more artistically appealing.) But the two instances above shocked me. Media has gone too far when someone can’t even recognize another person they’ve seen on the screen for years (it kind of defeats the purpose of selling more magazines and promoting the film if you can’t even recognize the actress). But, media has taken it way too far if the person can’t even recognize herself.

Sadly, it doesn’t stop there. With the growing popularity of Instagram and other social media image distributors, we’re seeing more and more manipulated images. But, this time, it’s not the media who’s manipulating the image – it’s the beholder. Countless images are being posted, fishing for likes, with an airbrushed and manipulated body. Technology has made it easy to adjust a little here and a little there allowing each individual to have the “body they’ve always dreamed of.” People then turn around and talk about how liberating it is to finally see themselves the way they’ve always wanted to be seen. My question is, how can it be liberating to live a lie?

People love to blame models, the media and Photoshop for setting unrealistic beauty standards. But, now that the power to manipulate images is in your hand, you’re just as eligible for blame. You’re responsible for the message you’re sending on Instagram and other social media outlets. What message are you sending when you touch up your Instagram? You’re telling media that you’ve bought into their manipulation and now want it yourself. You’re telling your friends that you want to be someone or something else. You’re telling your family that you don’t agree with who you are. You’re telling God that His creation isn’t good enough. The message that you’re sending to the world is that you don’t like who God created you to be.

God created each one of us with unique and exquisite beauty and we’re deliberately running away from that beauty and denying that it exists when we change and alter the images we capture of ourselves. When we touch up our Selfie before posting it on Instagram, we’re saying that we don’t see our own beauty, we don’t understand our own beauty and we don’t like our own beauty. Those are pretty strong statements that come from a simple stroke of a mouse.

As Christians, we have a responsibility to be a reflection of Christ by allowing His Spirit to actively work in and through us. How can we do this when we’re purposely presenting a false ideal of that reflection? Instead, we need to present our true nature and self on all social media platforms. God has crafted each one of us carefully and He wants us to delight in that beauty as much as He does. Rather than hide your true identity behind a few photo manipulations, present ALL of your beauty. Show the world who God created you to be by posting unmanipulated images, present thoughts and ideas that are characteristic of the person God is molding you into and provide truths about our creator that display His love.