Edit. Crop. Fade. Whiten. Redeye and blemish removal. The list of options are endless when it comes to touching up images on our phones today. Need makeup? There’s an app for that. Looking too pasty? There’s an enhancement for that. Think your butt looks too big? No problem, you can crop it out. Today we have the technology at our fingertips to do the exact thing fashion magazines have been doing for years with their cover models -- retouching true images. Giving us the ability to live a filtered life.
I’m guilt of it. I rarely Instagram a picture without using some kind of enhancement to brighten my eyes, enhance the lighting, or trim a photograph to compliment my figure. And if I take a photograph that doesn’t please my eyes, it’s immediately deleted and erased from existence with the press of a finger. As I was getting ready to launch my website, I spent an afternoon working with an award-winning photographer. This man never takes a bad shot. But even his perfect shot could not filter out the lines around my eyes. After I looked at the beautiful photographs he captured, I found myself trying to filter my own face. I asked him if he could do some “retouching” and give me the “Cover Girl treatment.” Upon my request he replied honestly, “That will make you look fake.” And for a moment, I thought, “But my laugh lines are laughing at me! Can’t we at least fake my age with a small tweak?” The decision was made. The man with the lens would not allow my eyes to be virtually Botoxed in his photographs. And so my creases remained on the surface for everyone to see. No filter for me.
My example is one of vanity. And very quickly, I got over my eye lines and accepted that my eyes no longer reflect the face of my once 20-year-old self. Do I use the best eye creams money can buy to slow the aging process? You bet your ass I do! But I wouldn’t trade the last two decades of smiles, life experiences, and vacations in the sunshine for “laugh-line less eyes.” I may live a filtered life at times. But I never wanted to live a sheltered one.
I met a young woman the other night. She was a beautiful person with a kind heart. But it quickly became clear to me that she didn’t feel so beautiful inside. We took a photograph together. It was a full body shot. The moment she looked at our picture, she cringed at the image. She told me that she doesn’t like to see full body pictures of herself because of the weight that she carries. And so, we took a second picture. It was from the chest up. The young woman was satisfied. Her image was now filtered. Nothing about that scenario seems unreasonable. As I already mentioned, I’ve done the same thing. And it’s a pretty good bet, you have too. But the story of that photograph doesn’t end with one filtered shot. It’s deeper than that. The young woman and I spent some time talking. Everyone has a story when you peel back the layers and look beneath the surface. This woman had dreams for herself. The usual kind. A loving partner. A fulfilling career. A family of her own. And a desire to see beauty in her reflection. But life didn’t go as planned. Poor relationship choices led to feelings of worthlessness. Loss of a loved one led to sadness. And health issues led to the inability to bear children. A combination of these life experiences led to unhealthy choices which she admits contributed to her weight gain. While the woman was able to filter her image in a photograph, she also covered up the pains that the girl in the image carried.
Images. They aren’t always what they appear to be. The young woman and I talked at length about making positive choice. We discussed how working on our image from the inside, can transform our image on the outside. Sometimes we have to remove our filter to see ourselves clearly. When we see ourselves clearly, with all our imperfections, we give ourselves the opportunity to see what’s truly on the surface. Without a filter.
The filtered image. It’s all around us. On billboards, television, and magazines. And in real life too. Maybe it’s the seemingly happy couple who isn’t happy at all when no one else is around. Maybe it’s your friend who appears to have the perfect job, but cries at the end of each day because of a toxic work environment. Maybe it’s the person in yoga class with a perfect-looking body, but who quietly battles a disease that is crippling that same body at times.
The truth is, we live a filtered life. Things aren’t always as they seem. But when we remove the filter, we see a clearer image. And when we see an image clearly, we have a better understanding of what needs to be retouched.