The other day, somebody clicked a pic of me and to my horror, I heard myself shrieking, ‘Don’t make me look fat!’ As somebody who has battled fat shaming all her life (a potbellied music instructor used to call me fatty boomalatty) and insists that as long as you are fit, the f in fat, stands for fabulous, it was hard to acknowledge that despite my politically correct fundas it is important for me to be magically photographed into looking thinner than I am. Strangely enough, though the voice of reason in my head upbraids me for having become a narcissist who doctors her image for a handful of followers on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter, the fact is my secret obsession with how I look online, (despite being someone whose idea of dressing up is losing the pyjamas for jeans) seems to be everyone else’s as well. After all everybody loathes pics that make them look groggy, grotesquely constipated, gross or anything less than immaculately perfect. In fact for too many it could be a life ruining issue!
The fact that this narcissism has wriggled its way into our admittedly vain and vacuous lifestyles is hardly surprising given the fact that we are bombarded by flawlessly captured selfies of folks, airbrushed and meticulously tweaked to make them look social media worthy. New mummies have never looked yummier, gym rats look smoking hot as opposed to sweaty while pumping iron, and even all those home bakers with their divine sugary creations look impossibly skinny, glossy and good enough to eat! Which means the pressure to glam up is mounting and we worry more than we should about whether our butts look big, if our greys or pimples are showing, or if there is tell-tale evidence of sleepless nights or signs of ageing. Heaven forbid!
In extreme cases, people risk or actually lose their lives while trying to click that perfect selfie which just might go viral and give them their five seconds. The rest of us wind up devoting time and money we can’t afford to spare on looking good despite knowing it might be better to shift the focus to simply feeling good.
Such excessive love of the self far from being satisfying is strangely depressing. How many of us have noticed that fun occasions like family weddings, parties or vacationing with friends feel flat because everybody is too keen on capturing the awesomeness of the moment instead of actually living it? Too many wind up missing out on stuff because of the unholy devotion to perpetual preening, posing and posting that gives the impression that one is having a rollicking time, though the reality of it is usually different.
Handwringing about virtual vanity aside, the incessant dolling up of digital avatars makes it seem as if everybody’s life is better than our mundane ones which has led to all of us moping about with a wicked case of envy and dissatisfaction. No wonder people smile only for the camera and not for real. And even worse, not even this impassioned piece is going to stop me from sucking in my gut when I pose for a pic. Help!This post originally appeared in The Sunday Standard.