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A Tale of Two Faces

Last week, I went on a mini-tangent on Twitter (yes, even after this deeply true blog post, I still gave in and returned. Yes, I know what that says about me. I'm working on it. Ha) about editing photographs of ourselves and what we are subconsciously telling ourselves when these altered photos get "likes"-. I want to be clear, I'm not talking about a cute animal filter on Snap Chat or adding a sepia-tone or whatever. I'm talking about making your eyes bigger, your lips larger, your teeth whiter, erasing blemishes, adding fake make-up, etc...


I used the above photo as an example to illustrate my point. The first photo is me, no make-up, somewhat chap lips because it was something like -4 degrees outside and I didn't put on any chapstick to protect my little kisser. The second photo is after using a face-tuning app! Look at my much less discolored and dried up lips. Look at those rosy, utterly smooths cheeks and overall skin. Wrinkles? YEAH RIGHT. And, suddenly, I have eye--lashes and slightly enlarged eyeballs. This mother-of-four is looking pretty fresh and flawless in the second photo.


BUT! It's not what I actually look like! It's an altered image projecting what I think will make society find me to be more attractive. Think about it: it's a form of self-gaslighting. It's sick. And, if I were to post the altered photo and receive praise and/or "likes"-- what am I telling myself, subconsciously? I am only beautiful if I bend myself into a mold, if I create an image of what I'd look like if just a few things were fine-tuned. Ultimately, what I'm saying to myself is that I am not good enough AS I AM. And, I'm here to tell you, that's bullshit.


Okay, so why do I care about this? There are a handful of reasons, but a lot of this stems from being a mother to 4 children who will grow up with social media. They are being taught when they see these "flawless" images online that they have to look a certain way to be accepted or seen as beautiful, not realizing that they aren't looking at images of actual human beings but a form of AI, because when we alter our photos, we are sending out ourselves as AI. And, humans are not artificial! We are literally going against our nature.


I feel the pressure to embody my truest self more and more. My oldest daughter is in middle school, and recently entered her maiden. Everything I say, do and support is teaching her a lesson about coming into her womanhood. I have to be radical in my presentation of self. My habits will shape hers in one way or another. And this goes for how I present myself online. If she googles mom and see's pictures of me that have been face-tuned, what am I teaching her to do? Present a false image of herself. And, also, that maybe mom doesn't really like herself too much. And, if Mom doesn't like herself, how can she trust what advice or encouragement she receives from me? Do you see how all of this is connected?


Once you know what to look for, you can easily tell when someone has altered their photographs. A big one that I notice is that in an altered photo, if a piece of hair has fallen in front of their eye, you can still see the perfectly lined eyeliner/mascara over the hair. That's not how anyone looks. Skin smoothing is also obvious. You can see the difference between actual real-life skin and an airbrushed image.


I am not anti-make up or anything like that. The selfie I took above, I have on a bit of gold eye shadow, a rose blush, tinted moisturizer and mascara. But notice my hair in front of my eyes, my eye make up disappears from the image-- there is nothing altered here. Just me, my wrinkles, pores and my iPhone in portrait mode.


We hear about the airbrushing done for magazine covers and other professional photos of celebrities all the time. Now, when you order school pictures for your kiddos, there is an AIRBRUSH option! We're normalizing the false-projection of an idealized physical self and I believe it is absolutely eroding the confidence of the collective. Hop onto Google and search "Affects of altered images on self-esteem" and hundred of articles and studies will come up. This is hurting people.


So what do we do? We stop participating in the madness. Post true photos of yourself. When you are scrolling through the TL and see an altered photo, take a moment to pray love and acceptance over that person. The only way to counteract this culture of "perfection" is through Radical Acceptance of Self. Think of yourself as a seed, wave or spark: whichever helps you visualize your impact on those around you. The only way to alter the culture is to stop altering ourselves. No more online image alter-egos. Just you in all your humanness.


That sounds like a revolution to me.



©2025 Azia Archer