Stacey Lee, a psychologist and fitness blogger (@psychandsquats on Instagram), has been posting side-by-side before and after pictures of herself. Yes, this is pretty common for fitness bloggers on social media, but the difference is these aren't before and after workout programs or weight loss. Instead, they're before and after Photoshop, which shows just how easy (and harmful) it is to go from "real and fit" to "idealized and impossible."
Because Stacey Lee is also a psychologist, her captions often involve the psychology behind confidence and self-esteem. In the picture above, she shows her natural, un-retouched body on the left, and a Photoshopped version of herself on the right. In the caption, she writes:
One of the recurrent themes I treat in my profession is body image and its effect on self esteem.
Self esteem is defined as confidence in ones own worth.
However when that worth is tied to an image, a number on a scale, the size of clothes, the smoothness of skin, the smallness of a waist, the bigness of a butt, the definition on your abs, or the gap between your thighs, your worth will never me measured correctly.
One of the reasons behind this is that the measuring stick we use, is based on lies, manipulations and imagined ideals.
We are primed to believe a certain standard of 'beauty' is the goal.
We are shown images every day which are not realistic, even the small changes to photos or advertisements make a difference. They send subconscious messages saying that you aren't enough, and never will be.
Stacey Lee goes on to say that once she stopped following fitness accounts that regularly alter pictures, her own self-esteem began to improve. Seeing real women's real bodies gave her the confidence to work towards her own achievable goals.
In another comparison photo, Stacey Lee Photoshops herself to make her waist smaller, her butt bigger, and her cellulite non-existent. On that photo, she writes:
How many times have you been tempted to add a filter, tweak the cellulite, remove the blemish, maximize the booty, in order to portray a more 'socially acceptable' version of yourself to the world? Because you feel you aren't 'enough' as you are.
Subconsciously we are primed to find certain body types more acceptable. This can be very subtle changes to photographs seen on a daily basis. But these small changes resonate deeply within our minds. Shaping our beliefs about the way we 'should' look, and therefore creates unrealistic comparisons and perpetuates negative self talk which becomes low self esteem.
It's really important to remember that even though you may be aware, on a conscious level, that images are Photoshopped to make the subjects look "perfect," your subconscious still takes that flawless image and compares it to your own real body. Stacey Lee reminds us that no good can come of that.
Not all of Stacey Lee's Instagram pics are digitally altered, though. In some of them, she shows how just a simple adjustment in wardrobe or posture can radically change the way her body looks in a photo.
In the one above, all she's done is changed the waist of her pants and straightened up her posture. BOOM—she looks totally different. In her caption full of wisdom, she writes,
SOCIAL MEDIA IS A HIGHLIGHT REEL
Don't compare your outtakes, bloopers, and negatives to someone else's highlights.
Don't forget that the 'perfect' photos you see took a camera roll of attempts.
There are very simple tricks to the trade.
That perfect angle to give the illusion of the tiny waist.
The booty pop to give more shape.
The strategic lighting.
The high waisted pants.
The tensing and flexing.
No one looks like their highlight reel 24/7.
Knowing the difference between what's "real" and therefore conceivably achievable, and totally manufactured (like using graphics programs to shave inches off your waist or add inches to your derriere) for Instagram can make all the difference in your motivation to be your best self.
Oh, and a quick reminder: no matter how in shape your abs are, you will always have a bit of excess skin when you sit down.
In her caption for this comparison photo (not Photoshopped), Stacey Lee writes,
For years I was obsessed with achieving the 'perfect' flat belly. I starved myself. Overexercised. Did literally hundreds of sit-ups a day while starving. All in the vain attempt to reach a standard of beauty I thought was 'acceptable' and 'desired'.
Flash forward to now. Yes I've achieved the 'flat' belly....while standing and tensing!!!! NEWSFLASH babes! Flat bellies DO NOT exist WHILE SITTING DOWN! It's called skin!!!! An excess is required while sitting because it stretches while standing!
It's nice to see a fitness blogger who is interested not just in looking "perfect" on Instagram, but in being real, and making sure other people know the difference between those two things as well.