My friend Seth Matlins is campaigning against the routine practice of media outlets Photoshopping the "imperfections" of women's bodies by shaving off a little hip here and some extra stomach there.
After a recent visit with him, I've been contemplating this issue in a larger context. Namely the question:
Do we live Photoshopped lives ... in a Photoshopped world?
Aren't we doing the same thing in the stories we tell of our lives? We selectively edit out all the ups and downs until all that's left is a fairy tale about how "everything's perfect?"
Take a look around you. What's real anymore? Politicians are image consulted into picture-perfect citizens with a crafted answer for all that ails the country ... yet we know this is as fake as the pictures of models with size-2 waists.
Our spiritual and self-help gurus paint a picture of floating through life with angel wings and halos ... something we all know is impossible and yet we strive for it like trying to obtain the "rock hard" abs we see on the cover of fitness magazines.
As parents, we hold impossible standards for ourselves ... like the moms we see in the ads with no wrinkles, perfect hair, and a smile of perpetual joy while their three kids and two dogs sit dutifully behind them.
As spouses, we pretend it's easy to work 10 hours, drive home answering email messages, be parents, and still find the passion inside for romance. The examples go on and on.
And it's all bullshit. Even worse, it makes us feel like shit because we can never, ever achieve a Photoshopped perfection of that fantasy life.
Five years ago my life was in need of some Photoshopping. I was divorced (for the second time), my mom was dying, my career was a mess, I was sick and tired and you know what I did? I went around with a fake smile and an "I'm OK!" and kept on going ... until I just couldn't anymore.
That's the problem with Photoshop — it looks good but it isn't real. Eventually you're going to get a wrinkle and gain a pound or two; your children are going to disagree with you and your spouse is going to make you mad. Your picture-perfect life is going to get a little messy, and then what are you going to do?
If you're like me, the answer is sit down in a dark corner and cry your eyes out.
But there is another way, one we can all support each other in embracing the beautiful imperfections of our bodies and our lives. It's called being honest. Admitting our fears, sharing our insecurities, asking for help, and, most importantly, asking for a hug when we need a little love. It's not as sexy as the picture-perfect life, but it's real and vulnerable and true to our experience as humans.
What my experiences taught me is that all the beauty of life lies in its realness. That vulnerability is the only true way to connect with others — two open hearts joining in a moment of honesty.
For me, that was the path to learning to love myself ... and others. From all the unedited, messy details emerged a life that no longer needed photoshopping because I was finally able to accept myself as I am ... perceived flaws and all.
So this week I invite you to let it all hang out. Breathe deeply and stop pretending you have a six pack, smile from ear to ear and show off your pearly whites (even the ones that aren't so pearly).
Share your experiences with your friends even if it means admitting you aren't the perfect parent. Try saying "I don't know" and experiencing the connection that comes with asking for a helping hand. Together let's experience what life looks like without filtering out the imperfections as we embrace our lives and each other and say together ...
I love myself just like this!