Picture perfect

pictureperfectThere is more to real and lasting beauty than meets the eye, explains our guest columnist Silvia Njoki

Once a shy and introverted girl, fashion gave me confidence and provided me with a platform where I could share my love for this craft with people with similar interests. Little did I know that this would be the same platform that would give room to a virtual mob of stone throwers and body shamers.

Baring my all on a digital platform was a turning point in my life. With a growing audience came both good and not so good comments, and I now became critically aware of the flaws in my own appearance and began to do whatever I could to hide them. I started to exercise and go on diets; I practised my make-up routine, shared only the most idyllic scenes of my life and learned how to use photo-editing to polish up my photos.

These images inspired my readers to make statements such as, “I want your beautiful skin”, “I wish I had that dress” and to show their envy at an item of jewellery. I was flattered and began posting my best photos on Instagram, carefully scrutinised and edited. I was thrilled whenever the likes and the number of followers grew.

And this is the truth for most people on social media. I certainly have felt that way; a space that was built to leave us feeling inspired leaves us feeling inadequate.

The other truth is that we certainly don’t look like that every day. And it dawned upon me that I wasn’t doing these things because they made me feel beautiful; I did them because I thought people would think I was beautiful. But the opinion of my followers was based solely on these posts which didn’t reflect my true self, and were giving them unrealistic expectations of me and of beauty standards in general. Here lies one of the dangers of social media, which none of us can claim to fully escape; wishing (and failing) to look like the perfect women online lowers our self-esteem.

In the professional world of beauty and fashion where the competition is bone hard, the complexity of what goes on behind the scenes to make even the most perfect models look more glamorous is intense. What you see in the glitzy photographs or on the runway are not real people but constructions created by dedicated teams of hair stylists and make-up artists – in short, artistic images requiring considerable investments of time, money and highly professional skills and aimed at matching the concept we have been brainwashed to consider as perfect beauty.

The world is too diverse for beauty to be just the one thing which social media portrays. There is beauty in good health and being true to oneself. There is beauty in showing the world your natural vulnerable self with all its flaws and imperfections. There is so much beauty in honesty and truth served with a confident smile.