Note: This article contains coarse language that may offend some readers.
Tova Leigh did exactly what many of us would do if we happened to take a great photo: she shared it. But while the compliments that followed were nice, she couldn't help thinking about what she was teaching her daughters.
Leigh, who blogs at TovaLeigh.com, wasn't thinking about what it meant when she first posted her great selfie. She was just happy to share it. She told Independent Journal Review:
“I shared it on my social media because it was a good photo, and I guess there is something vain in all of us.”
And Leigh got her fair share of praise for the photo on social media. She made it her Facebook profile picture and enjoyed the fact that she was getting likes. But after a while, the compliments started to make her feel like “a fraud.” As she explained to IJR, the image didn't really show her whole self:
“When I took the perfect selfie, I applied a filter and cropped out my body, leaving an image that did not really represent what I look like in real life.”
Leigh knew the reality behind the photo was very different ... and anything but glamorous. As she explained to IJR, the truth involved “standing in my granny pants, tiny tank top, mum tum pouring out of it, etc.”
What's more, Leigh had recently read an article that had her thinking about the impact of social media — specifically, the fact that teenagers can become depressed or insecure by comparing themselves to the artificial and “perfect” images on Instagram.
As a mom, Leigh felt a responsibility not to perpetuate that lie. She told IJR:
“As the mother of three girls, the impact of social media concerns me. And as fun as it is to take pretty selfies, I felt a responsibility towards them to share a more honest image.”
That's why Leigh shared the “behind the scenes” photo of her selfie. As she wrote on Facebook, this was:
How I actually looked when it was taken, without 20 attempts to get it right, without cropping out the bits I don't like, and without adding the 'make me look pretty' filter.
Of course, it wasn't an easy thing to share her warts-and-all photo. Even though Leigh wanted to make an important point about being real, it's hard to share your granny panties with the world in order to do so.
Fortunately, the people who saw the photo appreciated what she was trying to say. Leigh told IJR:
“It was very daunting before I posted the image. I have never done something like this before. I'm a pretty shy person when it comes to prancing around in my underwear for the whole world to see, but I must admit that the reaction has been beyond surprising and totally overwhelming.”
In response to her “behind the scenes” image, Leigh received messages from women around the world, thanking her. Many saw more beauty in the “behind the scenes” image than in her “perfect selfie,” in part because of how it made them feel about themselves.
Leigh told IJR:
“Many women wrote about how [...] seeing somebody else who is not perfect — but who is still willing to show what they really look like — made them feel more confident about themselves. And for that I am truly delighted.”
Leigh added that the falseness of social media tends to make our own flaws and mistakes stand out even more. And the effect can be very isolating. That's why it can be so liberating to see someone willing to show the truth behind the seemingly perfect facade.
She told IJR:
“I think social media is a strange place. We rarely share our bad moments, our not-so-good pictures, our double chins, bingo arms, our kids throwing a tantrum in the supermarket, how sweaty we look after a workout, etc. Most of us share the good moments — the pretty ones, the perfect ones. That was the point behind the 'behind the scenes' image.”
As Leigh pointed out in her “behind the scenes” image, there's something wonderful about the imperfect and real. And she hopes others will agree. Her advice:
[N]ext time you see a "perfect" image on [Instagram] or [Facebook] that makes you feel bad, remember this: Social media is full of s**t. You are beautiful just the way you are.
She added: “There is nothing sexier than being real.”