Using a filter to make ourselves look more beautiful seems like a fun thing to do. We get to look more like a model. We get to see a kind of “perfect” version of ourselves. It seems like fun.

But what if it’s actually sending us unconscious messages that we aren’t good enough? Or that we are actually ugly? What if these seemingly innocent filters are actually causing more damage than good?

I was sitting a friend’s house the other day who doesn’t use social media and doesn’t know much about smartphone technology. She had seen a picture of a mutual friend of ours and couldn’t believe how different she looked.

She asked me, “Did she get plastic surgery or something? I could sort of tell that it was her… but she just looked so different.”

I looked at the picture and told her that our friend had simply used a special filter which smoothed out her skin and lengthened her eyelashes.

“Really?”, she said. “Can we try it?”

So, we borrowed her daughter’s phone and started playing around. We took pictures of her daughter, and then her 20-year-old son (who was much more feminine and pretty with the filters!). Then we took a picture of me and then of my friend.

My friend looked at the filtered version of herself and said, “Wow. That doesn’t even look like me.”

The next day, my friend and I were chatting over coffee and she quietly said, “You know, I wish I had never seen that picture of myself with the filter. As I was getting ready for bed last night, I looked in the mirror and couldn’t believe how old I looked. I had so many wrinkles. I looked awful. I had never seen it before. Before that, I thought I looked great. Seeing that filtered picture really got inside my head in an awful way.”

Later that day, she drove her 16-year-old daughter to work. She mentioned to her daughter her experience of looking in the mirror and how upset she was by it.

Her daughter thought about it for a while and then admitted, “You know mom… I use these filters all of the time. But maybe I won’t any more. I wonder if they are part of why I don’t think I’m pretty enough. I wonder if they are making me feel ugly.”

An Experiment

Hmmm.

It’s quite a mind-game. Even as I write this, looking at these two pictures, it plays with me a little bit… even though I love myself… even though I am well-loved… even though people tell me that I am beautiful…

What would happen if I thought that the first picture was my “ideal” self? What if I believed that the first picture was better than who I really am?

I’m sure it’s different for everyone… But self-love is so much more important than we think. It affects the decisions we make in relationships. It is the foundation of our confidence. It decides whether we follow our true path in life.

I think it’s a worthy question to ask ourselves… Is using a beauty filter making me love myself more… or less?

It’s an important question — for our self-worth, self-love, and any chance at true happiness.

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Katrina Bos