My boyfriend and I were having a brunch date at National Harbour. Due to the dynamics of our relationship, we hadn’t seen each other in over a month and we were excited about spending some quality time together. He also kept reminding me that we needed to take more pictures together. Though I don’t like having my picture taken, I tend to comply with him.
As we were waiting for our food and basking in the gentle autumn sun, he whipped out his phone. I groaned but didn’t complain. After all, just a little editing can do wonders with a picture. He’s actually great with a camera as well. I urged him to let me see the photos he took.
My jaw dropped at the sight. At this point, I’ve tuned out the sound of him gushing over how cute my smile is, all I could think about was the size of my face. Since when was my head this big? My face has always been round, but why are my cheeks ballooning like this? My smile is crooked here, this isn’t right. What’s wrong with my face right now?
I Fell into Facial Dysmorphia
Earlier this year, there was a lot of buzz about the idea of ‘selfie dysmorphia’, a specified category of body dysmorphia linked with the use of selfie-oriented apps like Snapchat. Studies were showing that people are constantly blending the line between what they look like, how they perceive themselves, and how they project themselves in their photographs.
Facial dysmorphia is described as having a warped perception of the appearance of one’s own face. In the age of Instagram, Snapchat, and countless selfie/beautifying apps, I’m a little surprised that I hadn’t caught on to my problem a lot sooner.
After the incident at brunch, I started scanning my Instagram as well as my personal photo folder. I searched desperately for a photo of myself that didn’t include a filter or some tweaking. To my dismay, I couldn’t find any. It’s no wonder I was so shocked to see the true size of my face. I had been fooling myself into thinking that my jawline was naturally in an ideal v-shape.
The app I was using included a number of beautifying options which include smoothing, blemish removal, eye enlargement, jawline reduction, forehead reduction, face width adjustment, wrinkle removal, teeth whitening, eye brightening, dark circle removal, makeup, and skin whitening.
I detested the thought of using anything to alter my face. I made a silent agreement to myself that I’d only be using light/color filters for my photos. The camera apps I use are based in East Asia, so the features of the app cater very much to those beauty standards. As a result, a lot of the filters tend to wash out my brown skin. I simply edit the photo to increase the saturation and warmth in order to “remelinate” myself.
I figured that because I never messed with the other options of the app, that I was safe from ‘presenting a lie’. However, upon further research, I found that these apps tend to already begin “correcting” your face the minute you open it. Unbeknownst to me, my app came with a ‘Smart beautification’ feature that was already turned on upon downloading. This meant that all of my photos being taken were already automatically slimming my face and enlarging my eyes. Every photo I had taken through the app was already giving me a false interpretation of myself. And I fed into this false interpretation so frequently that it became hard for me to see myself in any other way.
Reintroducing Myself to My Face
I stopped using that particular selfie app and started exploring new ones. Right after downloading I would look for any Smart Beautifications and turned them off. I wanted to get used to looking at myself.
But it was a lot easier said than done.
The filters on the app were phenomenal, but every time I took a photo I just felt like something was off. I couldn’t get past my rounded cheeks, I desperately wanted that perfectly sculpted v-shape in my jawline I grew so accustomed to seeing. Out of curiosity, I took the photo my boyfriend took of me during our date and began editing. The only thing I paid attention to was the ‘slimming’ feature. I turned the setting all the way up, looking at my cheeks and jawline deflate. In reality, my cheeks are still large but seeing that familiar image made me feel a wave of relief.
Yes, I thought to myself, this is what I’m supposed to look like. This is my face.
I hated this thought process. I hated the fact that I was willingly more accepting of a lie than I was with reality. The reason I hated having my picture taken all this time wasn’t because “people don’t know my angles”, but because they were showing my true image that I wasn’t willing to accept. I created an alternate reality in which my skin is always smooth, my eyes are always bright, and my jawline is always slim.
Since making this discovery, I decided to do away with my selfie apps. It was the only way I deemed suitable to try and conquer the beast that is my own poor self-image. I’ve also been making more of an effort to take photos of myself without filters as well as without makeup. I didn’t realize how much of a damning process this would be for me. I suppose that over time I’ll become a lot more accepting of my face as it is, and hopefully get out of the mindset that all my photos have to look extremely polished.
In any case, I’m glad that I’m on the road to improving this little issue. And I guess my chipmunk cheeks aren’t something I’ll grow out of anytime soon.