Bad Self Esteem Lighting and The Evils of Photoshop

To my dear not photoshopped comrades,

Today, I went with my mom to a store that shall remain anonymous to buy some shorts, t shirts, and swimsuits because I grew again. Unfortunately, I have learned that I need to buy swimsuits at a place with 2 criteria: 1, you can mix and match the tops and bottoms for comfort, flattery, and fit, and 2, the lighting doesn’t make you feel not as good as you know you could look.

I’m sure lots of you have had this experience: You’re in a dressing room, trying something on, and all of a sudden, you look in the mirror. For some reason, the lighting is enhancing your least flattering feature, giving you wobbly thighs or lumpy feet or 8,000,000,000,000,000 freckles or green skin or hairy ears or whatever your least flattering feature is.  (Do not be ashamed of these. Every non-photoshopped person has them.) The light is almost acting like a spotlight on everything not magazine cover worthy. In 30 Rock, they called this the Grocery Store Milk Aisle Light. I call it the Bad Self Esteem Light. Either way, it captures a feeling of annoyance.

Why would a store chose to have that lighting? It does not convince people to buy stuff. I know from experience that it actually made me not want to buy stuff. I’m sure that not all of the swimsuits looked as bad as they felt, but they felt bad because the lighting made me self-conscious.

While I’m on the subject of imperfection, let me bring up the subject of photoshop. I hate photoshop. If you take a look at these websites, they show celebrities before and after photoshop. (Note: a few of the pictures show women not exactly fully clothed.)

If you don’t want to look at them all, here’s the one I find creepiest:


It’s actually quite shocking. This woman is way to old to have the “perfect” skin on the right, and honestly, even my 13 year old skin has more wrinkles than that.

I find it so awful to be living in a society where it’s not “pretty” to have wrinkles, slightly uneven skin, not super glowy skin, freckles, or basically any sign of aging or non-tonedness. I’m not saying that everyone is absolutely beautiful and stunning and should be a model. I am saying that its not right to have a society where people end up starving themselves because they saw a photoshopped model who was size 00 and wanted to look like her.

Here is an article where a size 4, 5’10, 120lbs model, Filippa Hamilton, was fired for being “too fat.” She was also photoshopped down to a creepy nib. If you don’t want to read it, here are the pictures.

not photoshopped

On the left, there is a picture of her unphotoshopped. On the right, she is creepishly photoshopped. I think almost everyone can agree that the picture of not photoshopped Filippa Hamilton is way prettier. She was fired for being too fat. 

The average American woman is not 5’10 and 120 pounds. I am about 5’5 and almost 12o pounds. I am not fat. I know lots of women and girls who are not 5’10 and 120 pounds who are not fat, including my friends, teachers, mom, aunts, grandmothers, neighbors, and friends’ moms.

If a 5’10, 120 pound, size 4 model is fired for being “too fat,” what does that do to everyone else’s self esteem? 

Here’s what I think: I think it basically sucks for their self esteem. And this isn’t the only way where it’s hard to not be insanely skinny. Fashion magazines, posters in the mall, mannequins, and the internet are telling us that it’s good to be absolutely skinny and it’s ugly to not be.

Now, it’s perfectly fine to be a 5’10, 120 pound, size 4 woman. But it should also be okay to be a 5’3, 140 pound, size 8 woman, as long as it’s a healthy weight. Different people have different body types and heights, and I wish that magazines made it less taboo to have a supposedly unideal body.

It would be nice if magazines could feature all of these body types and more and not just single out the most unachievable kind.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading and hopefully this gave you some food for thought.

❤ Naomi


4 thoughts on “Bad Self Esteem Lighting and The Evils of Photoshop

  1. I completely agree with you that there is so much beauty in a wide variety of healthy body types. But my response to this question you pose is below. First, your question:
    “If a 5’10, 120 pound, size 4 model is fired for being “too fat,” what does that do to everyone else’s self esteem? ”
    If people feel bad inside based on what a magazine does with a fashion model, then I’m afraid that doesn’t speak very highly of people. “Self-esteem” is way over-emphasized. It’s true that negative self-talk can be harmful, but people should judge themselves and others according to actions, not some built up self-image. When people do bad, they should feel bad about themselves. When they do good they should feel good. What happens with supermodels or movie stars should be of very little consequence to people.

    Keep on writing!

  2. Right on, Naomi! Although I agree with Daddy Bear’s comment that it would be helpful for people not to rely on celebrity images for their self-esteem, I also see that there is a massive trend across American culture (also represented in mass media) that 1) equates women’s worth with their body image, 2) rewards women based on their ability to meet those norms, and 3) has been whittling down women’s body sizes over time, while making men’s bigger. There is a large body of gender research about this. Jeanne Kilbourne has been following body image trends for decades and I think you’d get a lot out of her work.

  3. My ten year old daughter – who is so flexible she can bend herself in half, so strong she can climb to the top of aerial ropes in a smooth few seconds and so fit she can play soccer at full tilt without getting truly winded – hates her body. She sees herself as fat and asks me if I can help her get pieces of her flesh cut from her body. She sees a distorted image of herself every time she looks in the mirror. My voice and opinion mean nothing to her. It breaks my heart to see her hate her physical self so much. She is continually comparing herself to images she sees elsewhere. These messages do real and awful damage to girls’ sense of self. You are right on Naomi.

  4. Thank you so much for writing this. You sound like one very wise young woman. Keep speaking out about this. So many girls and women suffer needlessly because they feel they can never measure up. This is important stuff. Thanks again.

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