It’s complicated to navigate body image in the age of social media. Plus, It’s a little scary. Recently, an unedited photo of Khloe Kardashian went viral. It was a refreshing, candid shot where Khloe looked great. But it was also quite different from the carefully curated, fine tuned photos typically shared by the reality star on social media. Reportedly, the Kardashian’s PR team quickly requested the photo’s removal. An assistant posted it without permission and now it’s nearly wiped clean from the internet. They apparently claimed it was “doctored” and was “in the worst lighting”. READ: it wasn’t edited to be perfect.
As the mother of an almost teenage daughter, I worry about the effects of photoshop, social media and “instagram face” on her body image. It would be great for my daughter to see Khloe Kardashian’s unedited photo! Or for that matter, it would be great for anyone to see what the Kardashians actually look like.
Heavily altered photos and the constant accessibility of social media amplify completely unattainable beauty standards. Edited perfection, created to sell you something. Whether it’s a lifestyle, a line of jeans, or some lip gloss. If only we could own the right clothes, apply the correct makeup, drink the perfect flat-tummy tea. It is, in a word, exhausting.
The fact that a PR team felt the need to disappear Khloe Kardashian’s unedited photo is heartbreaking. The idea that beauty looks only one specific way creates unnecessary pressure and unrealistic ideals. Being perfect is not worth striving for. There is so much more to learn from authenticity and imperfection.
According to a Northwestern University study, after only seven minutes of scrolling Instagram, young women compared their appearance to others more and felt worse about how they look. Another study claims that by age 13, 53% of American girls are “unhappy with their bodies”. By 17 this number increases to 78%. These statistics are staggering, but unsurprising.
As a woman existing in the world, I truly can’t remember a time when I was unaware of how my body looked.
I absorbed every air brushed magazine cover and negative word women in my life made about their own appearance. As the mother of a daughter, I’m trying desperately to do better. I recently fell in love with exercise as a way to manage my anxiety. But I am constantly reiterating that this love affair is intended to make my body stronger, healthier, calmer. But not smaller. I bite my tongue when I want to be self-deprecating about the way my jeans fit. I try not to outwardly beat myself up for an extra scoop of ice cream, instead reinforcing the idea of enjoying everything in moderation. But it’s hard! And the advent of social media and influencers like the Kardashians make it so much harder.
Social media isn’t all bad, though.
There are plenty of influencers, podcasts and accounts that are hard at work providing portrayals of diverse, real beauty, body positivity and other ways to measure self worth.
Some of my favorite IG handles:
I also enjoy Maintenance Phase, a podcast that is particularly helpful if you’re working through your own experiences with diet culture and wellness. I would love for my daughter to follow fewer Kardashians and more accounts like @amypoehlersmartgirls and @nasablueberry (the amazing 19 year old trainee astronaut who has her sights set on going to Mars!).
Wiping Khloe Kardashian’s unedited photo from the internet doesn’t just hurt my daughter. It hurts my son, too.
As the mother of a young son, I recognize this isn’t strictly a female problem. As our writer Lindsey beautifully stated in “if the Future is Female, That’s Good for My Son“, the issues facing our daughters matter to our sons as well. Creating a world where women are valued for more than their appearance and are celebrated for their strengths and differences will allow my son to thrive, too. Encouraging authenticity over perfection means that my son also has the space to express himself and be confident. Raising children who understand that beauty isn’t skin deep and that being flawless is impossible has nothing to do with gender.
I want to foster a positive self image for my daughter.
I try to highlight the many physical qualities that make her beautiful. From her wild, enviable curls to her breathtakingly blue eyes, I hope she’ll find her own version of beauty. I hope she will appreciate her body for the amazing things it can do and endure. But more importantly than that, I’d like her to understand that her appearance is only one small part of who she is. It is not the only metric of value. There is beauty to be found in kindness, intelligence, persistence, and the big dreams she has. And I never ever want her to strive for small. Not only in her body, but in her words and actions. She should proudly take up space. And recognize that absolute perfection is a lie. No matter how many social media filters or aspirational celebrities try to convince her otherwise.