Breaking the Stigma: On the Desire to Edit Myself

With 5 days to go until Breaking the Stigma submissions close (Here), our editor Em has jumped on with a stigma to break of her own to give you some ideas on what you can write about! 


I remember first downloading FaceTune. I decided I wanted a slimmer nose and whiter teeth before a grainy photo hit my ninth grade Instagram page. I was 14 and ready to take on social media with the brighter, shinier, skinnier me.  

I then realised I was awful at using FaceTune. My teeth looked as if I had installed light bulbs in them, and my skin was distorted and splotched. I just decided to post the photo as is – it was too much effort to edit myself 

Fast forward six years, it’s no trouble at all.   

Editing apps are free and easier to use than ever. You can pay an editor $5 online to professionally edit your pics through Fiverr. Instagram and Snapchat filters sculpt your face ever so slightly, blur your skin and widen your eyes – but there’s some butterflies or glitter as well so you hardly even notice. Samsung phone cameras even have a ‘beauty’ mode that airbrushes your face. And, I get why it’s so popular. It’s easy as anything to edit out a stray hair or a blackhead or a scratch and I do it all the time. I fix when an eyelash is doing that weird pointing directly-down-thing or edit my brow line to look smoother. I have even been known to use the exposure tool to add highlights into my hair in between salon visits. Rest assured, just like everybody else – I’m in the thick of it.  

But, there are people out there taking it a step further. Enter: the phenomenon of Selfie Surgery.  

Over time, the way we have viewed ourselves online has morphed from what we look like into a slightly doctored version of yourself. Some people are so set on achieving this ‘Instagram’ ideal, that the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery reported that in 2017, 55% of patients cited wanting to look better in selfies during their consultation. This is in the form of minimally invasive procedures like lip or nose fillers, all the way up to full cheekbone reconstructions. Research is starting to come in through the Industrial Psychiatry JournalOhio State UniversityAssociation for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence and the Oxford Aesthetic Surgery Journal, and the results so far are clear – social media is most definitely becoming a part of the patient-surgeon relationship. This is because selfies are creating a clear discrepancy between our feeds and our mirrors.  

This isn’t to say that plastic surgery is categorically bad, it’s not. We’re all free to make our own decisions, and if we want to make changes to ourselves that make ourselves feel better about ourselves – we should go for it. However, with how often we see ourselves and others edited, we should consider our influences when we chose to make decisions. Similarly, without surgery, I encourage you to be aware of the unconscious bias we have when we compare ourselves in life to our online selves. Even with Instagram announcing tight regulations on diet and cosmetic surgery posts, the desire to edit ourselves persists. My desire to edit myself is still certainly there, however, I think it’s important to proceed with caution and be aware of the cognitive dissonance that exists within myself as a result of engaging with social media

We love social media and our always wired world, the endless possibilities and validation. However, there are inherent costs to the way we use this resource. I’m working on the desire to edit myself, and so should you.  

Em Readman
Em Readman

Em Readman is a writer from Meanjin who lives in Boorloo. She has been published in Aniko Press, the Suburban Review, Bowen St Press, Baby Teeth Arts, and others. They were an editor of Glass Magazine in 2020 and 2021, and won the 2022 Blue Knot Foundation Award with the Hunter Writer's Centre.

Articles: 64

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