Want To Look “Perfect”? There’s An App For That

I recently discovered an app that is either the best thing ever invented or actually everything that is wrong with the world. It’s Perfect365, and IT BLEW MY MIND. I can never trust my eyes again.

By this point, we all know that the pictures in glossy magazines or on big name websites are all Photoshopped. Sometimes it’s done tastefully and they still look human, and sometimes it’s so gratuitous they end up missing a limb somewhere. But basically all mainstream images are retouched in some way, and in no way represent what “normal” looks like.

We all know this, but the internet still basically explodes anytime an untouched, potentially unflattering photo of a celebrity is leaked. We’re hungry for it. We want some proof that cellulite exists outside our own chubby asses and thighs, that wrinkles and bags under the eyes don’t discriminate. Because so much of what we see of celebrities and models is unattainable, and can have a very real impact on how people (and women in particular) feel about themselves.

I accept this, and I am constantly working to accept myself without comparison to these perfect images. As is. With my rogue chin hairs, under-eye circles, and pesky zits that didn’t get the memo that WE’RE IN OUR THIRTIES NOW, YOU CAN CHILL THE FUCK OUT.

I arm myself with the knowledge that I could look just like Scarlett Johansson or Kate Upton with the proper Photoshop expert (shut up, don’t take that away from me). I carry the knowledge that ScarJo and Kate don’t even look like the versions I see of them.

But I don’t think I had fully processed the idea that every person I follow on Instagram or see on Facebook has the tools to basically Fairy Godmother the shit out of themselves and transform into a perfectly complected, wrinkle-free, bright-eyed version of themselves. TRUST NO ONE.

Want proof? You got it.

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I posted this first picture on Facebook to show how crazy the difference was, and to make sure people were aware that this existed. I mean, I could just be living under a rock, I’m never totally sure.

In the caption I wrote that I like the original picture of myself and felt good about it, but after transforming into a wax figure version of myself, I actually kind of got sucked into liking the “perfect” version. And my friends and family (who are basically the best people in the world) jumped to reassure me I looked great in the original and that they actually preferred it.

Thanks guys. 🙂 Mission accomplished – I feel pretty and loved. But don’t worry – I wasn’t actually having a personal appearance crisis. Is that a thing? A beauty meltdown? Whatever. No, I like my face. My eyes look just like my grandmother’s. I have my mom’s smile. I have good hair. I have the best eyebrow waxer in the world. I look just fine.

I wasn’t posting the picture comparison to fish for compliments (I mean, I’ll take em, sure). No, I think this instant and easy access to “perfect” was just a little alarming to me and I needed to share.

On the one hand, I freaking love it. I can easily “fix” little issues that pop up on my face and enhance things in my pictures to make sure I look like the best version of myself. But on the other hand it’s a slippery slope, right? Where do you stop? Where do you draw the line? I’d essentially be buying into the idea that “perfect” is even possible, and at that point how can I be trusted to control myself (not my best strength to begin with)?

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I am all for looking your best, and doing whatever makes you feel good. Whether it’s a full face of makeup, a string bikini, bright blue hair, whatever. Rock what you got. But turning yourself into a wax version of yourself complete with “enhanced smile” and skin so smooth you can’t even see the outline of your nose (seriously, it’s kind of missing in this picture) is going down a rabbit hole I think I want to avoid.

It’s like plucking your own eyebrows for the first time when you’re 15. Just a little at first, no big deal. But then a little more… and then you need to even it out. And then you need to make the other side match because that one looks just perfect…. and then you realize you’ve plucked half your eyebrow off and you can’t just “undo” that. You would have been better off not doing anything at all.

I can’t promise I won’t ever use this devil-app, because let’s be real – it’s kind of amazing. And if I have a big event and a gnarly zit that’s ruining my whole look I’m probably going to smooth that out in pictures. Nothing wrong with a little retouching, and if this app makes that easier, sweet.

But once I start smoothing everything and softening all my lines, and even MAKING MY EYES BIGGER, it gets a little out of hand. So I think I need to lay off using this as a regular photo editing app. Because I won’t be able to stop… I’ll just keep plucking, keep searching for that “perfect” that doesn’t exist. And while wax-doll Courtney is OK, she’s a little creepy.

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The Unicorn Blues

Every now and then I’m struck with the crippling, overwhelming feeling of “not enough” or “less than.” Usually it’s relatively fleeting and can be silenced by a weekend getaway or a really good movie. Or frozen yogurt… sometimes frozen yogurt is all it takes.

And then there are those weeks when you turn 31 and you just, like, CAN’T BREATHE for a second. Which is silly because you have no gray hair or wrinkles yet, were born without a biological clock, and are actually living a pretty perfect life right now. Wait, did I say you? There’s a chance I might be talking about myself here.

So my life is pretty good, and 31 is the new 21, right? But WHY AM I NOT A PUBLISHED AUTHOR YET? HOW COME I KEEP GAINING WEIGHT INSTEAD OF LOSING IT? WHY DON’T I SPEAK MORE THAN ONE LANGUAGE?

Let’s not dwell too long on the fact that I have never attempted to write a book, have been consuming more calories than I burn, and have yet to install those “Learn French” and “Learn Italian” programs my dad bought me. BUT WHY AM I SO WOEFULLY UNACCOMPLISHED IN LIFE????

Seriously, where do those thoughts come from? By all accounts, I’m doing just dandy – better than most even, depending on how you look at it. But that’s just it – it’s about how you look at it. For whatever reason, this birthday temporarily messed up my perspective, and I seem to have misplaced my bedazzled, rose-colored glasses.

Part of the reason I’m having a harder time shaking these thoughts this time is that 31 sounds so much OLDER than 30 to me. 30 was a big deal – it was a milestone, a celebration of grandiose proportions. Seriously – I threw myself an over the top masquerade ball, complete with DJ, bartender and photo booth. And I was focused on celebrating all the positives in my life: my relationship, my career, my friends and family. And the reality is, since then, those things have gotten even better.

So why this strange melancholy over the big 3-1? Why the inability to look at things in a positive light? Honestly, I’m not sure, but I have a feeling that the multiple ankle surgeries, constant pain, and subsequent weight gain have a little to do with it.

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t had to battle some depression when my second surgery rolled around last fall. It was tough, but I made it through. And Gil and I didn’t kill each other, so that’s a real accomplishment. But all signs point to recovery (as slow as it may be), so I can’t really blame it all on that. And I can’t exactly put my finger on what else is going on, but I have some ideas.

Mainstream media would have me believe that it’s just my constant dissatisfaction as a millennial – my belief that I’m a special little unicorn and deserve more out of life somehow than just a good life. Well, I AM A SPECIAL FUCKING UNICORN. A BIG PINK ONE. AND I DO WANT MORE.

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If you ask me, this is not a character flaw of the millennial generation. A blatant sense of entitlement, an unwillingness to put in the legwork or the inability to be open to constructive criticism are major character flaws, but those are separate issues. The true belief that one is special and can accomplish anything is pretty damn powerful. And because we live in the age of social media, we can see the results of that power every day. I can see when every single one of my peers gets promoted (thanks LinkedIn). I know when anyone decides to travel the world (hi Facebook). I even know what they paid for their dream house (helloooo Zillow).

And I can also see this information about strangers. People my age or younger who are starting their own businesses, writing books, travelling the world, and following their dreams. These become weird, out-of-context, unattainable benchmarks. Not in small part due to the fact that I’m only seeing one very shiny version of reality on my computer screen. There is no way to keep up with that. And there’s no point either.  Comparing myself to others isn’t going to get me anywhere. Except maybe a shrink’s office for Xanax.

Using their success as an inspiration isn’t a bad idea though. I just need to adjust my perspective.

I need to track down my bedazzled, slightly smudged rose-colored glasses and look at those success stories as inspiration instead of another reason to put myself down. Instead of “not enough” I need to train myself to think “not yet” – because it IS possible whatever “it” may be. I AM A UNICORN.

Or rather, I CAN be, if I put in the time. There are more opportunities than ever to succeed and excel in ways that weren’t ever possible before. If I really want to write a book, I don’t have to get picked up by a publisher – I can self-publish and promote on social media and oversee the movie version starring Scarlett Johansson as me. Or you know, the lead character inspired by me. Whatever.  I mean, I have to WRITE the book first, but I don’t want to get too bogged down in those details.

I need to move past this destructive idea that I need to be achieving the same things I can see other people achieving on the same timeline in order to be special.

Maybe I’ll never write a book. Maybe I’ll never lose all the weight. Maybe I’ll only ever speak one language. The reality is, some days when I get home from my office job after my hour plus commute in the evenings, I am MUCH more inclined to take off my bra than take over the world. Some days bad TV and a glass of wine are going to win out over French lessons.  That’s OK. I’m already pretty special, every pound and all 31 years of me.

My Love/Hate Relationship With The Word “FAT”

I am fat. Objectively, this is true. I don’t live in some strange delusion where I don’t know this to be the case. I know it is, and I am taking steps to change it. Some days more than others, but it’s a process, and if you’ve never struggled with your weight, you don’t understand it’s about more than just “eating healthier” and “exercising more,” although those elements are both necessary.

There is a reason I gained the weight in the first place, and it’s more complicated than “I ate too much.” I mean, I totally did. I ate way too much and didn’t exercise nearly enough, but I have to really take a step back to understand all the reasons why and work on them.

Anyway, I accept the fact that I am fat. For now. So in a way, I embrace the word “fat” and love that there is a voice on the internet that is getting louder and louder every day; an army of women stepping up and owning who they are, no matter what size. Proudly rocking bikinis and crop tops and demanding a better selection of clothing for plus-size women. Women who refuse to let their size define them and who accept themselves for the people they are. These are women who have reclaimed the word “fat” and said “eff off” to those who would use it to try to make them feel “less than.”

To them, I tip my hat. I am wildly impressed with their confidence. And part of me embraces the adjective “fat.” It’s just a word, and words only mean what we allow them to. Case in point, my boyfriend tells me all the time how much he loves my “fat butt” and I know it’s a compliment because he can’t keep his hands off me. And I know my butt is “fat” and not “phat.” At first, it ruffled me a little – “fat” has always felt like a dirty word to me, and I was terrified of it in high school and college. So to have someone I love use it to describe me was initially a shock to my system. But now I really embrace it. He really does love my big ol’ butt, cellulite and all. He wouldn’t change a thing about it. He loves my body more than I do, and I’m trying to take a page from his book and embrace me, as I am, right now. So in a sense the word “fat” is helping me to accept myself, which is pretty awesome.

But on the flip side, I freaking hate it. It’s a word that has traditionally been used to put people down, belittle them, and act as a ridiculous excuse to pass judgement on someone’s worth as a person based on their size. And to those people, I say “go to hell.” Being fat does not define who I am as a person – it is a state of being that I happen to exist in right now.

I’m fat, sure. But I’m also funny, successful, happy, beautiful, kind, loving, clumsy, loud, opinionated and strong. If you ask anyone who knows me to describe me, I’m certain they would choose one of those adjectives before “fat.” And fat doesn’t trump any of the things on that list.

No matter who we are, we shouldn’t have to be defined by physical appearance. Unfortunately, that’s not the case – we ARE defined by physical appearance in so many ways, and not just regarding our weight. Our appearance is the first thing people notice when they look at us, and people DO form opinions. And some people will be unkind based on certain physical attributes. So we have to find ways to take ownership of those things, and find self-worth from within. To be kind to ourselves, even if people around us aren’t doing the same. Easier said than done.

I’m not stupid or delusional – I understand the health risks associated with obesity and the fact that no matter how hard we fight, there WILL be judgement passed on those who are overweight. I live in the real world – I understand these things. But as I’ve been reading more and more articles and fashion blogs from plus-size women practicing self-love and body acceptance (whether you’re a size 2 or size 22), I am inspired by them. By their confidence, their bravery, their style, their swagger, and their sexiness. But what I can’t understand is why so many people seem to have such a strong negative reaction to these women who are simply on a quest to love themselves even if they happen to be fat.

Fat is not an obstacle to happiness.

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I can only speak for myself when I say that yes, I know I will feel better, more energetic and healthier when I lose some of the weight I’ve gained over the last couple years. But just losing that weight is not what is going to make me a happy and fulfilled human being. Accepting myself and those around me for who they are, travelling the world, saying “yes” to things that scare me, and spending time with friends and family are things that will contribute to my happiness. Loving my “fat butt” as much as my boyfriend does is a personal goal of mine. I’m gonna love my fat butt so hard.

Because you know what? I deserve unconditional love from myself. I am happy to love others unconditionally, and I understand what it means to do so. And I accept unconditional love from others. But unconditional love from myself?? That is a newer concept for me. And it means I need to love myself now, with extra weight, as much as I would if I were a size 6.

A very wise friend of mine said to me years ago, as I was having a meltdown over my weight before a night out in Vegas, “Court, we will never be here again. In this moment, right now. Be happy and enjoy the experiences in front of us. Weight is a temporary thing – you can always work to change that. But we can never get this moment or experience back.” He was right. I want a happy and amazing life RIGHT NOW. Not 75 pounds from now. I deserve happiness, at any weight.

So by any standard definition of the word, I am fat. But I do not solely identify myself that way, or even primarily identify myself that way. It’s just part of me right now, a person who is constantly evolving. And one of the elements of my evolution is my body. At the end of the day, this is the body I’m living in right now, so I have to accept it. I can work to improve it, but my worth cannot be tied to a number on the scale. My worth is determined by me, dammit.