Opinion: Our Filtered Reality



Someone said something to me the other day that gave me serious pause.

“I really wish I could be you!”

I know it was meant to be a compliment of sorts – that for whatever reason, this girl, thinks my life is so glamorous and easy that she wants it as her own. Instead it left me with a furrowed brow and sense of uneasiness.

This comment nearly blew my mind because I have spent the past few months wishing I could be anyone but myself. Despite trying to put my best foot forward when in public, I often trip and fall on my face when in private. The vision of confidence and happiness that I want others to see is not always what my insides are lined with, and a lot of the time my exterior is completely opposite of my interior. We live in a world where image and competition is being forced to be at the top of our priorities. This desire to appear “picture perfect” becomes an all-consuming necessity. However, sometimes if you look more closely at the picture, you will see that the lines are blurred and that the ink is faded to the point of colorless. We can’t believe everything that we see.

“You walk around like a snob.”

My mother said this to me one day as we exited Chipotle and I stared at her wide-eyed in disbelief. I have always taken pride in my appearance (sometimes to the point of vanity) and try to walk around with a sense of confidence, but according to my mother, I was coming across like an egomaniac. I am often reserved and will usually keep to myself, but this comes from a place of uncertainty rather than a place superiority. I’ll never start a conversation, but rather will wait for others to approach me, not because I think I’m above making the first move, but because I’m too afraid to do so. I’ve posted a stream of bathroom selfies showcasing crop tops and long red nails, but this is the same bathroom where I have spent countless hours scrutinizing every inch of my appearance. Guys I have dated have mentioned how much they love my confidence, but they don’t know that I spent the majority of these relationships feeling like I needed to look and act a certain way to be perfect in order to maintain their interest. I will “#tbt” to an old modeling picture, but won’t post how little I ate that same day because I thought I was fat. The fabric of my life wouldn’t be so beautiful if it was turned inside-out.

We no longer apply filters only to our photos, but to our entire lives – painting our friendships, relationships and even our self-image as something impossibly perfect without flaws or mishaps. We only highlight the positive and cast shadows on the negative so that all that is left is what we want others to see. Yet sometimes it is difficult to sleep at night because while we have mastered the exterior, the interior is falling apart at the seams. We can’t cast the Valencia filter on our minds and hearts, on our thoughts and feelings, and at the end of the day this is really what we are left with.

I have friends get into fights with boyfriends only to post a couple’s selfie ten minutes later with #love and #myoneandonly in the captions. I know guys who post endless photos of themselves with their girlfriends – kissing on vacation, going out to dinner on Valentine’s day – only to check my phone and see that these same guys have texted me asking if I want to meet up. The only life whose truth we know is our own, and that is the life we should be focusing on.

On the flip side, rather than tailoring our own lives to be the envy of everyone’s conversations and social media streams, we need to focus on what we see in ourselves and how it makes us feel. Who cares if a selfie gets 100 likes if the person who took it looks in the mirror and criticizes what they see? Who cares if a relationship gets deemed #couplegoals if one half of that couple is cheating and hurting the other half? We should seek to be authentic in our feelings and experiences – to be the best version of ourselves that we can be.