Sunday, 1 March 2015

My #BeRealMarch Campaign

I've been contemplating writing this post for some time, but my feelings surrounding it escalated these past few weeks, until it became something, I just had to write about.  Right now!  I think the blogging movement is a powerful thing in the world today and I've always loved that it's different from other forms of media.  Us bloggers afterall are real people, with real lives and real opinions.  Unlike television, newspapers or magazines, we don't have to be neutral or adversely, favour one party.  We started our own blogs and we are our blogs, so there's nobody above us, telling us what we can or cannot write, say or do.  There's freedom in it for us and it's a great approach for readers because it feels much more personable, thus the loyalty of following or commenting or figuring out this person isn't for you and moving onto the next blog.

In theory, that sounds ideal, but in reality there is a whole lot of pressure that comes with that.  Pressure to capture the perfect photo, pressure to increase readership or comments or whatever statistic you're looking to improve and yes, pressure to promote a certain product or brand (within a specific time frame), but above all to be and look 'perfect' yourself.  I've said this before, but blogging isn't an easy job.  Sure it's fun, but you're having to be so many things (model, photographer, stylist, makeup artist, writer, editor, secretary etc) and be good at them all.  That pressure to be perfect and have the perfect life isn't confined to blogging of course, it's something we all feel.   I'm sure you'd agree that although men feel it too, there's a much greater pressure on women (you only need to look at the Australian presenter who wore the same suit for a year in protest against the pressures placed on women to look a certain way).  I'd guess too that the majority of times, it's actually pressure we put on ourselves.  Of course it stems from elsewhere, but at the end of the day, it's ourselves that impose it.

So where does that pressure come from?  Well we live in a society where we're bombarded with beautiful images of beautiful things on a daily basis.  With the rise of social media (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest etc), there's really no escape from it.  Like that couple you know that are always visiting the most beautiful tranquil, foreign places, that girl that you swear never suffers a bad hair day, the blogger you follow with the most perfect skin and those foodies that continually dine out in the most beautiful restaurants that leave you salivating with every "this is what I ate" shot.  We compare those posts to our own life and it's no wonder we feel inferior sitting in our jammies with nowhere to go, eating our baked potato!  Don't these perfect people ever have an 'off day', is their life really that wonderful all the time?  Well no, of course it isn't.  Obviously we want to project the 'best' version of ourselves and our life, it's only natural.  I actually read a funny article about it this week, on the comparison between real student life and that on Instagram.  Us bloggers do it all the time.  We carefully pick the best photos, the best angle, edit it to look a little more perfect and therefore present this "everything is wonderful" dream world to our readers, so they come back for more.  Nobody wants to read a moany blog do they? Or look at unflattering, grainy photos with smudged makeup, scuffed shoes and that coffee stain you just can't get out of that blouse.

As "inspiring" as these images may be, the perpetual stream of them does nothing for self confidence and only further fuels a vicious cycle.  You continually see these perfect images (no matter if they are "real" or not), so you constantly feel the need to be as good or better than them and the person after you does the same thing.  Take the #nomakeupselfie that went viral last year.  There's no doubt it raised a hell of a money for the cancer charities, which can never be a bad thing but all it took was one person (real life or celebrity) to look "perfect" sans makeup, for us to feel like our 'just out the shower' wet look wasn't quite good enough.  So it became this competitive thing among women, "if I take it from this angle or in this light or add that filter or chuck on some concealer, then it will be more flattering", until there was a mass of perfectly photographed faces.  It became less about raising money and more about how we presented our (in some cases "supposedly") bare faces.  It wasn't enough to just take a photo without wearing makeup, it had to be beautiful too.  Ditto for the #wokeuplikethis trend.

I spent time browsing websites where customers upload 'real life' photos wearing clothes or accessories from the site (i.e. #TopshopStyle or #AsSeenOnMe).  A great idea I thought, as 'personal' images are usually much more interesting than stark stock photos and therefore more likely to entice you into buying something.  Let me tell you, a brief nosey and I ended up feeling utterly depressed.  Buying anything was the furthest thing from my mind.  95% (or more) of those photos look like they've been ripped straight out of a magazine.  It's all sultry "street style, but not really street style" shots, likely captured on an expensive camera, with over-rehearsed, cliched poses.  Not the "oh my gosh, look how cute my new shoes are" snapshots I was expecting.  There was also a serious lack of diversity in the women posting photos; most of the girls being young, thin and white.  Though I feel like that's an argument for another day, it does make me question if there's a certain look we have to adhere to for the most social media 'likes' or published photos on those websites or to be a 'successful' blogger.  The message I got was that unless I fitted into that mould where my photo was shot that way, with that pose and that style, then it wouldn't be included.  I certainly left feeling "too fat and too old", without a hope in hell of my photos being included (and before you jump in, I actually have submitted a few in the past that were never published).    

So to go back to the beginning of this post, it feels like blogging is becoming less unique and more 'run of the mill'.  There's a blogger mould that we have to fit into (whether that's how we look, what we write about, our blog layout or all of those) and if we don't, we feel left on the sidelines, insecure about our blog and sometimes ourselves.  We have to present this 'fantasy world' to the public but it's getting away from what made blogs so popular in the first place.  It's not real (and you only have to read this article about the girl that manipulated reality, photoshopping her way into an overseas trip whilst actually at home, in her bedroom) to see how much the truth can be distorted to portray a more perfect existence.  I'm not a model and have never claimed to be.  I'm not a photographer either, but I've 'learned' to be both as much as I could for the sake of my blog.  Magazines have the money and resources to provide 'perfect' models with perfect hair, perfect makeup, perfect clothes and exotic locations.  They also have airbrushing and all the other digital techniques at their disposal to further perfect those images.  So if I want perfect, I know where to look.  I look to blogs for something else (as I'm sure you do) and I feel we're losing sight of that.  A blog without all those 'perfect' things appears to be deemed "not good enough", no matter if we are just 'normal' girls trying to share something we love.

We need to stop putting these unrealistic expectations on ourselves and others.  Life isn't perfect all the time.  Women aren't 'catwalk gorgeous' all the time.  We need to break that cycle of constantly feeling like our next status or photo has to be better than the other person.  We need to not be so afraid of 'failing' or not being perfect and just put the real us out there.  I've spoken before about my illness and how much my health deteriorated over the last year or so, to the point that I'm rarely able to get dressed, do my hair and never wear makeup.  That was a massive blow to my self esteem and a huge shock to the system.  It really was.  I'm the girl that put on lipstick to answer the phone and now I'm the girl that showers once a week!  There's no comparison.  Yes, I'd love to tell you, I look polished and perfect the entire time, but I don't.  I really don't.  I'm ill, I'm tired, I ache, I have bad skin most of the time, bags under my eyes, hair that hasn't seen dye since 2013 and there are days I feel chubby and unattractive.  So I've likely felt this more than others, that the un-glam me isn't good enough to post photos on my blog or social media without some sort of apology or validation for why I'm looking like I just got out of bed (er because I probably did just get out of bed).  Mostly my FOTD shots have disappeared because I'm not wearing any makeup, but there is a small part of me that thinks posting unglamourous shots of myself (especially when other bloggers are looking like utter goddesses), is only going to be detrimental or unfavourable to my blog and/or how I'm perceived.  Like I can't be a real beauty blogger when I'm not beautiful all the time or a real fashion blogger when I'm not perfectly styled every day.

That has to change and not just for me, but for everyone.  We need to stop this cycle and if I have to do it single handedly, then so be it (totally channelling my inner Emmeline Pankhurst)!  So I'm going to blog every day throughout March in my new #BeRealMarch campaign with a bare faced selfie.

I want there to be 'real' photos of me up here alongside the previous 'perfect' ones to show all sides of me.  I want to end the constant stream of perfect images you see on a daily basis and show that behind the glamour is a real, less than perfect woman and for that to be ok.  Beauty does go deeper than the exterior and we need to be reminded of that.  You might think I'm somehow shaming those women that are thin/beautiful or saying they aren't "real", but I'm not and it's not about making anyone feel bad about themselves, it's about celebrating who we are, just as we are.  You may also think it's not going to do much for my self esteem (which had already taken a battering), but actually what's more important to me than that (and this is going to sound really cheesy) is the self esteem of others.  If someone looks at these photos and thinks "well if she can do it, I can do it" or it gives them the confidence to share less than perfect photos on social media from now on or on their blogs, then that's brilliant.

I'm not putting pressure on any of you, but I would love if you got behind this too.  You can begin by reblogging this post using the social media buttons below and using the hashtag #BeRealMarch.  Just getting the word out there about what we're doing and more importantly why we're doing it.  Perhaps in a week or two, you'll feel up to posting your own bare faced shot, whether that's on your own blog or Facebook or even just sending a picture text to a friend.  Or maybe you're feeling inspired to join in with me every day.  Perhaps you already have a selfie that you've never published because you hate your hair in it or think the angle is unflattering.  Whatever the case, you're more than welcome.  In order for it not to become like the #nomakeupselfie or #wokeuplikethis, all that I ask is that you be completely honest (the hint is in the hashtag!).

None of my photos will be retouched, no matter how much I adore that magical 'spot corrector' tool (seriously, I love you) and I'll not be wearing makeup.  I will be cropping and resizing to fit the blog and adding a frame (because that's what I do).  They won't be 'styled' shots and I'll most likely be in my pyjamas! If you're uncomfortable with doing that yourself, then that's fine, but don't pretend you're bare faced when you're not!  Don't erase all your blemishes other than one, then claim your skin is "such a mess"!  Remember it's not about making the next person feel like their face or photo isn't good enough, it's about showing the real you.  Use the hashtag when you share these photos, so I can see who's taking part (I'm not on Twitter or Instagram, but I can view public photos).  You can use the hashtag on Facebook and Tumblr  and tag me in the photos if you wish.  If you feel like you can't relate to any of this and I'm not the goddess you thought I was, then I'd urge you to read it again and really think about it.  It's great to have goals and aspirations, but we have to be real about it too and we totally need more derpy faces online : )  So here is my first photo, taken last night before bed.  I'm actually looking forward to doing this, in some sort of weird way!  See you tomorrow xBeRealMarch selfie

14 comments :

  1. Gem this is an awesome post! Really, really well written. You are so so right, blogging may lose its originality if we try to conform. Luckily, pretty much all of my photos of me (except when I'm on an evening out) don't include makeup at all (I can't be bothered to wear it and I don't have the time) though I do like to use the filters in Picmonkey to make grainy, dark or washed out shots look a bit nicer, so maybe I shouldn't!

    For the record, I think you look beautiful above. xxx

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    1. Thank you Kezzie. I use filters and the like too and I don't think there's anything wrong with that, I just feel it's unrealistic for everything to be perfect all the time. I'd hate for someone to visit my blog and go away feeling worse about themselves because I'm projecting an 'everything is rosy' outlook and for them to think I live in a perfect world. Or that I come off as unapproachable (which isn't really the right phrase as nobody ever meets me but hopefully you know what I mean) because I'm 'perfectly' turned out all the time. I don't want to be depressing either and have an 'everything is terrible' approach, but I think there just needs to be a balance between all good/all bad.

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  2. Love this post. As a 'normal' (not thin and not classically beautiful) woman with two kids and hectic life, who loves fashion, I rarely have time to wear makeup because it is often a choice between 5 mins applying mascara and eyeliner and getting the kids to nursery on time for breakfast. So most of the time I look like me (albeit staring at my unused MAC makeup enviously)! But hey, you know what, who cares, because I am me! Makeup free and all. And most importantly, I have two girls to set an example to, which is that, you should own yourself and love yourself. THis post really speaks to me, Thank you.

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    1. Thank you. Absolutely agree. I mean I love makeup, I love clothes, I love getting dressed up, but being unable to do those things, has just made me realise that there's more to life than that (I mean I always knew it, but you know what I mean). I'm still me, even without the lipstick and high heels and I just hope people can see that. We shouldn't be seen as any less of a woman (or blogger or Mum or whatever) just because we're not 'perfect' all the time or pretending to be perfect all the time.

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  3. My real can be different from others real. While I agree that a few are making themselves look much better than in reality, I still think a lot of bloggers are presenting their real self. In a positive light, as it's only natural. What's the point in showing the world the crazy days and burned food, everybody has them.

    It doesn't matter if I'm out walking the dog, shopping, at home or at a fancy restaurant... I want to look at my best. This is the real me: heels (beside trainers&wellies I have only 3"+ heels, for 10+ hours/day if I have to), light makeup, sleek ponytail (if I have a bad hair day), perfect nail polish (or I remove it, better none than chipped), fitted clothes, nice accessories. Sometimes I don't wear makeup, but I still put some lipstick and I make sure my face is clean and looks good. I don't think this make me shallow or unreal or not loving myself.

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    1. Absolutely, it IS only natural that we blog or share the best bits and obviously if you have a great photo, you're going to use that, rather than a 'bad' one. I just feel that when everyone does it, constantly, there's no escape from seemingly perfect-ness. It portrays that life is great for all of us, all the time and that if we don't match that, we are less of a person/blogger etc. It can be bad for self esteem and I'd hate for someone to visit my blog and go away feeling worse about themselves because they don't have all the 'perfect' things I do. I actually find it humbling for someone to admit (and I mean really admit, not fake admit) that they don't feel good about themselves or this photo or failed at something.

      Previously, I would never have left the house without a full face of makeup, hair done, nice outfit and high heels (I actually can't walk in flats), until I've been too ill to do so. Of course I'd love to go back to that, but in the meantime I have to accept myself 'warts and all' and I don't think I should hide that from my readers. It shouldn't make me any worse a blogger, less beautiful or attractive etc to admit I'm not dolled up to the nines all the time. I'm still the same person I was before, even if I don't look it.

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    2. What if someone goes away feeling upset because you classified them as "fake"? Showing the world only the good parts can be a way of hanging on to the good things in a hope to minimize the bad stuff.

      I don't want to be pushy and I don't want you to feel bad about anything. I believe everyone should love their reflection in the mirror, with or without makeup... but that it is in the eyes in the viewer.

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    3. But I didn't and wouldn't. I did say in the post that I wasn't bashing those that project a perfect life. I just think it's unrealistic to put pressure on someone to be perfect at everything ALL of the time. Nobody IS perfect, that's my point. By keeping projecting that we ARE, it just further fuels the need for everyone to be perfect, because anything less, is seen as not good enough. Like I said, blogs used to be about individuality and the person behind the blog, now it's becoming less like that and more like a magazine (fewer real opinions, professionally shot and edited images and 'model' looks), it's turning into something else. It's enough pressure for anyone to have to see that in the media and feel like they have to live up to it, without supposedly 'real lives' being overtaken by it too (blogs and social media).

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  4. This is SUCH a good idea. I applaud you for this! x

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  5. I think this is a great idea and I love that you decided to do this but on the other hand (and I may be just the worst blogger in the world, who knows) I don't have those things on my blog, though I sometimes wish I did! All my photos are taken with my iphone and there is no editing. I sometimes wish I had a good camera and that I would photoshop my images but then I wouldn't have any time to write up my actual posts if I did edit, and well, I just can't afford a good camera right now. But I do understand that most bloggers I guess do edit things and try to be "perfect" and it's refreshing to see someone be real. :))

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    1. Absolutely, it's so time consuming. I wish I didn't have to edit, even resizing, cropping, tagging and adding a frame seems to take forever when you have loads of photos! My DSLR is set to take large images though, so I have to do it and I tend to always need to crop, sometimes lighten a little. The quality obviously isn't as good with my phone, but generally they need less editing anyway.

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  6. This is such a brilliant idea, I love that you're doing it. I always try to be real on my blog, I don't often wear make up and I only resize/ colour correct my photos. I feel you see enough photoshopping in the media that you don't need to see it on blogs.

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    1. Thank you. Yeah that's what I think, blogs shouldn't be about 'magazine perfect' images, there's enough of that elsewhere, we need to be unique.

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