The human identity seeks inspiration across so many of their own facets that can present at times a conflicting idea of what we actually want to be. With the universal truth being delivered through the adage of No Man Is Perfect and with also as universal the pursuit of perfection in every thing we strive to do, this is a contradiction that we all deal with invariably throughout our lives. Looking up to the ideals of a certain set premise of what we consider as worthy, or rather perfect is one of the most commonly rooted vulnerabilities of the human psyche. But within this realm of aspirations that we all harbour, indeed in such assertions of it that occur to us as positive and needful, what we instead end up fanning is a certain obligation to fit in within a particular set of norms that the world has long behested as ideal and that therefore which turns out to be a notion we mindlessly conform to, irrespective of the fact whether we really care enough for that particular facet of identity to become our own or not.
One such rather commonly encountered vision that we seemingly share with our peers, to an extent that is almost alarming if considered with the very identity of every human being as an unique individual in themselves with their own thought process and idea of the world, is the rather vulnerable fore of what concerns exclusively the physicality of appearances. The obsession with beauty that we are brought up to foster in as intricate a manner that seems almost like innate to us is what drives this desire to gravitate towards bodily ideals and norms that have been clear cut out for the genders, with such attributes as slim and slender and graceful and elegant expected to be the forte of the female folk and notions of rugged and rough and bulky and strong the premises on which the male identity is rested. Cutting across these lines of demarcation however also is the inclination to settle for nothing less than just the optimal amount of fat and muscle that hangs aesthetically from where they should, anything more considered as unattractively flabby and even anything less as unappealingly ‘sick’.
Emerging therefore from such expectations to be met by each one of us, essentially and ideally as if that speaks greater for our identity than our worth as individuals, are such toxic adherences to widely practised ‘cultures’ of body shaming, both skinny and fat shaming, that have grown to be so much the norm that we do not even feel as if we are indulging in something rather evil and harmful. And resident in such ideas of what constitutes our skewed idea of beauty that ironically though presents itself as perfect to us is a certain mentality of the advertising world that has come to make deep entrenches among us, despite the increasing understanding of the world as having evolved to be more inclusive and accepting of all.
Bombarding our social media and digital platforms today are snaps and captures that document each moment of our lives, including also the chiselled abs that we flaunt in all pride and the love handles that we accentuate with all filters in place while taking care enough to conceal every single speck of undesirability that undoubtedly marks our very human bodies. And while such continuous salvaging of beauty in mostly unrealistic manifestations itself is cause enough for concern, there dwells also side by side another trend of further outlining the effect that the ‘achievement’ of beauty can entail one to. With aspiring to appear fit the mantra of the day, netizens and earthlings do not squander even a single chance of putting up on display their fabulous transformation with carefully curated ‘before and after’ photos guaranteed to inspire awe and incite love reacts from followers and friends. And therein lies the crux of the problem that we so adhere to in a spirit of profusion, marvelling at the tremendous progress worked into the premises of someone’s physical essence. And while there indeed might be no harm in consciously making better lifestyle choices to be fitter individuals or even to desire to make oneself more presentable, the guiding force of what triggers such choice is every bit cause for concern.
What leads before and after pictures along the trail of toxic assertion is very simply cast in the ideals of beauty that we idolise. The intent that goes behind the working of these pictures put up side by side to incite indeed reactions that inevitably align towards the desirability of the latter is what makes their nature problematic an assertion of our inner biases. By effectively focussing on the norms of beauty that we anyway covet and pursue and nurture and further throughout our many brushes with it, this mode of seemingly innocuous celebration of curvy figures and bulging biceps has more ugliness embedded in their awareness. Playing across a range of such assertions that deeply impact the human psychology through means that might be subtle but are sensitive enough, such portraits of comparison that seek to bring out the positives achieved in the after tend to induce negative emotions in those perceiving them passively. Immensely triggering of unhealthy comparisons that concern of course exclusively the look factor of human beings, these stark assertives of the change effected instigate even further arousals of negative associations of body dissatisfaction while fuelling already prevailing normalisation of body shaming. Particularly if the ones perceiving these pics of transformation themselves happen to be struggling from body issues, the issue gets more aggravated because they become even more shamefully conscious of their own imperfectness that manifests in even heightened an awareness of which they are already critical. And the problem does not obviously end here, rather just marking its inception herefrom, translating thence to such issues that concern every aspect of their existence, from their eating habits and patterns to their self confidence and belief and their moods and mentalities as well.
Encouraging therefore of the stigma typically associated with weight issues and unfavourable body types and images, whatever that is supposed to mean, are these before and after showcases of potential attractiveness. While they might serve also as true sources of inspiration or motivation for folks embarking along the same route, it is also doubly possible that they end up instead encouraging the unwanted weight put on a person’s physical appearance as something that can validate them enough to be a matter of importance, oftentimes sidelining other facets of the human life that are in fact more crucial. There also is the possibility of these projections being misleading as well, with filters and effects worked in to highlight the changes that those looking at them will instantly come to desire, while effectively camouflaging the other side of them that might not be as rosy a sea of change. Equally feasible is the idea of such displays of the aesthetics holding good only for the short term while eventually impacting even more unfavourable outcomes than what had characterised the before substance of them.
What also makes before and after photos and the whole culture of trying to earn validation and sell ‘motivation’ through them is that they are most often than not a marketing tool yielded by social media influencers and product endorsers to garner audience for their own benefit. In this context, these side by side comparisons of the appeal attached to the visuals are even more unwarranted but resilient an attack on the conscience of the people who take them as they are, in sheer awe of the transformation effected, aspiring for themselves a similar outcome based on their genuine appreciation of the same. As a ploy of business that anyway dwells on the fickle premises of beauty fleeting in its very essence, before and after photos conjure up even more unreliable a view of what the world is shaping up as. And surrendering to such notions of the human awareness that is essentially even more transient than the unpredictable nature of human life is a folly that indeed is unworthy of commanding any spectrum of our time or attention, let alone being worthy enough of dictating our flow of emotions or directing our turn of aspirations that can do much more better than this problematic comparison of images not always capable of speaking a thousand words.