The Gift of Self-Acceptance: Goodbye Filters, Hello Authentic Self

by Creating Change Mag
The Gift of Self-Acceptance: Goodbye Filters, Hello Authentic Self

“Beauty doesn’t come from physical perfection. It comes from the light in our eyes, the spark in our hearts, and the radiance we exude when we’re comfortable enough in our skin to focus less on how we look and more on how we love.” ~Lori Deschene

Swiping though the various filters available, I saw my face go from mine to someone else’s—to someone with better skin, bigger eyes… Oooh look, I think this one makes my face look slimmer. Hello, cheekbones!

As someone who hated having her picture taken and was utterly convinced that she looked beyond awful in photos, I suddenly saw an easy fix to look good on camera.

When I first started showing up online for my business in 2020, Instagram Reels had just been launched. It was declared an absolute must to record content as a business owner, and filters were simply a part of it. Harmless fun designed to inspire and create.

However, as someone who had worn a lifelong “introvert” badge, and with more insecurities than I cared to admit at that point in time, the discomfort I felt showing up in these videos was beyond excruciating.

As a child raised in an extremely unstable environment, without ever hearing the words “I love you” or feeling in any way that I belonged, I had somewhat unsurprisingly grown into an insecure young woman who had come to rely on validation through physical appearance. A pattern that I was most certainly repeating from my own mother, who was never seen looking anything less than.

Also, a series of  events in my chaotic childhood had left me with a severe abandonment wound, and I had struggled deeply with “not enoughness” for as long as I could remember.

And though I had since spent years doing the work to heal myself through the teachings of incredible women such as Louise Hay and Brené Brown, showing up online was about to open a wound that I thought had long healed.

In my early twenties I used makeup as a mask, refusing to leave the house without an immaculately applied full face of war paint, and never under any circumstances taking it off in front of anyone. So utterly convinced that I was unlovable, with a desire to look perfect for approval, I had inadvertently created a reality in which I had to look a certain way, all the time.

It was exhausting.

After spending years working hard to cultivate a deeper connection with myself and striving to detach my self-worth from my appearance, I have since enjoyed a much healthier relationship with makeup.

I now see my body as a temple, to adorn as I so wish, because I desire it and not because I feel I have to for acceptance or validation. Makeup has now become a creative ritual that brings me joy, an extension of my personality, creativity, and individuality.

I felt as if I‘d reached a healthy turning point of this chapter in life—until I started creating content.

As  mumma and stepmumma to a blended family of five, then in my early thirties, I felt daunted stepping out into an online world in which everyone appeared to be a flawless twenty-two-year-old yoga instructor dancing a “how to” tutorial to the latest trending audio.

There was absolutely no way I was dancing, but using a filter? That I could do.

I carefully selected one that didn’t dramatically alter my features but undeniably made me look younger, with the same clear, smooth skin as the aforementioned twenty-two-year-old. I then proceeded to use the exact same filter for three years for every single photograph and video. Over and over again, until I wasn’t just using it for online purposes; I was using it as standard practice in my day-to-day life.

It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I realized something quite sinister had been subconsciously at play.

Initially, I tried convincing myself that filters were effectively digital makeup, designed to enhance a video the way a photographer does a photograph. But it began to feel different, and yet all so familiar.

It felt like hiding.

My first indication that the use of filters was clearly affecting my well-being was when I refused to have a photograph taken without one.

Red Flag Number One

More feelings of discomfort began to tug at me after attending a festival as a speaker one summer and meeting people whom I’d developed connections with online. Only I had the awkwardness of not fully recognizing them. I found myself searching for something familiar in their faces, almost cartoon like, squinting my eyes and slightly tilting my head to one side as I saw them approaching from across the room.

I realized that they didn’t quite look like themselves, at least the version of them I had become accustomed to seeing online. This quickly was followed by a nervous feeling as I pondered the question “What if I don’t look like myself?!”

Red Flag Number Two

While the obvious solution here was to stop using filters, I felt trapped in a web of my own making, and old feelings of insecurity and the fear of not being good enough began to creep in. I deeply struggled to marry these feeling up with my own values as a staunch advocate for empowering women to develop self-love and self-belief.

How could I possibly align these actions with my deepest values? How could I record videos trying to encourage women to believe in themselves when the whole time I was too scared to hit “record” without a filter?

The hypocrisy was not lost on me. I knew in my heart that my values would have to defeat my vanity, and that it was only a matter of time before I had to change my approach and show up as myself, unfiltered.

Red Flag Number Three

This was to be my final red flag—misalignment of values.

With my thirty-seventh birthday approaching, and a little voice inside saying ”It’s time” getting louder, I gave myself the greatest gift I could have possibly given myself.

The gift of true self-acceptance. The gift to show up online as the most authentic version of myself.

The gift of finally healing that old perfection wound and fully detaching my self-worth from my physical appearance.

The gift of showing up filter-free.

To some, this may seem insignificant. But to me, the girl who had struggled so deeply with insecurities for as long as she could remember, the girl who had worn these filters as a mask and for approval, this was a monumental breakthrough and a big fat tick in the box marked “be yourself.”

One step closer to me, and a whole lot closer to being in alignment with my own core values.

I had anticipated a period of feeling slightly awkward, perhaps a little vulnerable to start with. But what I hadn’t in any way prepared for was a new wave of confidence, self-love, and self-acceptance.

I felt liberated.

As if unlocking a level on a video game, I felt as if I’d reached a brand-new level in my life. I began to get curious about why ditching filters had been such an issue. And then one day I asked myself a question that might just be one of the most important questions I’ve ever asked myself:

Where else in my life am I wearing a filter?

Where else in my life am I keeping my most authentic version at bay for fear of judgement, rejection, or even ridicule?

Where else in my life am I hiding?

There is much power to be found in the questions we ask when seeking answers that lie within.

For me personally, such questions have led to a surge in my personal growth and self-acceptance along with my overall happiness and well-being. And with each question, its answer brings me closer to a version of myself that feels more and more like me with each passing day. From the clothes I wear, to the way I show up for myself and others, down to the energy I bring and my newfound freedom to create from the heart.

It’s also been a beautiful reminder that the healing journey is exactly that, a journey. Not a destination. So I will continue to ask myself these questions. I will endeavor to remain curious and compassionate, not only in the pursuit of my most authentic self, but to also honor the practice of self-acceptance along the way.

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