The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Being perceived is complicated. It might not be everyone’s fantasy to travel to a new place and find excitement in a fellow streetwalker eyeing your outfit, but I have to be honest and say that it’s been mine before. When it comes to going on a vacation, I become hyperaware of my appearance, meticulously planning what I will wear and when.
This creates a tricky gray area to balance. I want to feel confident and comfortable in my body. I want to dress up for the occasion because it’s not every day I find myself in London and France as I did this week. But I also know many photos will be taken for my socials and I would like to look… well, perfect in them.
Social media and our mass consumption of online reality often make us ask ourselves the question, “did something really happen if we didn’t post a photo dump on Instagram about it?” In this case, the more specific question is, “do I really look good if I don’t post ten amazing photos on Instagram to prove it?’
Maybe the remedy to this tightrope lies in intentions and actions. Are we choosing our outfits with ourselves, our style, and enthusiasm in mind, or are we more so considering what a local will find interesting?
Two scenarios from my trip to London vs. Paris. My favorite London outfit was this one:
I was very happy with the color coordination, having gotten this coat for the trip. I felt confident and good. But, two negative reactions came about.
I found myself looking for the approval of others. When I see a pretty person in a pretty outfit, I can’t help but analyze what is so attractive about them. Is it the hem of their pants? The cut of their hair? The reverse of this is I expect others to do the same with me, so it’s hard not to try and notice if others are looking at me and then feel a bit discouraged when I consider that maybe they aren’t.
The saying always goes, people are too busy thinking about themselves to think about you, but I manage to do both in my day-to-day, and my over-analytical ego winds up bruised because of it.
At the end of the day, I realized I wasn’t fully happy with any photos I took in said fit. Did this mean an outfit was wasted? If no one on my social media could validate me, did I really have the strength to do it myself?
My favorite outfit I wore in Paris was this one:
I remember feeling nervous about wearing it the night before. It was my most ambitious, and I worried it wouldn’t look as good on me as it did in my head. But once it was all on, I felt great. I loved how the fingerless gloves laid on my cold, dry hands and how the oversized leather jacket coddled every other layer. I found myself looking at others less because I genuinely felt that I looked good regardless of receiving external assurance.
However, I took lots of photos. That isn’t necessarily bad; I had a beautiful backdrop, and taking pictures is fun! I wanted to remember this outfit and how good I felt in it. But would I have felt as good if I didn’t like the photos? Was I too obsessed with taking as many photos as possible to ensure future me and my followers would have enough evidence to induce my self-esteem?
Probably. Social media is a soul crusher and much to blame for these difficult feelings. The urge to present a beautiful and refined self online has molded my brain since age 12.
But, I think there is healing in self-awareness. What if we first noticed our intentions, prioritized our own joy and comfort in an outfit, and reminded ourselves of that? If pictures help you do that, then so be it.
However, what if we also kept our actions in perpetual check? If we find ourselves pondering which photo should be the one highlighted on our profile as opposed to being in the moment, if we begin to see outfits and feelings of joy as “‘wasted” if our photo dump isn’t “aesthetic” enough, if we care what streetwalkers think than our own minds, then maybe it is a sign to take a break from our socials and reflect on learning to value our own self-image first.