Today I was reading the Herald Sun online and came across this article titled "Australia's Most Self-Obsessed Models Reveal All" by Simon Crerar. Interested, I read on thinking it was going to be a piece on the types of products or beauty care routines Aussie models use to get the "seriously-I'm-just-naturally-this-beautiful" look. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement, and it wasn't because I realised that no amount of foundation or mascara could make me look like Miranda Kerr.
Unfortunately, the article turned out to be more of a condescending peek into the Instagram accounts of models such as Megan Gale, Miranda Kerr and Lara Bingle. While Crerar's article is humourous and seemingly written in jest, the tone of it really made me think about the way our society interprets self-esteem.
The premise of the article is simple enough: certain models are considered "self-obsessed" because they regularly post photos of themselves on social media. Photos whilst they are in bed, on the beach, at the gym etc. Basically, there are a lot of incredibly beautiful runway models clogging up your Instagram feed and the reflex seems to be "oh wow, you must really love yourself." And this is what irritates me.
Since the article makes absolutely no mention of male models and their apparent self-obsessed ways, I'll stick to the female side of the problem. As women, we're taught that modesty when it comes to physical appearance is key. We're expected to strive for beauty but, oh god no, don't actually think you're attractive, because that's not attractive at all. It strikes me as such a destructive cycle because if the basis for being labelled conceited is posting a few photos of yourself on the internet, what kind of message is that sending? That insecurity is more desirable than having confidence in how you look? That we should look down on women who seem relatively happy with their appearance? Call me crazy, but if you can look at a photo of yourself in a bikini and think "hey, I like how I look in this enough to post it to hundreds of thousands of followers" then more power to you.
It feels as though rejecting compliments and the "oh, me? really?" attitude of women has become so naturalised and ordinary that it's created within us an aversion to people who perhaps just like themselves, plain and simple. Think about how many times you've complimented someone, only to have them make some sort of comment about how unfounded your praise was. Now think about how many times you've done the same, despite the fact that you might have actually felt good about whatever it was they were appreciating. We've been taught that laughing off compliments and discounting ourselves is normal and healthy, so it's no surprise that when a person doesn't adhere to these conventions we see her as 'self-obsessed' and conceited.
It's obvious as to why models are easy targets for judgements like this, despite how unfounded they might be. These women fundamentally make a living out of being beautiful, and Crerar is certainly not the first person to assume that this would make them somewhat narcissistic. It's strange to me how, as a society, we are more inclined to look down upon people who are self-accepting than to celebrate them. When did body-shaming become more revered, more normal than body-loving? And when did we become cynical enough to let self-confidence become synonymous with self-obsession?