Could Posting ''Flaws and All'' Photos Boost Your Confidence?

By , Shelli Mosteller
Whether you're a voracious newsfeed reader or the casual Instagram browser, chances are if you're on social media you've seen the "before" and "not-quite-after" photos fitness blogger post online. Here's the setup: People take two pictures within seconds, minutes or hours, changing a few things in the "after" before posting them both side by side. For instance, on the left you might see a woman posing herself in a flattering way—flexing, sucking it in, finds that perfect angle with good lighting—and voila! This woman looks amazing. She has incredible abs, muscle definition, the whole package. Then, that same woman simply changes her posture, relaxes her muscles, pulls the compression tights down a bit and voila—she has cellulite and love handles in the picture on the right. In other words, she's a real person.

Do you have any idea how much courage it takes to post these pictures? These men and women could easily post the flattering, killer shots and let everyone believe they've achieved greatness, that they really are that perfect, confident person posing. By posting both shots, they show the reality after you pull back the curtain. The second photo says, "This is where I came from, I've still got work to do and I'm just like you." As a person with cellulite and love handles, I find both shots encouraging and inspiring. I want to shout, "Good for you!" and give them high fives or mama bear hugs.

It comes down to expectations. Weight-loss journeys are bundled with expectations coming from a jillion different directions. Television, magazines, blogs and social media posts—tons of images all telling us how we should look. We see the before and after pictures and desperately want to be the after, not realizing that most people don't walk around flexing all the time. (Honey, if you do walk around flexing all the time, you need to take a breath.) Nobody looks like an "after" 24/7; our bodies are flexible, prone to change and fluctuation. The same person that has a killer six pack probably has a few rolls when they sit down. We're not made of stone and we're all different. What works and looks great on you may be impossible for me to mimic, and that's okay. Thank goodness we're not all carefully chiseled works of art. What kind of world would that be? Where's the fun in that? That would be like walking through an art museum where all the masterpieces were the same statue. I don't know about you, but I want some Pollock and Lichtenstein mixed in with my Michelangelo.

But it takes guts to be real online—I know this from personal experience. I don't have flattering fitness pictures to post, but even I can take a headshot from a certain angle. I can crop out my large belly roll and minimize my ample derriere. I can leave mistakes on the cutting room floor. I can film from the one corner of my office that's actually clean and lead you to believe I'm an organized, all-together person. I can apply filters, use apps, dip into Photoshop. I can do all of those things.

But I try not to. I try to suck it up and post the hula hoop video that not only shows but emphasizes my belly roll. Not because I'm trying to show off how overweight I am, but because I can't show you the super amazing hoop trick I'm doing without my belly roll showing. There's nothing wrong with posting flattering shots, but if I post a carefully curated, edited version of myself online, I'm not posting the real me. I'm not a celebrity and I'm not running for president. The friends I have online are exactly that, my friends. Why would I want to try to pull one over on them or myself? So good for those incredibly fit people who are willing to show their "flaws." Good for them and thank you for being real.

We could all take a lesson from them to be brave and be yourself—belly rolls and all.

Shelli Mosteller (MOSTMOM1) has been a SparkPeople member since 2010 and currently resides in just outside of Cincinnati. On her journey to weight loss, she's experienced all the highs and lows but always manages to find the silver lining. She loves interacting with the SparkPeople Community, which she finds is full of encouraging, motivating, positive people. Married with two young adult children plus Chubbs the Immortal Guinea Pig and Bubba the English Bulldog, Shelli also works full-time as a creative arts pastor for her church.

Do these "real progress" photo series motivate you in your weight-loss journey? 

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WILDKAT781 8/26/2020
I think this is so important to do, some have an attitude of I am not worthy to be seen. We all need to drop that attitude! Report
KOALA_BEAR 3/2/2020
I never liked having my photo taken from a young age & I had a thin toned body but not perfect. No way will I take photos to post online or SP as heavy as I am now, even w/ 30 lbs gone. Not a good look. It may be natural but photos are two dimensional & a snapshot in time often not the most flattering pose ie lighting, eyes half shut, mouth open, etc & I applaud those who don't care what others see. Maybe it's a generational difference but personally I don't want any reminders of how I let myself go. Report
PWILLOW1 11/27/2019
Great article, thank you. Report
be grateful for all you are. accept somethings can not be changed but your attitude is one thing that can make a difference. so how you look at life. you know glass half full and or glass half empty. let's go with full and try to fill it more Report
thank you Report
I have not seen any photo series like this. Report
Shelli is one of my all-time favorite Sparker! Report
Sometimes. The actual real ones we see on SP do motivate me. The fake Instagram type ones, don't. Those are only attention-seekers and unrealistic to me. I much prefer our support system to a social network!! Report
I found one of my favorite songs watching one of your videos. Rhythm of love. Thanks!! Report
I found one of my favorite songs watching one of your videos. Rhythm of love. Thanks!! Report
Great piece! Report
Good article Report
Pictures are great as long as appropriate clothing is worn! According to Spark guidelines...bra & panties or the like are not permitted. Keep the "rolls" in the package so-to-speak. Report
great thoughts Report
Or maybe just stop posting photos and begging for attention online Report
Great article! Report
Great article! Report
I CHEER these beautiful people on.... This isn't a perfect world and when people improve themselves, I cheer that too, BUT us "mortals" live in a world of surgical scars, stretch marks, sagging skin(as someone who has lost 70 pounds, I call these "leftovers"), and someone who shows "flaws and all" is a Hero(ine) to me! Report
I post progress pictures and I cheer for others when they post their progress pictures. Everyone is different and privacy is important. Report
Thanks Shelli. Awesome article. Report
I took a couple before photos for my own motivation, but found they did the reverse. I would never want to share those with others however! Report
I’ve always debated on this. Report
I don't post pictures of myself (fat or skinny!) online at all--it's a privacy issue for me. I think it's brave when women post fat pictures online, and I hope they use them as motivation to lose weight & get healthy! Report
Well said Shelli. Report
good points Report
Interesting article. I have always hated pictures of myself. I guess that is why I don't have one posted. Maybe some day.. Report
Indeed.... Report
Interesting article! Report
Good article Report
I truthfully never paid attention to your stomach area while watching your hoop vids. I looked at your face and the hoop,, and Audrey. Report
I love the honesty that you put forth it helps me to know that othes are not perfect thank you Report
Gosh, I just wasn't brought up to show so much of me to EVERYBODY. For me, I'll be open to my grown daughters, but my challenges are private. Why in the world would I want someone to see my cellulite, pimples, etc. And I don't want to see anyone else's, either. If a person is fat, wear flattering clothes. Comb your hair before going to the store. But if someone is wearing their rolls of obesity and messy hair, I won't mind and I will love you just as you are. It's a good thing that we are all different -- some like to show and some don't. xoxox. Report
what ever works for you

Not a fan of fake! Report
The "real" pictures are great motivators to others! Go for it! Report
also, it does motivate me when others (e.g. noperfectyogis on IG) post these shots, because for all my confidence and realism, sometimes I do wonder if I am doing something wrong that my body looks a certain way. So it helps me to have the visual. Report
yes! I love the hula hoop story. That's why I post yoga pics where my belly isn't "perfect" - bc when you fold and contract your abs, your skin folds too! who cares! I want to share and remember the moments when I get into difficult postures or hold balances because I feel amazing. Report
Interesting. These before & after shots however don't motivate me. Have read of too many that are doctored. I do admire anyone who voluntarily posts a before shot....that takes bravery IMO. Report
Great! Report
I would not choose to post before and after pictures but if someone finds it motivating to do so, go for it. Report
I am on the fence on this, I agree with another poster that before and after pictures are frequently hard to interpret, I would not post pictures before or after in the state of undress that many do, but acknowledge that clothing frequently gets in the way or hides the real you. To me accepting your flaws doesn't mean accepting things you can change, it is fine to accept belly rolls if you are giving up on removing them, but not if you are determined to fix the overweight problem.
Absolutely great Report
Absolutely great Report
I hate before and after pictures. They annoy me if they don't have the same angle. It's the same for me whether they are people or remodeled rooms. If you can't give me the same angle, I assume it's two different things/people being photographed. Report
Absolutely great Report
Absolutely great Report
I absolutely loved this article! Thank you! Report
Wonderful article! Report
Thanks. Report