The Real Behind My ‘Pretty’ Instagram Feed

Today, while casually scrolling through someone’s perfectly curated Instagram feed (#FeedGoals for sure), I all of a sudden had to fight the urge to hurl my phone against the wall.

I wasn’t annoyed at the Instagrammer with perfect hair (although why mine never falls remotely like hers is infuriating). I was annoyed at the cultural pressure so many of us choose to succumb to when snapping away and editing our latest photos for Instagram.

Look, it’s not like I’m going to start posting pictures of my boring lunch in my dimly lit kitchen — I’m not that against Insta-culture. And to be fair, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel flattered or a sense of triumph when comments like ‘rustic’, ‘pretty’ or ‘#goals’ pops up on my own feed. The bar will not be brought down — not yet, anyway.

What I can do is be more open about my Instagram photos and explain how things really are versus the filtered version of me that you see on your screen. So, here are the raw, REAL, what-happened-behind-the-scene versions of three ‘pretty’ Instagram photos.

Photo #1

The image:

Taken just after my boyfriend and I had loaded up the car after a weekend away where I forgot to take photos. When realizing this, I demanded that Andrew unpack the camera and take this picture. Andrew was frustrated with me for being so last minute about it — he really wanted to hit the road because we had a long journey ahead of us, but I started panicking about a ‘missed opportunity’.

My face was a mess (hence the pose) and my hair was scraggly (zoom in, I dare you), so thank goodness for the hat! I know, I know. I look like I’m having a blissful holiday. The ‘real’ is I was anxious and tired from the flies that buzzed around our room all weekend, not giving me one decent night’s rest, and I was grumpy from being up so early in the morning.

The caption:

My attempt at sounding ‘together’ and appreciative and non-anxious.

Photo #2

The image:

Basically, I’m a fraud. I saw the picture somewhere online and decided to copy it (creative license, amirite?). That said, I didn’t have a white surface to artfully sit on, so I drove to the mall to buy a bath rug. Needless to say, the carpet is now full of yellow pee stains from Popcorn.

The coffee in hand was stone cold because I made it before I realised I needed to go and buy a white surface prop. The croissant was an afterthought that I picked up at the mall. I didn’t eat it because I was worried about the icing sugar. The flowers are almost dead (or fake, I can’t remember) and the book was included purely for aesthetic purposes. I hadn’t even started reading it yet. All I can say is, at least my legs were shaved… jokes! I have blondish leg-hairs that are easily removed using a simple IG filter.

The caption:

A lie. I’d taken the photo the previous day and just forgot to post it. Plus, there are other ways to start Fridays! Gosh, who am I to say this is the RIGHT way? Pfffft.

Photo #3

The image:

Me looking #SuperFit and so NOT sweaty after a workout – a fake workout, might I add. I never worked out for this picture, I just got changed into this outfit in the back of my car. Although it is all an act, my photographer Sarah suggested I actually drink the water (which was old and stale and from a forgotten bottle in my car, by the way) because my attempt at ‘pretend’ drinking caused water to dribble down my face.

The caption:

Okay, at least the caption is semi-truthful. Yes, I had taken a break (I was being a bit lazy) and yes, I was keen to start exercising again… but not ‘ASAP’. ASAP would have been me chucking my water in the car and heading off for a jog right there in the mountains after the shoot. But I didn’t do that. Instead, I got sushi.


What’s the real behind your Instagram photos?


About the author: Based in Cape Town, South Africa, Theodora Lee has attracted a following of 104,000+ people on Instagram and 240,000+ people on YouTube through her weekly wellness content. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. She’s also working on her first novel. You can find more of her photos on her website and Instagram. This article was also published here.

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