Sipping a mug of herbal chai at my desk, I click on the link that takes me to a page of amusing puppy pictures.
I’m a sucker for pups, and marketers know it.
I allow their ploy to win and here I am chuckling to myself at the puppy who can’t yet get herself up onto the couch; her teeny furry legs scrambling and hovering in the air—they’re just not long enough!
In the midst of my delight, an ad pops up in front of me. It feels intrusive as it engulfs the entire screen; it’s much larger than the Goldendoodle pup that was just staring at me with her saucer-sized brown eyes.
It is a before-and-after photo, selling a weight loss potion of exotic origin. The ad is predictable and boring to me, showing on the left a young woman, a look of dull sadness on her face, posture that would make my grandmother cringe, and creamy white flesh overflowing from all parts of her barely-there red bikini.
On the right is what we’re told to believe is the after shot: the young woman is now laughing effortlessly, looking as though she just returned from a tropical vacation, with her sun-kissed skin glistening under the studio lights. Her soft feminine muscles balance perfectly with slight curves and the red bikini looks as if it was made just for her. This is what you can be, the ad is whispering. If only you act now, and type in your credit card data.
I find the cleverly hidden “X” button and click it. Returning to the original site, however, the puppies just don’t seem as cute to me as they did a few moments ago. I’m feeling frustrated and drained, recalling times in my life when I popped weight-loss pill after weight-loss pill, my body shaking constantly throughout the day from the never ending stream of caffeine and Phentermine in my system. I was chasing the after picture. Perhaps years ago, I would have purchased that weight-loss potion without hesitation.
The deceptiveness of before-and-after photos are well-known, with numerous articles showcasing how most of these photos are taken within seconds of one another by utilizing creative lighting, clothing choices, and makeup techniques. In examining the concept of before and after photos, the inference is that the before you is flawed and in need of fixing. The before you is unhappy, useless, and unworthy of love—a problem that needs to be solved.
But I also can’t help but wonder: what does the concept of an after photo mean in my life now? How can the concept of the after photo be redefined to create an afterlife (minus the wings, fluffy clouds, and harps)? Can we shift our way of thinking to a before and after in our relationships? Our faith? Our ability to forgive ourselves and others? What would this before and after look like? How would your relationships look? How would you carry yourself and relate to those around you?
Does your afterlife include catching up with an old friend? Feeling grateful for the abundance and variety of food that is available to you? Running or walking your first 5k and having a love and respect for the power your body has to complete such a task? Listening to your body—even if that means enjoying a treat? Exercising out of love for your body, and because you want to live a long, healthy life?
What steps can you take today to create an afterlife that your before-self will thank you for? Some easy first steps may be to start journaling, picking up the phone to reconnect with that friend you’ve been playing phone tag with, going for a walk, or meditating, even if you only have five minutes to spare.
Your unique “before” is not a mistake or a problem to be fixed. It is an opportunity to learn, perhaps alter your mindset, and even an opportunity to begin to rediscover the glorious body that you have in this moment—not some unattainable “after” body you have in your mind.
I encourage you to begin creating a bold afterlife in which your before-self will be thankful for living.
Author: Jessica Smith
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron