Trying to live a photoshopped life? Remember that touch-ups aren't real


Danielle Cobo has an amazing story. This woman’s life story reads like an action movie script: kidnapped as a baby, met her father at age 15, and lost her mother to suicide.  

She carried her life around with her in trash bags at the lowest point in her life, but Danielle is Unbeatable. She learned to overcome her circumstances and become the leading sales rep for a medical sales company for 4 years in a row. 

Her life took an unexpected and thrilling turn when she married an American soldier and became the mother of twin boys. Like most military families, Danielle has gone through more than her share of hardship and separations. On one particularly difficult deployment while her husband, a US Army Blackhawk helicopter pilot, was overseas, she asked him to take a photo and send it back from Iraq. She used her husband’s perfectly placed pose to Photoshop into the family Christmas card.  

This photo went viral, and the way Danielle skillfully kept the family together while her husband was gone landed her on the world stage through interviews with ABC’s World News TonightMorning Blend, and Fox News.

In my recent interview with her, I learned that there’s a lot more to Danielle than her digital skills. I am impressed by this resourceful, resilient wife and mother. Like any family separated for long periods of time, Danielle and her sons would rather have their father home in person than a photo of him added to the family picture.

This got me thinking about the number of people around the world who are trying to live a photoshopped life when they don’t have to. They’re trying to put digital enhancements on their problems to make it look like they have their problems completely under control. Here are a couple of thoughts about the myth of a photoshopped life.

Touch-ups aren’t real

I hate that I need to point this out. However, touch-ups don’t represent reality. You would think that the people making these touch-ups before they post their life on social media recognize that what they’re displaying to the world is not real. However, the longer you continue to tell a lie, the more likely you are to start to believe your own lie.

Warning: living a photoshopped life for long enough can deceive you into believing it’s real.   Don’t settle for the easy photoshopped existence when a little patience and hard work can lead to the actual life you want to live.

Digital enhancements don’t last

Digital enhancements to your family photo don’t represent reality, and they also don’t last! Time takes its toll on every relationship. Therefore, the pictures that I try to display today will not accurately reflect reality tomorrow.

Our social media-saturated culture becomes so fixated on the perfect public persona that doesn’t satisfy you at the deepest levels in this touched-up world. Never trade the messy, real world for a digitally enhanced world. The shallow metaverse may be immersive, but it will always leave you looking for more. 

Life is messy

Maybe the most important reason not to try to live out a photoshopped lifestyle is that all of us know how inherently messy life is. No one has the perfect existence. Neither the supermodel with flawless skin, the ultra-successful business executive, nor the most powerful world leader has a perfect life. So, why are so many people obsessed with trying to show the perfect life on social media?

I find that the real world is much more appealing. People that are real in front of others have an attractive life … messy and all. 

This brings me back to the brilliant family photo that Danielle created. She didn’t try to digitally enhance the background of her husband’s picture in Iraq to make it look like he was standing right next to the family. She showed how messy a military family can be by taking a photo of her husband in Iraq and connecting it with her family thousands of miles away. This messy, beautiful life is what keeps me in awe of military families.

Jeff Struecker is recognized as a warrior, author, professor, and nationally known speaker. He serves as  pastor at 2 Cities Church in Columbus, Ga.