Musings from Home

Self-Image, Self-Pictures

Back in November, my friend Jen on the Edge (the friend who hosted the holiday home tour in December) wrote about having photographs taken of her to accompany a series of articles she is writing. She spoke of how she dislikes photos of herself and asked her readers if they feel the same way about pictures of themselves. After getting many replies, she followed up, saying how sad she was that so many of us will go to great lengths to look different (taller, thinner) or even to hide in pictures and she challenged us all to get someone to photograph us during the holiday season. To stand tall and proud in the photos and to realize our own beauty.

I am one of her readers who generally doesn’t like to be photographed. I take lots of pictures, but I am not in many photos at all. And when I am (because I really do enjoy having family photos or pictures of me with my girls), I try to stand behind one of my daughters, so that I am seen only from the waist or chest up. When I read Jen’s post, I started thinking about the way I see myself in pictures and I remembered that about 10 years ago, I saw a picture of myself from the early- to mid-90s (when incidentally I was my thinnest and most in-shape of my adult life) and I commented to my mom that I looked so thin back then. She agreed and then pointed out, “But you didn’t think you were thin then.”

I remember pausing and then realizing that she was absolutely right. Even at my thinnest and most in-shape, I was too focused on my stomach that wasn’t as flat as I wished it were and my thighs that were bigger than I wanted them to be, and so on. I can see now, looking back at photos, that I was pretty thin and I did look good. But at the time, I really didn’t realize it. I had lost 40 lbs. and knew I did look smaller than before, but not yet small enough. I loved big sweaters and thought I looked thinner in them. I remember a couple of friends telling me that I was hiding my figure in baggy sweaters. I didn’t agree . . . until I went shopping for a long coat to wear for graduate school interviews.

I was looking at the size I thought I wore and I was choosing coats that just hung straight down. A saleslady saw me and asked if she could help me. I told her what I was looking for and she went to the rack and pulled out a red, fitted coat with a black velvet collar. I started to say something to the effect that that one wasn’t what I had in mind (basically “Um, no.”), when she interrupted me and said I didn’t have to buy that particular coat, but she just wanted to show me how it fit. It was two sizes smaller than the ones I had been trying on, in addition to not being shapeless. I put the coat on and was amazed by what I saw. She was so right. The coat looked beautiful on me, even the “flashy” color and collar. The saleslady pretty much said, “I told you so” (in a very nice way) and told me I had a nice figure and should not hide it in oversized, shapeless clothes. I still didn’t quite believe. But as you might guess, I bought that coat and wore it proudly for years.

All of these memories made me realize that I am never going to like how I look in the moment and I will never see myself as others see me, no matter how thin I am or how in-shape. I will always see the imperfections, like so many of us. In fact, even as I planned to take Jen up on her challenge, I couldn’t jump in with both feet.

In early December, my family and I went to a holiday party and I dressed up in a nice pair of black slacks, a sequined silver cami, and a really neat black velvet jacket. I also did my make-up with special care and since I had been to the hairdresser (for a cut and highlights) that day, my hair was styled particularly nicely, too. I liked the way I looked in the mirror. But as I was about to ask Jim to take my picture, I hesitated. I loved the outfit and how I felt I looked and I was afraid that if I saw an actual picture, I would no longer think I looked great, which would ruin the outfit for me forever (not to mention undermining my confidence for the evening). So I backed out of having a picture taken looking my finest for the holidays and vowed to have other pictures taken as the season went on.

Never one to back down on a challenge, and armed with a pretty healthy guilty conscience when I don’t keep promises I make, even to myself, I asked Jim to pick up the camera to take pictures of me in the days leading up to Christmas and even a few days after.

In the spirit of proudly appearing in pictures and sharing them with my little piece of the world, here is my answer to Jen’s challenge. Not all decked out, but as I am on a daily basis, enjoying time with my family.

Helping Emerald read music during an impromptu flute concert for her Granny (she just started taking flute a couple of months ago)

Making cookies with my girls and my mother-in-law on Christmas Eve

Pulling Christmas dinner together

Preparing to drop a net on Sapphire (at her request) as she lay in a canoe in a Native American exhibit at a local children's museum

Making my family's traditional punch with my girls on New Year's Eve

Another view of making the New Year's Eve punch

My biggest motivation in trying to improve my self-image is to set a good example for my daughters. I don’t want them focusing on being “fat” or looking “bad”. I want them to remain proud of who they are and how they look. And as with most things, their views begin with my attitude. So here it is, for what it’s worth.

Do you like to have your picture taken and more importantly, do you like how you look in pictures (most of the time)? If not, please join me in accepting Jen’s challenge and make an effort to stand proud in pictures, remembering that you are building memories for your loved ones in the future.

Happy New Year to all of you!!

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Comments on: "Self-Image, Self-Pictures" (18)

  1. I ❤ this post. You are beautiful! The joy in your smile and eyes is contagious!!

    In the past 5 years, I've fluctuated between 92 and 132 pounds, spending a couple years on each extreme and a year moving between. The thing I've learned, my self-image (and my body image…not the same thing!) aren't changed in the least by my weight or fitness level. And I'm a huge "picture hider"! I can remember seeing a picture someone else had taken of me, without my knowledge, and my first thought was (completely sincere, not self-depricating), "Who's that fat, grey-haired lady?". Then I realized it was me!

    It helps me if I try to consciously live each day with this thought in mind…"I am a spiritual being having a human experience!". If I can remember that my beauty and value lie at my core, not my surface, I am much more self-accepting and I live each moment as the best me I can be.

    I love your blog! Thanks again.

    • Good point about self-image vs. body image. There is definitely a difference, but for me they tend to get mixed up in my head somewhat. I sometimes tie my self-image to my body image, until I make an effort to separate them again.

      • I also enjoyed your story about seeing the photo of yourself. It’s great that you can keep the perspective of the beauty being at your core. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I am SO happy you posted these photos!

    (Also, I want to know more about that gray V-neck sweater in the museum photo.)

    Having known you for several years, here’s my perspective: You *always* look great — neat, put together nicely, and quite lovely. You are a beautiful woman — why do you think your husband loves you so much, for your super brain, kind heart, and quick wit? 😉

    Hugs.

    • Thanks, Jen. Your perspective means a lot to me. As for the sweater, it was a birthday present from my mother-in-law and is one of my favorites. It was from Ann Taylor, but I looked today to send you the link and unfortunately it was no longer on the site.They must have sold out.:(

  3. Wow, your story of how you decided against having your picture taken when you were all dressed up with freshly styled hair hit home with me. I’ve felt the same way and allowed a photograph to ruin how I felt about my appearance.

    You look great in your photos!

  4. thecoastallivingmom said:

    Good for you! I had always LOVED having my picture taken… Until the birth of my first child a few months ago. It’s been a struggle to accept my new body and learn to enjoy pictures again. Thanks for sharing your journey!

    • It’s so good to hear from someone (particularly a woman) who has liked to have her picture taken. I’m sure you’ll get back there. Congrats on the baby!

  5. Those are beautiful pictures and a treasure for your family. And I love your other grey sweater with the peacock trim!

  6. I love these candid shots! I made a comment on another one of these photos posts that the candids show the true emotion of the moment, yours really do. The joy on your face while making cookies really shines through in that photo.

    Oh, and I love all the sweaters you are wearing, can I come shoping with you???

  7. melissawest said:

    LOVE how you wear COLOR! And you are so right about how we try to hide ourselves and it often does end up less flattering than if we showed ourselves off a bit more. What a blessing to meet a saleslady who could teach that to you kindly.

  8. Those are good photos! You look happy and busy.

  9. Beautifully written and well-photographed! 🙂
    At first, when you discussed why you didn’t take the dressed-up picture, I was horrified! (Why not?!?) But after thinking about it for a few minutes, I get it. And I’d likely do the same, because when I have been dressed up and then seen the picture, I always find fault with how I look.

  10. Gorgeous pictures and I love that so many are centered in the kitchen; it really is the heart of the home. Beautiful!

  11. There is nothing as beautiful than a mother spending time with her kids. Love these pics.

  12. I imagine that you would have looked fantastic in the photo you didn’t take.

    And I’m with Jen–where did the gray cardigan come from? I am a cardigan fanatic and that’s gorgeous.

  13. I admit that my confidence has been shaken after seeing a photo taken on a day I thought I looked especially good, only to see I just looked like me. I am better about it now, but still the one behind the camera most of the time.

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