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.
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!!