Have you ever seen this, written by someone on Facebook, as a comment on a photo of herself? Have you ever WRITTEN this on a photo of yourself? Have you ever snatched the camera after a group photo, checked out the photo on the tiny screen, and either deleted the photo or insisted it be retaken because you don’t like the way you look? Has a friend ever shown you a picture of yourself, told you how great you look, or how funny, or what a great moment it was, and all you’ve been able to see is how weird your nose or chin or hair or ears or *insert pet insecurity here* looks?
It’s because we’re completely irrational about our own appearances. I think most women go through life with NO IDEA how beautiful they are. And I’m not just saying that in a completely naive, kumbayah sort of way. I mean it. I have friends who look all sorts of ways, and there are moments with each of them when I just think they are heart-stoppingly beautiful. And as I have begun to realize this about them, about all the people I know, in all their shapes and sizes and with all their hair textures and nose shapes and smiles, and with all their beauty, I have realized that this is the way they see me too.
All of this comes to mind, NOW, because of a post I read over at The Rotund (for friends who have enjoyed Shapely Prose, the Rotund is a site by Marianne Kirby, who cowrote a book with Shapely Prose’s Kate Harding), about Marianne coming to accept having her picture taken. She writes,
Every time a friend comes to me and says, oh, I have this great picture of you, it is a chance to see what they see….it’s beautiful to have these images of everyone. Different bodies, different people, different lives.
When I hid from photos, I stole that from people. Every time I dodged out of a photo, well, that person might remember I was there but they can’t share it with anyone else the way I can share these images with you.
When I really think about the way I see my friends in pictures, the way I love captured moments, and laughter, and smiles, and the way I am not in any way thinking about their ears sticking out or their chins looking “fat” (this is a common thought of mine, and yes I know, it’s ENTIRELY INSANE), when I really think about that…then I have to think about pictures of myself differently too. Even pictures in which I am making insane facial expresses (I tend to overdo it with the facial expressions) or have horrible posture or just generally look less-than-stellar. When I think about the way I see my friends and loved ones in pictures, I have to see pictures of me differently. I have to be a little bit kinder to myself.
So tag away. Sure, frame that group shot in which I look gawky and slightly deranged but am laughing my head off. Because you know what? Maybe a lot of the time I DO look slightly deranged while laughing my head off. And I can’t just give up on capturing memories because of silly insecurities. I don’t want to steal that memory from myself or anyone else. Because I’m learning to look at myself the way I look at others, with a more loving gaze. I’m sure in 50 years all we’ll be thinking when we look at them is how beautiful we were and what good times we had.
(To test my own courage, I’m showing my full face on this blog for the first time, and also, I’m including pictures of myself that I have looked at less than generously, not so that you’ll tell me how pretty I am or try to reassure me– I know most of my fears are silly and irrational, but I hope you’ll realize that maybe I feel the same way about YOU.)