A few weeks ago, my niece tagged me in a post on Facebook. The request/ challenge was to post five photos of myself that I felt were “pretty”. At first I wasn’t going to join in – knowing that it was for fun of course, and very nice to be included in the challenge by my niece, but I have a problem: I hate looking at photographs of myself. Oh I try to like it, and have done different things after getting advice on how to improve my view point, but really when I drill right down to the bottom, I don’t like looking at those photos. I have tried for many years to get “over it” but in spite of working on it, forcing myself to be in pictures, taking self portraits and actually looking at those photos. I never feel ‘pretty’ in a photo, and certainly when I do look at them I don’t think that I look pretty. When I posted the photos originally, I realized that I am now at the point when I don’t really feel anything looking at them. I don’t like it, but I don’t really care either way. I don’t think oh god how ugly and reach for the delete button, but I also don’t think ‘hey now that is a really nice photo of me’ – ever.
I was reminded then about an article I read a few years ago, written by a young mum about the importance of mothers getting out from behind the camera and into the picture with their families. That resonated with me then, and even more so now as I am faced with heading into the hospital for a second time. I look back on the old photographs that I have from when my kids were little, and there are hundreds of photos of them but relatively few of me with them. I have not been good about getting in the photo, although I have tried. It isn’t a soul crushing activity – it’s pretty simple to stand while someone clicks and then move on with whatever is going on during the day. The soul crushing part comes with the rest of the baggage attached to self image issues and acceptance. Judgement from myself is harsh as has judgement from others been equally harsh at times. An old boyfriend once told me that I had grown too fat for him after a year of dating and why couldn’t I do a few sit ups? There have been more than a few moments when I was told my physical appearance was not up to par by friends, lovers, family. I know it isn’t about diet, weight, exercise for me, there are other issues involved that won’t ever be solved by a gym membership or nutritional supplements. Even when I did lose weight, there was a time when my own father and step mother walked right by me because they didn’t recognize me at all. Talk about a blow to the self-esteem. Those kind of personal comments and incidents – no matter how long ago they happened, no matter how much I try to let go of and put behind me – linger and are still painful. Why bother taking a photo then? Why does my sense of self worth get tied up into something like a photograph or the skin covering my body? Why do I let myself get caught up in the body shaming and life would be better if I was 110 lbs and six inches taller, not to mention airbrushed and photoshopped? Why do I let any of it stop me from getting out from behind the camera and accepting who I am right now so that my kids have photos to remember me by after I am gone?
Well, I struggle daily to find the answer. Maybe I am asking the wrong questions?