This past weekend, Blake and I attended the wedding of one of his dear high school friends. The setting couldn’t have been more picturesque – a bright, open church, surrounded by trees in the middle of the Wisconsin countryside. After the ceremony, I wanted to take some pictures. I am terrible about documenting life events and people, and am trying to be better at it. However, I knew the personal struggle that would ensue…
I don’t like having picture taken of me. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Even in a group photo, my eye immediately hones in on myself, and I base the “quality” of the picture off of how I feel about my body in the photo. In individual and group photos, I pick apart my body, criticize my “trouble spots”, and completely degrade myself. Sadly, this one photo can affect my mood the rest of the day – bringing me down, isolating me from people, being afraid to eat too much, blaming my habits for why I look “so bad,” etc.
Despite knowing this would happen as we took pictures, I tried to be confident in my body and my individual beauty. I took pictures of Blake first – such a stud – but then he wanted to take pictures of me. I was awkward. I didn’t know how to pose in a way that hid my “flaws” and made me look natural and elegant. I looked off to the side because I hate my face straight on. I told him to make me laugh because I think my smile looks funny. I tried to have fun, but nothing felt natural.
After our photo shoot, we piled into the car and I proceeded to look at all the photos he took. I cringed. Not because he’s a terrible photographer, but because my insecurities about my body were confirmed and my confidence in my beauty dissipated. However, there was one photo that made me feel beautiful. He had caught the right moment and added depth, which elevated the whole look.
I was deflated and insecure after seeing the photos, but what struck me was how I felt so different about my body from photo to photo. It was the same hour, and I was wearing the same dress, my hair and make-up were all the same, and it was me the whole time.
Photography is able to capture the beauty all around us. Like make-up or a cute outfit, it can enhance the beautiful aspects of a person, place, or object. And I’m not just talking about appearance, but also personality, emotions, and relationships. However, a photo can skew an image. Lighting, angle, camera quality, editing, and composition all play a role how “good” a photo is. I love my wedding pictures, but that’s because they were done by a professional photographer who edited them beautifully.
When I was in eating disorder treatment, I participated in a body image group. I remember talking about how we see ourselves in photos. We do exactly what I just described – pick ourselves apart. I know many women who do this, even those without an eating disorder. We do the same thing with mirrors. How many times do you look in the mirror and actually feel better about yourself? How often do you hone in on that one part you don’t like? I never feel better about myself when I look in the mirror, and I still focus on my arms and tummy – they will never be good enough.
As I build my presence on social media and the blog, I don’t want to just be the photographer. I want you all to know who I am. I want to be able to look back 50 years from now and have pictures of my 20s. As I ponder all this, I realize that I fear pictures, because I worry they will confirm how awful I already feel about myself.
I firmly believe that every woman is beautiful…so why should I think differently of myself? Every woman (and man) is beautiful! We all have unique talents, personalities, strengths, passions, abilities, experiences, and bodies. The world tells women they can only feel beautiful if they have the “idealized” body at the time (which, by the way, is constantly changing).
The root of my struggle is not whether the picture is good or bad, but how I already view myself and how much I base my worth on my appearance. What would happen if I accepted my body and was confident in its beauty? Would I view a picture of myself differently?
I make it sound like an easy equation, but it’s not. Accepting your body for all it is and all that it can do for you takes time. I am still a work in progress.
As women, let’s encourage each other to cherish the bodies we have and celebrate the woman we see in the photo.