Accepting Pictures of Ourselves
Written by Arielle Juliette, edited by Alice Ecker
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If you have trouble seeing images or video of yourself, you aren't alone. This has been a struggle for me for a long time, and I've collected a few helpful strategies to engage with images of myself on a different level.
1. Find one part of yourself that you like, and focus on that. Most of us who dislike seeing our own image have a part that we zoom in on immediately, and there's a scientific reason for that. According to Jes Baker in her book, "Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls":
"In cognitive psychology, it's well known that humans are programmed to pay attention to things they have strong feelings about or consider a threat. and in a culture that equates beauty with value and lovability, "flaws" pose a threat."
When this happens, bring your focus back to how great your hair looks, your bright smile, how excellent your legs look, whatever! And remember, Rome wasn't built in a day- this shift takes time.
2. Get angry. The reason we don't like to see pictures of ourselves is because big corporations profit off of us believing we have "flaws" that need fixing. By only showing a very narrow representation of body types, these corporations are erasing the existence of bodies that live outside of those narrow margins. By including ourselves in the photographic record space, we rebel against being erased. We deserve to be seen and take up space.
3. On that same note, start looking for yourself instead of an airbrushed model. Jes Baker says:
"The second you start looking for you is the second you will start to appreciate what you are. Stop looking for flaws. Stop looking for differences. There is not one definition of beauty. Try to see yourself with kindness. You are absolutely perfect just as you are. Try to find that."
4. Figure out some poses you like, and also take pictures of yourself unposed and unfiltered. If you're taking a selfie, do it however you want to! There's no wrong way to take a picture of yourself. Take pictures from high angles, low angles, bust out your duck lips, try out poses, whatever makes you feel good. Once you feel ready, try to take some that are unposed and unretouched, as well. The variety is so important. In her book, Beauty Sick, Renee Engeln talks about the use of Photoshop and other editing tools:
"you have more control over your appearance online than you do in the real world. You can cull the best photo from hundreds taken. You can choose lighting and poses designed to flatter. You can filter. You can use Photoshop. But the more you see a version of yourself that doesn't really exist, the more foreign the woman in the mirror will feel to you and the less satisfied you'll become with her."
I believe that we all deserve to see ourselves in the glamorous light many pictures are taken in, but also that we deserve to see and appreciate ourselves in our natural glory. This doesn’t mean it has to be a poorly angled, harshly lit photo of you with no makeup; it can still be a beautifully lit and composed image of you without retouching or trying to squeeze yourself into a “flattering” position, like the image posted here. I have found that I struggle a lot more with pictures where I'm trying to fit a societal ideal; the ones where I'm just trying to look like myself are the ones I like so much more.
5. Take the focus off your body. Remember that a photo can just represent a moment in time instead of being an inquisition into your attractiveness in that moment. Zoom out and remember the experience in that photo. Megan Jayne Crabbe, AKA Bodyposipanda, has this to say about pictures:
"It was taken to capture a moment. That's it. How your hair looked or the size of your body doesn't matter. Remember how you felt. Remember that sight, that smell, that feeling, that joy. Remember the living."
Dr Jenn Hardy, a psychologist who specializes in relationships including the relationship with oneself, gives these words of wisdom about taking more pictures of yourself:
"Some people just don’t think to take pictures. Others avoid them because they don’t want a record of a body they are ashamed of. They’ll say they don’t get to be in the picture until they look a certain way. They edit themselves out of their own lives by avoiding the camera.
Did you know that I work with a lot of older adults? I’ve never met one who thought they took too many pictures. I’ve talked with many who regretted not taking more. They still have the memories, but it’s just not the same as a picture to help bring the moment back. It’s mainly the joy and the connectedness they want to see...how small their children were...how young they looked.
Trust me. You’ll want these pictures, too."
If this article inspired you, head to our Facebook page and post a picture of yourself that you love to this thread. If you’re willing, include some thoughts about what you think and feel when you see it! I would love to celebrate you, together.