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embracing my body in pictures

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…

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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.

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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.

 

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6 thoughts on “embracing my body in pictures”

  1. I am woman on the other side of the body spectrum – overweight. For me as well, it has always been a challenge to be comfortable in my own skin. To look in the mirror. To be excited about that photo. I made a deal with myself a long time ago that I would never say no to a picture –
    because I wanted my life to be documented.

    I have friends and their family members who have no photos of them with their children, or their groups of friends, or in a coffee shop – I decided my pride was worth the hit so that I felt I had lived – even if it be less than “beautiful” in my own eyes.

    What has happened, though, is I have started to love those images – some of course I wish were burned, but when so often I feel so low, to see myself smiling next to other ladies or my brother, or my husband, etc – it reminds me that I’m not alone, that for a moment in time I was that person, whomever she was.

    I am proud of you for being the authentic you, for sharing your vulnerability, for embracing your hardship and turning it to forward other women and their families. I think you’ll find as you get older that it becomes easier, you care less about what others see, you start to choose to love your body. It comes slowly, it comes painfully through practice and so. much. effort.

    And PS – when I met you and Blake, I’m embarrassed to say that one of my first thoughts was, “Oh great, another gorgeous power couple, fantastic.” It’s not all I thought (I thought you were nice and cheerful, someone I’d like to get to know), but when we are insecure in our own bodies, we tend to see others’ bodies first. I can’t imagine someone seeing you as cringeworthy, but I understand the feelings we have towards ourselves.

    Keep on living your integrity. Much Love,
    Ashley

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    1. Ashley, your comment almost brought tears to my eyes. This is why I blog and share, because I know you and I are not the only women who struggle with these thoughts and insecurities.

      Thank you for your vulnerability. It takes courage to identify our insecurities and do something about it. You challenge me to never say no to a picture! I don’t want to be an observer of life, I want to be an active participant!

      You are BEAUTIFUL inside and out (and I am not just saying that)! You are incredibly creative and have such a big heart. I am so thankful that you and Luke are our neighbors 🙂

      Love,
      Kath

      Like

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