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Before I found body positivity, I hated pictures.
Well, to be honest, I really liked the IDEA of pictures. Of having documentation of life from the mundane to the magnificent. But when I came time to get in front of the camera, I hated it.
As a kid I could never keep my eyes open. As a teen I hated seeing my acne in photos, and in college I hated that I could never seem to look “cute” posing in pictures for social media like the other girls. I always felt like I looked big, awkward, and ugly in pictures, even though I didn’t feel this way in real life.
When I started on my journey to gain more acceptance and confidence in my body, I felt empowered to start learning how to see something I liked in pictures of my face and body.
With time and lots of practice, I learned to stop fixating on little “imperfect” details, and see photos for what they really are – snapshots in time, memories of people and places, reminders of lessons from the past.
Now, I love every picture that is taken of me, whether it is flattering or not. Even if it’s an awkward selfie taken in a public place, a funny looking still of my face talking, or an angle that distorts the way my body looks.
In the end, photos are so much more about the meaning behind them than the image itself. And obsessing over looking perfect in every shot is so not worth the energy.
So, how did I find this kind of peace with pictures? It took time and intention, but it was actually easier than I though it would be.
1.) I detached meaning from the outcome of a photo. I realized that my biggest problem was that I was giving pictures too much power. So, I made the decision to take that power back. I consciously decided to detach my worth from how I look in pictures. I practiced telling myself that it doesn’t matter how a picture looks, and what does matter is what the picture represents. Making a mentality shift like this takes time, but setting the intention is the first step.
2.) I learned how to relax in front of the camera. It turns out that a big reason I didn’t like pictures of myself, was because they reminded me of the anxiety I felt while the picture was being taken. It was a never ending cycle! After deciding not to care so much about how a picture would turn out, it became easier to get myself to relax in front of the camera. With practice, taking pictures has become less of an anxiety-inducing event, and just another part of the fun experience I am having. And when you are actually relaxed and happy in front of the camera, the pictures always come out better. Score!
3.) I learned the tricks of the trade. Before I needed to create lots of visual content for my business, I didn’t have a good understanding of what makes a picture “look good.” I didn’t know about lighting, camera quality, posing, editing, ect. When I saw a “bad” picture of myself, I automatically thought the problem was ME, not the way the picture was being taken. Over the past couple of years, I have learned so much about how to take a nice looking photograph of any subject. So now, if I see a photo of myself that doesn’t “look good,” I can identify the reasons for it that have nothing to do with me.
And don’t even get me started on how flabbergasted I was the first time I played around with the app Facetune. This photo-editing app is free and easy to use and can make you look like you dropped 15 lbs in less than five minutes! When I learned how accessible this type of deceiving photo manipulation was, it was even easier to stop comparing myself to every skinny girl in a bikini that showed up on my Instagram explore page. If she doesn’t even look like that, I can’t possibly hold myself to that standard!
The bottom line is I cut the crap and let go of the ridiculous expectations I had been trying to uphold.
In the end, does anyone care how I look in photos? Is looking better than others in pictures adding anything of value to my life or the lives of others? No!
Yes, we live in a visually-driven culture, but it is important to keep our priorities in check and stop giving so much power to the things that only have the potential to harm us. YOU MATTER, but the way you look in pictures doesn’t.