I used to be weird about pictures.
It felt like a very real threat to my security and safety that at any given time someone might take my picture and it might not be a picture that I thought was good. Good, of course, meant one where none of my perceived flaws showed. A candid? A definite non starter. A full body group photo where I’m not able to hide behind anyone? Absolutely not.
My husband has always taken pictures of me. Sometimes they’re really sweet and you can tell he thought I looked pretty and wanted to capture a moment we shared. Other times I’m asleep with my mouth open, but that’s neither here nor there. I recall a particular day when he showed me a pic he took, I grimaced, and I could tell it hurt him. I didn’t really think about it much until I noticed that he’d stopped taking those pictures of me. He said that it wasn’t fun to take them if it was just going to make me pull a face or say something unkind. It had never occurred to me that he’d stop – and I hated that, for both of us. I gave him carte blanche in that moment and promised I’d never again disparage an image of myself. It’s changed things for me in a big way.
I can remember another time hearing my oldest daughter nitpick a picture of herself, similar to how I had done before – and that was another big red flag for me. I knew it wasn’t just for me that I had to think long and hard about how I thought and talked about pictures of me.
Here’s the thing. I don’t look perfect or even great in every picture ever taken. I’m still usually making a weird face in any candid pic and ok, I don’t typically post those on the internet, as is my right. But what I don’t do anymore is as follows:
◦ I do not question or complain if someone posts or tags a picture of me that I don’t love. It’s not worth it, and if I say something I run the risk of not being included in the future, and as a picture memory enthusiast, I don’t want that.
◦ I do not ~ ever ~ make a negative comment about a photo of myself. I have plenty of thoughts, I can’t control that. But by not saying them out loud, it’s removed a lot of their power.
◦ If my husband or child takes a photo of me and shows me, I smile. I focus on the fact that they are frickin’ obsessed with me and think I’m the best. That’s why they take my photo. How can I be mad?!
◦ I do not refuse photos if someone wants to take one. If I am feeling nervous about how it looks, I’ll avoid looking at it right away to protect my peace. I can either look later or in all likelihood forget about it entirely.
◦ There are exceptions, but they are few. My oldest daughter has a photo of me on her phone that she thinks is hysterical and I legitimately look like a toad/person hybrid. When she brings it out, we laugh and laugh. She knows it’s just for us, and that’s a-ok.
◦ It is still totally my prerogative to rock a selfie angle whenever I feel like it.
I am not the same as everyone, I know that. But I see this happening all the time around me and I know I’m not the only one with a complicated relationship to their own image. What I can tell you truly is that the above has made me a much more relaxed, contented person, and has been huge in healing my relationship with my body and my image of it. The worst has absolutely happened – bad photos exist of me. Some have even been posted! And I didn’t die. Life went on. People still like me and everything.
And so I can advise with absolute certainty: you should take/be in/allow/accept the damn picture. Because people love you, you are beautiful to them, and those memories belong to you. Take them back and enjoy your life.