Selfie-loathing

“Just like a mom! You take all of these pictures, and you’re never in any of them!” said my friend Linda on a hike one chilly morning.

So I bowed to her reasoning that there should be proof that I was on these hikes, too, handed her my camera, and posed in front of the river with my kids.

Then when I got home and put the photos on the computer, I skipped over the ones with me in them as quickly as possible, completely uninterested in seeing myself in all of my stocking-capped glory.

Winter garb or not, I really, really hate seeing pictures of myself.

There are specific things I don’t like. I never like my hair. I either look angry or I’m smiling in a way that shows too much of my gums or makes a shadow that resembles a mustache or my mouth is open too wide. My eyes are two different sizes. My clothes hang on me weird. I’m stumpy.

I look at photos and I pick out all of these things, and no wonder I don’t like seeing pictures of myself.

But the worst part about seeing pictures of myself is knowing that this is how I look. That whether there’s a camera pointed at me or not, I look goofy and stumpy and either scowly or overly gummy. I worry that I’m as goofy and stupid on the inside as I am on the outside.

Of course, I’m not alone in feeling this way about myself. Lots of people hate seeing photos of themselves. But oddly enough, other people hating how they look does not make me feel any better about how I look.

The only reason I ever get in front of the camera is for other people. At my brother’s wedding I posed with the family. Every couple of years, my spouse and kids and I have photos done. And if someone has a camera and wants to take a photo of me, I don’t duck out of the way. For one, what’s the point? I look like I look even without photographic evidence. But also, I know that my kids are going to want photos of me when they get older.

Or maybe they will. It’s possible a random magazine doesn’t know what my children will want when they’re adults.

At the very least, I know that they don’t look at me and see the limp hair or the gummy smile or the disheveled, ill-fitting clothes, or the way my belly pooches out, or at least they don’t attach a value judgement to those things. (Yet.) I’m just Mom to them, and they see me as a whole package, not as these bits and pieces into which I dissect myself.

Actually, there is one other reason I occasionally request a photo of myself. Every now and then I think, “Come on. You can’t look as bad as you think you do!” So I’ll hand my spouse the camera at the beach and say, “Get some photos of me with the kids!”

Then I look at the photos later and rediscover that I do, in fact, look as bad as I thought I did. A lot of the time, I actually look worse because I’d half convinced myself that the image in my head was worse than reality. Turns out, reality is a bitch.

It wouldn’t even be an issue if I didn’t have an online presence, you know? I do my best to avoid posting actual photos of myself. My current Facebook profile picture is a goat. The one before that was a strawberry.

20150501_142802 copy

Not the About Page photo.

But when nothing but my visage will do, I mostly use shots of myself in sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat that make me look like I’m in the
Witness Protection Program.

Or I use the one cropped photo of me from our family photo shoot in 2011. That’s the one on my About page, and it’s about the only photo of me taken in the past twenty years that I almost like. The next most-recent photo that doesn’t make me cringe is my Freshman-year college photo. I would just keep recycling that one if it weren’t so obviously more than two decades old.

To be honest, I’m not all that comfortable with being seen at all, even outside of pictures. I don’t feel comfortable with people making judgements or assumptions about me or even really thinking about me based on my appearance at all. A couple of years ago my spouse informed me that all men fantasize about the women they see around them and that he’s certain I’ve been fantasized about by someone other than him. I think he said this to be supportive and to help me see myself through his eyes, but it was shortly after this that I began wearing floor-length skirts. I’ve always liked dressing in layers, but his comment has really made me embrace the practice.

Now, since this is a blog, I’m supposed to turn things around and end with some kind of upbeat, “I’m not going to think this way anymore!” and a vow to post a selfie a day for a year, but I won’t be doing that.

The bottom line is, I have difficulty accepting that this is the physical form I’ve been given to carry my soul through the world. No bold declaration is going to change this. I’ll either learn to stop cringing or I won’t.

It’s likely I will never like how I look in photos, and really, so what if I don’t?

3 comments

  1. Sandy Congdon · January 5, 2016

    Charity, I think you’re beautiful inside and out. Sandy

    Like

  2. Ellery Davies · December 22, 2015

    I really like the line about being given a physical form in which to carry around your soul. It leads to deep thoughts and profound questions.

    My daughter occasionally exclaims: “Dad! Are you certain that you are my father? I am so hip and hep—but you’re just fat, short, old, ugly, bald, very old-fashioned, and stupid!” She pauses with the timing of a stand-up comic before assuring me that the last adjective was added in jest. She notes that I am definitely not stupid, recalling that I help with homework and resolve every complex and urgent crisis.

    Of course, “ugly” is in the eye of the beholder. But the other adjectives point to things that I cannot easily change: age, girth, height, hair loss. (Well, I have occasionally changed my weight—once by more than 30 pounds. But you know where that leads…It leads to a an unhealthy yo-yo effect and a metabolism that forever strives to store more fat!). And, of course, I could wear a toupee. But then, who exactly would I be fooling? Certainly not anyone that I love.

    In the end, we must simply accept that we are not all born as supermodels, body builders or Ryan Reynolds.* But fat or thin, gummy or not, there are always those that see beauty in us and the really neat things about friends is that they admire you on a completely different plane.
    _____________
    * I find Mr. Reynolds to be easy on the eyes, but otherwise rather plain looking. Yet, I cite him as the epitome of hunk-ish, because I watched the movie “Self/less” among a sea of teen and 20 year old girls over the Thanksgiving holiday. (He also co-starred with Sandra Bullock in “The Proposal”). Every girl in the room swooned and flushed with each new scene. The film was interrupted with girls openly musing about their wish to “bounce his bones”. I can only imagine that this is a coded reference to his good looks and a desire to run fingers through his hair(?!).

    Like

    • Charity · December 22, 2015

      You know, I had never heard of Ryan Reynolds until your comment. I looked him up, and I know I’ve seen him before but I have no idea in which movie(s).

      The thing I’m realizing is that as I learn to accept the things about me that I don’t like so much, I also get better at meeting other people with compassion just where they are. If nothing else motivates me to do this work, that does.

      Like

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