A Day in Pictures, and a Call to Photographic Action

There’s a point to this post, I swear. But first, have some cuteness.

First order of business: shower. But since the Boychick was not in the mood, a diversion needed to be found. A purple, purple diversion:

I swear I didn't encourage the purple -- see the other colors there??

And why did I need a shower right then? To go get a pedicure with a dear friend, of course! Guess what color I chose…

Since I posted about the fabulous shirt/dress my mom bought me, certain people1 have been bothering me for photos of it. And I figure, if I’m going to go to all the trouble of posting one picture…

It's ok, I'm wearing bike shorts underneath

And then the poor Boychick was getting sick, and after his dad went to sleep he got back up and came out to me, asking to be carried because he was scared2. And so on he went, in one of our terribly neglected wraps. (Evidence suggests babywearing is like riding a bicycle; I’ll be 90, and not remember anything of the past 50 years, and I’ll still know how to keep a small person happy and secure on my body.)

Told you there were bike shorts

And now, the point:

I have a hard time looking at photos of me, still. Not because I think I’m not beautiful — I know I am — but because I find it very hard to keep feeling that way when I see most pictures of me. There are a dozen pics of me that I’m not about to show you for each of the ones you can see here. I have no problems, with my pale hairy legs and my large arms and my fucking gorgeous fat ass, getting a pedicure or wearing a sleeveless dress, or going running in those shorts — but ask me to look at pictures of myself doing it, and I cringe. I hide. I decline, whenever possible.

But that day I thought, damnit, I’m going to put my skin where my mouth is. I pulled out my camera(phone). And I took a ton of pictures.

And, like most pictures (especially by a non-photographer, taken on an iPhone), most of them sucked. Most of them failed to capture my attractiveness. But I kept taking them. And then I picked the best3, and I shared it on Twitter.

Here’s something I learned from that sharing, and why I feel fully comfortable posting the barely-dressed babywearing one: if your self-esteem is low — making you not want to share pictures of you because all you can see is your “faults” and your “ugliness” and all the things “wrong” with you — show pictures of you to people who care about you.

Now, don’t show them to douchebags, because you’ll only get douchebaggery back. Don’t show them to people who routinely bitch and moan about how they look, or who tear down strangers they see, or who think fashion magazines’ “Hot or Not” features are anything but laughable or horrifying. But if you show them to people who have even a passing familiarity with size acceptance, who know that beauty comes in infinite diversity, who have somehow escaped total brainwashing by kyriarchy — I tell you, you will be floating afterward. I was.

Try this, if you are able. If you haven’t yet, if you — like me — have some positive sense of self-esteem only until the shutter clicks, try it. Take 10 pictures of yourself. Take 100. Take 1000. Pose. Try all different angles, different lights, different expressions. Most of them will suck, and you might start hearing some self-criticism again — but keep going. You know what part of you you maybe-secretly love — that curve of hip, that flash of smile, that puff of hair — so try to capture it, and keep trying until you have the proof, incontrovertible, in front of you, of this truth: you are worthy of being seen.

And then show it off. Show it to your lover. Show it to your parents. Show it to your friends — not the drama-mongers, the real ones. Show it to Twitter. Show it to me, and I promise I will tell you a truth you will not regret hearing.

We are trained to believe that only some ways of being are acceptable. We are trained to expect bodies to be falsely perfect, airbrushed beyond blemish, photoshopped beyond recognition. If we are lucky, we can still see the everyday beauty all around us. If we are very lucky, we can see it in ourselves, but I think it takes practice. Put down the fashion mags, turn off the commercials, train your eye to turn away from the billboards, train your ear to tune out the ads, and look at the people around you. Look in the mirror. Look in the camera, and smile.

Hello, beautiful.

  1. You know who you are.
  2. I don’t think he actually was, as such, or at least he didn’t act scared. But I wasn’t about to say no to wearing him again, that being so rare these days.
  3. OK, I had The Man pick the best, once there were a few I didn’t completely hate.
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32 Responses to A Day in Pictures, and a Call to Photographic Action

  1. You are beautiful and I love that you don’t need any of us to tell you that. :) I must have missed your post on Twitter though, was it one of these photos?

  2. I see no reason you’d need to reassure ANYONE “It’s ok, I’m wearing bike shorts underneath”. That dress is a perfectly acceptable length to wear ALL BY ITSELF. The only reason I can think of to wear shorts under it would be practical rather than aesthetic reasons, like chafing or expectations of activity that would cause the dress to be expose more skin than is legal.
    And you look gorgeous, and the love so clearly visible in the babywearing pic is just…blub. :)

    • Hel — Thanks to my lovely posterior, just sitting down in this dress is an activity which exposes more skin than might be legal. ;)

      And thank you. I’m completely in love with the babywearing kiss pic. I so so so wish I had it in higher quality. Ah well. At least I have it.

  3. Yes, exactly, I use bike shorts only to prevent chafing or for preventing flashing people.

  4. I love taking photos of myself. It’s pretty much the only way I appear in most photos, generally being the photographer. Plus, it gives me the freedom to take as many as I want. If someone else is taking them, they usually tire after 3, 4 at the outside. This is the beauty of digital photography, I say – you can keep going until you capture your own beauty.

    • Amber — Digital photography rocks my socks. And I find that to be true about self/others as well. I had a friend take some earlier in the day, but they were baaaaaaaaaaaaaaad (I so wanted them to be good, but they weren’t), but she didn’t want to keep snapping and experimenting until we found something good. Also, I know how to pose for myself (which is part of why I love the mirror trick of self-photographing), and how to make me look best in a mirror. And I can’t do that when posing for someone else, unless they know exactly how to tell me to move.

      One day, I will get pics done with a professional who believes fat women are worth photographing and knows how to do it well. One day.

  5. Good for you! This is one issue I really, really need to work on. As Amber said, I am usually the photographer, but I also almost always hate photos with me in them. I have a bad tendency to delete them if I can too… which is sad because I WANT pictures of me. With my kids. For my kids. Alright. The challenge is on!

  6. I don’t generally have self-esteem issues, but I detest pictures of myself. I’m really not sure why. Maybe because the picture of me that photos capture isn’t entirely congruent with the picture of myself that I carry in my head, and I like the one in my head better?

    I do suck it up when a photo that happens to include me is really of my kid… or my kid-to-be (and I need to take another bump shot soon, I really am starting look like there’s a there there).

    The BWing photo qualifies as barely dressed? Huh?! But you’re wearing your kid, and he covers all the “essential” bits! And it’s even more beautiful than the one of just you in the dress.

    • Katie B. — “Maybe because the picture of me that photos capture isn’t entirely congruent with the picture of myself that I carry in my head, and I like the one in my head better?” This. Oh gods, this.

      Also, I was being somewhat tongue in cheek with the barely-dressed comment. We live in a world that mocks fat chicks for wearing “skinny jeans”; I shudder to think what they’d make of my skin tight bike shorts and tank. But I agree, it’s the better, more beautiful photo. (And not just because of the kiss. I mean, look at my hips! And my legs! And my hair! And the side of my face! It’s just pure win.)

  7. This warmed my heart so much. Thank you for sharing.

  8. You’re beautiful and it shows!

  9. I hate most pictures of myself – but every once in a while I’ll find one that I’m quite taken with.

    • Zoey — Oh, this. What I’m figuring out, though, is that that one beautiful pic IS possible, and if I don’t allow/seek out the 100s of not-so-great ones, I’ll never have it, and I’ll remain convinced that I’m ugly in pictures. And, quite frankly, fuck that.

      (Interesting note: the first — and for years only — picture of my non-child self I ever loved was my first driver’s license photo. I wept when I finally got licensed in another state and lost it, ten years later. Its replacement cannot compare.)

  10. I recently started taking more pictures of myself (or more accurately, asking others to do this):

    me!

    My reason was all the times I’ve seen family photo albums where you see plenty of pictures of the kids and the male partner – but none or few of the mom/female partner.

    Whatever way I might feel about myself here or there or today or tomorrow, what right do I have to deprive my kids of the memories they have of me. They think I am beautiful and amazing.

    • Kelly — “Whatever way I might feel about myself here or there or today or tomorrow, what right do I have to deprive my kids of the memories they have of me. They think I am beautiful and amazing.” Oh yes, this. And, my future self: so many times I WISH I had (good) photos of previous events, but was too “oh gods I’m going to look like shit” at the time to allow them to be taken. No more!

    • This. This is why I have tons of pictures of me. :) I make a point of having pictures taken and I never bow out when someone offers. If I’m having a terrible hair day I might say, “Let me grab a rubber band first” and that’s the extent of my vanity. Pictures of me aren’t for me they are for the people who love me already just as I am. They want the pictures and I try really hard to let them have ‘em. :)

      And I recently re-found my favorite comic ever. It’s one I recommend highly to other chunky chicks: http://wordpress.thebunnysystem.com/2007/04/06/egotastic/

  11. Ahhhh, what a wonderful, WONDERFUL post to begin my Sunday with. Thank you SO much for sharing this powerful message. I loathe photos of myself, I hate looking at myself in the mirror. I have bad, bad self esteem issues going waaaaay back in my life. I always look at the negative but through all this my body loves me – it heals, carries me around, serves me. I think it’s time to be nicer to myself.
    Thank you so much for touching my heart…

  12. I used to have a saying for myself when I was dressed up ready to go out: ‘Remember: you don’t look as good as you think you do’. How sad is that? That’s because I’d think I was looking fine, then see photos of myself and wonder what the hell I was thinking.

    There are so many photos of my husband and kids, because I’m always the photographer. If anything happened to me, I think my kids would start to doubt memories of me because there’s hardly any evidence I existed!

    That’s going to change.

  13. Recently re-discovered your blog…I loves it. I need to read it more for all the positiveness!

    THANK YOU.

  14. I see you! Beautiful you! And your sweet baby love! What a glorious photo of you and your son. And, I see purple :) Thank you for your light and your ray of positivity on this day.

  15. You are indeed gorgeous, and I have several pictures to prove it. Not so many of myself… I really agree with Katie B: photos just don’t match what I think I look like. Someone recently asked if there had been a time when I didn’t have self-esteem: I wanted to whimper, “Yes, Now!” but I was happy that at least it doesn’t show most of the time.

  16. Look at you work your fabulously adorable self! Squee for purple toes! Squee for cute poses in pretty dresses! Squee for kiddo kisses! A perfect trifeca of Squees!

    I have to confess, I got a little emotional reading this post and reading the comments because I too have major self esteem issues with regards to my appearance and hate most pictures of myself and hate looking in the mirror most of the time. Basically – what Mrs Green said. So thank you for the squee-inducing pics and thank you for your words.

  17. What a great, real post! When I look at pictures of me, I am surprised that I do not look more like I feel. I am rounder and lack the beauty that should be mine.

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  19. Very nicely written and insightful post. Just the kind of thing I need to hear since I’ve signed on to be a part of this: http://bloggerbodycalendar.com/ Not sure what I was thinking, but it is causing me to get a lot more comfortable with photos of myself. Thanks for sharing yours!

  20. I love seeing what the people who write the blogs I read look like.. I recently got braver about appearing on my blog, and your post is part of the reason why.

    http://bluemilk.wordpress.com/2010/07/04/nothing-much/

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  22. This is a great idea. I’ve been a camera-phobe my whole life and it is one of my biggest regrets that I didn’t photo myself with my Granny while she was living because I didn’t like seeing photos of myself. I don’t have any recent photos and my camera is out of commission but I’m going to share one of my favorite candids: http://www.studioist.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/bighairprofile.jpg . I’ve actually been inspired to put together a portrait gallery of myself; my husband has been begging for one for awhile and it’s actually a really interesting exercise in correcting body image.

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