I hope you’re having a lovely week 🙂
After seeing so many wonderful posts about body positivity lately, I’ve decided to add to the positive vibes currently sweeping through the ether, by writing my views on portrait photography.
Coronavirus lockdown restrictions have caused many of us to spend considerably more time than usual scrolling our way through the confidence-destroying minefield of social media. I truly believe that photographs of ourselves ought to be pondered in the same light we perceive our own reflection in a pool of water. Much as a reflection distorts your features, a photograph captures one very specific millisecond of time at an often unrealistic angle (in that most fellow humans are unlikely to look at you the way a camera does); a fleeting glimpse into an entire life; an echo, impossible to replicate (without highly advanced technology). Meaning that all those ‘perfect’ portrait images we see plastered throughout virtually every form of visual media are just one split second, modified snapshot amidst a lifetime.
It has been said that an image conveys a thousand words, but in the case of social media, an image can conceal a thousand truths.
Smartphones make it easier than it has ever been to adjust photographs to an advanced degree, with photo-editing software built in as standard – not to mention the plethora of ‘filters’ available to utilise on every social media platform, allowing people the opportunity to avoid ever having to share an ‘unflattering’ photograph again.
I admit that I may unintentionally perpetuate that style of editorial imagery to a lesser degree; I try not to share photographs I feel are unflattering of me because I don’t want my social media accounts to be less appealing, or for readers/potential readers to think less of me/my writing because I’m not what society might deem ‘worthy’ unless I am aesthetically pleasing to the majority of my (albeit limited) audience – I do understand that that is part of the problem. I suppose in order to remedy it, I have to determine whether I’m doing that to please myself, or to attempt to be noticed as a worthwhile writer amidst a sea of professionally managed social media profiles – something I promise to work on as best I can, to set a better example for younger generations.
As an example of how a unique individual can be perceived in a variety of ways, I took these photographs within the space of 1 minute – note how differently I look in every photograph, thanks to changes in lighting, angles, and even the addition of filters…
Please remember when looking at photos of yourself: *Different Photographs; Same Worth* Although the camera has captured me differently in all these images, I’m still me 🙂
Whilst it can be frustrating that the majority of social media accounts – both personal and professional – support fakery that funds the beauty industry, by making us all feel we have to live up to unrealistic standards in order to be considered ‘beautiful’ by society, it’s worth remembering that they are people too; and the more airbrushed, photoshopped, filtered their images are, the more insecure they’re likely to feel about how they look in reality. Their intention may not necessarily be to make you feel negatively about yourself, but to try feel better about themselves. And the truth is, there’s someone out there right now who admires a quality you have that they do not, and it’s almost certainly the person you least expect it to be.
In light of this, I’d like to add my voice to the increasing plethora of positive posts, by sharing some of my own story and commentary on the journey to self-confidence (that I am currently embarking on too)…
1.) I’ve been working on overcoming the countless insecurities I have about my appearance. For instance, I have extremely sensitive skin, e.g. I end up with a terrible rash when I shave my legs; I suffer with spots from time to time (caused by over-washing due to OCD linked to emetophobia); my hair gets oily quickly (so I wash it all the time which, ironically, makes it worse); make-up never seems to look flawless on me – although it seems to look nice on everyone else – and I get sunburned so easily that tanning naturally (to hide imperfections) is not an option (though the thought of using fake tan terrifies me – I’m certain I’d do something wrong and would end up looking/feeling ridiculous!). I’ve always been self-conscious about my nose, after it was broken by a horse when I was 10, as it doesn’t resemble the idyllic ‘button nose’ that various beauty/media industries suggest is most attractive. And I’ve recently found out that I have a dislocated jaw – that may have been caused by the misalignment of braces I wore as a teenager – to accompany the damage braces did to the enamel of my teeth (the glue they used left a few small yellowish stains on my teeth that the dentist can’t remove without damaging the enamel further), meaning I’m unlikely to ever have a lens-worthy set of perfectly straight, pearly-white teeth. That, together with the insecurities I have about having put on weight due to major life changes over the last few years (beginning with a serious hand injury 6 years ago that ended my equestrian career), led to my feeling awful about myself 99% of the time – which, as a consequence, meant I suffered more anxiety about my appearance than usual (I already have emetophobia and its associated anxieties), and it all became a miserable cycle of self-deprecation that had to stop before it spiralled into depression (again). Thankfully, my incredible boyfriend, wonderful family, and fantastic friends made me realise that all that stuff is inconsequential in the grand scheme of life – absolutely none of those aspects I’m insecure about take away from who I am, how hard I work at everything, or the reasons I try my best to help people/animals however I can. My insecurities are just that, my insecurities; my loved ones don’t love me in spite of all those things, I’m loved because I am me no-matter what. A realisation I hope you’re able to revel about yourself in too 🙂
2.) Nobody cares whether you have strawberry skin after you shave, whether you have acne, or that you don’t have a flawless tan, nor does it affect their life that you’re worried about wearing tight clothes because your body doesn’t resemble the inhuman form of a mannequin, or that you have stretch marks/cellulite/scars on show if you wear certain clothes – you’re but a momentary consideration at most as they go about their daily business at the shops, or you walk past them on the street, or they are enjoying their day at the beach/park/restaurant (especially after a year and a half of lockdown!). And if you are still worried, it’s worth remembering that those who judge you negatively for such insignificant things (in the grand scheme of life) likely only do so because it deflects from issues they have with themselves. Also, it doesn’t actually matter what they think of you.
3.) I repeat as its own comment (and I suggest you repeat this to yourself): it *does not matter* what people think of your appearance (unless, of course, you’re at a job interview). What if someone does have a fleeting negative thought about your appearance; did it cause you physical harm? Do you care about the stranger enough to act on their fleeting, negative response (for instance, enduring some sort of barbaric cosmetic procedure to appease strangers)? And finally, what right does some random stranger have to make you feel negatively about yourself when they don’t know anything about you? Please don’t give power to the unfair, unhealthy culture and unrealistic expectations to look a certain way to be accepted – instead, accept yourself for the unique brand of wonderfulness only you can offer the world.
4.) Fact: our bodies change constantly. Therefore, it is as unhealthy as it is unrealistic to believe that you cannot be beautiful or handsome or worthy of adoration unless you fit into those jeans you used to wear a decade ago, or that top you used to love that you wish you still looked great in, or, unless you fit a specific image bombarded by all forms of visual media as being the ‘ultimate specimen of human perfection’ (an image which, if you study the ‘ideal body shape/size/configuration’ through the ages you’ll discover is constantly shifting and evolving). Eat your favourite food guilt-free, wear clothes that are comfortable, and find a way to exercise that you actually enjoy instead of counting calories, avoiding clothes you’re afraid people might ‘judge’ you for wearing, and forcing yourself to participate in exercise that doesn’t bring you joy in pursuit of unattainable ‘perfection’. The human body is an incredible vessel of evolution; love yours, nurture it, and appreciate every fibre of your being for the masterpiece it is!
5.) The universe needs you just the way you are. Please stop comparing yourself to others when there’s not a person on this planet capable of comparing to you because, honestly, they’re not you – the knowledge of which ought to provide you with an untold sense of power and self-belief 🙂
5.) As challenging as it is, in order to improve my own self-confidence, I practice what I preach and continuously push myself to become the beautifully confident person I deserve to be…
For example, I am taking action to improve my health and fitness, to help me feel better for myself – as opposed to that motivation being to look beautiful just to please the world (confidence is attractive in itself, so I’m told!). I am also trying really hard to ease my anxiety over my skin issues, and though it may sound minor to many, I felt a strange sense of accomplishment the other day when I didn’t shave that morning (I usually shave my legs every time I intend to wear shorts or a dress – which takes ages because I obsessively remove every hair I consider unsightly) yet still wore shorts all day and even went shopping! There were a few stray hairs I couldn’t reach on my right leg (thanks to my hand injury) that I hadn’t noticed until I returned from shopping, which was the moment I realised I survived without any negative effects of having not shaved that morning – I didn’t notice one person give so much as a glance at me, let alone the dramatic reactions of displeasure I believed might accompany my decision not to overthink going out with strawberry legs. It was more comfortable to wear shorts than to have worn jeans, yet I almost made myself uncomfortable by wearing jeans because of the reaction I thought I’d receive for having a teeny tiny amount of stubble on my legs. As it happens, it didn’t feel like anyone cared about the fact I had a few stray hairs on my right leg – the fact people just carried on with their own business felt great; who’d have thought being invisible could feel satisfying! But then it struck me, the reason we strive to fit in is for that reason; because no reaction is better than a negative one, no-matter how minor – and in order for all that hard work that goes in to looking nice to be worthwhile, a positive reaction provides a flash of acceptance that makes us feel incredible about ourselves, even for a millisecond.
However, it really shouldn’t be up to other people to determine how incredible we feel about ourselves. Of course, we want to look attractive to encourage self-confidence, to help ourselves appreciate what we see in the mirror (or on a smartphone camera app), and to please our partners – though my amazing boyfriend has assured me that when you’re in love with the right person, it doesn’t matter if you have spots, or you put on a little weight, or your hair needs a wash, since that love is deeper than one’s superficial appearance (I believe the reason the right person loves you is because their soul connects with yours on a cosmic level – your partner loves you in your entirety because of who you are; which makes you the most attractive person in the universe to them, irrespective of your self-perceived ‘physical imperfections’). If you don’t have a partner to remind you of your awesomeness, consider how much your family and friends love you – and I guarantee that love has absolutely nothing to do with what you look like; what feeling could be more incredibly confidence-inspiring than that? 🙂
Life is short. Please don’t waste a moment feeling insignificant because of your insecurities – you are so much more than your portrayal in a photograph <3
Anyways, hope you’re having a happy Wednesday!