A few weeks ago, a Huffington Post piece written by Allison Tate went viral. Tate’s post, The Mom Stays in the Picture was everywhere – tons of friends linked to it on Facebook, Twitter, and in emails. The post talked about Allison’s reluctance to be photographed and her conscious decision to get over that so she would have photographic memories that included the whole family, including her. The post clearly resonated with many people, who not only shared the post, but also submitted their own pictures in response to the Huffington Post’s challenge to “get in the picture.”
My photo challenge, however, is a bit different. I actually love being in pictures with my son or with the whole family. In fact, we just spent a weekend away where I kept encouraging my husband to take more! more! more! pictures of me and the kiddo together. My son gives me the excuse to make silly faces, smile big, and just enjoy myself.
No. My issue is the solo photo. When the focus is just on me, I get all anxious and uncomfortable. Once the photos are taken, I then become hyper self-critical, side-eyeing the most minute details that nobody else would ever notice. But I do. And, despite my love of shows like America’s Next Top Model and RuPaul’s Drag Race, I just can’t bring myself to pull out the CoverGirl attitude.
So when the need for new headshot type photos (um, hello book cover picture) came about, my stomach started to turn, even before I stepped in front of the camera. It certainly helped somewhat that my photographer was a friend. Tamara is kind, warm, and did her best to put me at ease while taking pictures. It helped that she brought her baby boy to our sessions – it’s remarkable how much more relaxed I felt after making silly faces at him.
Side note: watching Tamara rock her job with a baby strapped to her just filled me with such joy – it’s amazing when women can be working moms like that, eh?
But despite the relaxed atmosphere during the photo shoot, I still felt that same weight of dread as I flipped through the proofs Tamara sent me. Despite Tamara’s assurance that I looked great, I still obsessed over every little flaw and imperfection in the photos. Many of them were close-ups, so I was the only thing to look at. There was no awesome sunset or background to distract the viewer, or no adorable kid to pull the attention away from me. Instead, I couldn’t stop myself from scrutinizing the size of my eyes, the uneven way my face scrunched up when I smiled, the slope of my forehead, the point of my chin… the list was endless. I could objectively see that the photos themselves were great. Tamara did an excellent job and the composition, lighting, etc… was excellent. It was the subject I was having trouble with.
So, I did what any normal person would do: I polled a handful of my friends to see which pictures they preferred. The overwhelming response was that the photos were great, that I looked great, etc… And yet, still – I couldn’t help anguishing over the small details that they obviously weren’t noticing.
And then – I made myself stop. It wasn’t that easy to do it, but a few things helped. The first was Tamara telling me she just had her picture taken by a professional photographer, and she felt ugly when she saw them. She’s absolutely beautiful, so I knew that the pictures were probably great, but she just saw herself differently than everyone else did. Why is that? Is that a universal thing? Sometimes it feels like it. I wonder if Heidi Klum ever feels that way…?
The second was my friend, Sarah. Sarah continuously posts pictures of herself on Facebook and Twitter and frankly, they’re stunning. They’re ones she takes herself, edited with various phone apps. She doesn’t post them with any fanfare, but they’ve inspired me to be more accepting of my own pictures. Sarah was one of the people I polled with my pix, and we talked about why we hate pictures of ourselves and how the hell to get over it.
Then, the other day, I snapped a picture of myself – and just myself – because… why the hell not? I told Sarah about it, and how she inspired me to do it, and somehow our conversation morphed into “We should totally take a picture of ourselves daily and then tweet them with the hashtag #ShowMeYourFace.”
And so…we are. We’re going to do it. And you should too. Whether you need more pictures of yourself with your kids (like Allison Tate) or you need to stop being so self-critical (like me), I urge you to join us. Snap a picture, upload it to Twitter and tag it with #ShowMeYourFace.
I toyed with writing a whole post about why I have these feelings about myself when I look at myself in solo pictures, and I’m sure we could unpack a whole host of stuff from media influences, societal pressures/expectations of beauty, etc… But for now, I just want to try and push past the why and get to a place where I can look at a picture of myself and have the urge to critique melt away (or at least have it be stifled with positive thoughts).
So, please – join me and Sarah and #ShowMeYourFace!