Photographs open doors into the past, but they also allow a look into the future.
Last week my workplace scheduled a photo shoot for new members of the team who would be showcased on our company’s website. When I heard this I urgently asked to be included in the group of team members being photographed. My existing photo on the website was a huge cause of embarrassment and shame for me; and something that I had been working towards replacing since it was first taken 18 months ago. That photo was my wake-up call.
I had already had a wake-up call two months earlier when I saw photos of myself at my Godson’s christening; but I had clearly hit the snooze button because I went straight back to sleep. I was so proud on that day; the apple of my eye, my beautiful nephew was being christened. I was also meeting my sister’s new extended family of in-laws for the first time. I was wearing my most flattering maxi dress with my hair freshly styled and my face made-up. I felt good and I presented myself proudly to the world.
Two months later for the photo shoot, I went in wearing my best fitted suit with hair neatly tied back and make-up carefully applied. This photo was going to be placed on the “Meet the Team” page on our company’s website – the whole world would see it. I wanted to look my best and represent the brand I hold so close to my heart with pride.
Each of those photos shocked me. I saw someone so different to the person I saw in the mirror every day. I was clearly in denial. I was obviously too afraid to look closely at myself in the mirror every morning and every night. I had learned how to look only at what I could accept and be blind to what was glaringly obvious about my health and general well-being. What took me by surprise in both those pictures was my size. My flattering maxi dress and my tailored suit could not hide the truth – I was too big. Both photos showed a woman whose skin was grey and whose hair was dull probably due to bad nutrition; whose posture exposed a de-energised and inactive being; and despite the smiles, whose eyes were sad and weary due to unmanaged and mounting stress. The girl in the pictures had no soul. Her spirit had been broken; and it showed. As much as I thought I was bravely hiding my burdens from all around me, they were exposed daily to the whole world through my body and demeanour. Where had my effervescence gone?
And so after that second picture, I woke up with a jolt – no snooze buttons – but straight out of bed determined to regain my spark. And so started my love affair with pictures of myself. I still can’t look at myself objectively in the mirror. Maybe it’s a protective mechanism to help me face the day, but I always feel good when looking at myself in the mirror. I realised that the only way to properly gauge my progress is with photos. Every few month I set up the tripod and set the timer on the camera and take glaringly honest pictures of myself. It has also served as a great way to compare myself over time and remind myself of how far I have come – and it’s a great motivator to keep going.
So, last week I was really proud when I received a copy of the new photo for the website. It was a great affirmation of how far I have come over the past 18 months. Such a different story is told by the new photo – that girl is healthy, invigorated and, most importantly… happy!
You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed.
And you are beautiful.