I was rather bored one Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks ago. I started playing with the camera on my laptop and the photo program that came with it. I took this photo in my living room. It isn’t filtered. It isn’t Photoshopped. The only “trick” of this photo is that it was one of about 800 or more (no joke) taken while I played with all the different functions of the program.
But this photo hides a truth. It is a truth I still hesitate to share, though I know it is something many others experience. Even as I draft this post with every intention of publishing it, I don’t know if I will have the courage to do it. In doing so, I will expose something I’ve always kept hidden deep, hoping that no one would ever see. But I’m getting tired of working so hard to keep so much hidden.
The sad truth about this photo isn’t something you can see. It isn’t that the lighting wasn’t just right or that the photographer didn’t know what she was doing, though both of those are probably true. It isn’t that the couch in the background is not the best backdrop. The sad truth about this photo is the thought that goes through my head, every single time I look at it.
“If I didn’t know this was me, I would think that girl is pretty.”
If I can force myself to imagine that the girl in the picture is someone I don’t know (which is impossible, by the way, though I’ve been trying very hard), or even someone I know who just isn’t me, I think it is a beautiful picture. She looks like a nice person, maybe kind of sweet. Like someone I might like to know. Something about her reminds me of my niece, who is gorgeous. Even now, as I keep looking at it trying to be objective, I can’t get further than that.
The story changes when I look at the photo as me. When I first posted it on Facebook, I couldn’t stop looking at it. And when I remembered it was me? This: The eyes are nice, but the hair is crazy, and what color do you call that anyway? My double-chin is hiding behind my hand, which is a chubby baby-hand. I’m way older than I look in this picture. I’m too pale. It isn’t a true likeness at all, because you can’t see how overweight I am. If all someone had to go on was this picture, they would not recognize me if they met me in the real world.
Painful to admit. But sadly true.
Why? Why, why, why do we do this to ourselves? I know I’m not the only one. From what I’ve read, it is evident there are a lot of people who struggle to look at themselves impartially.
I’ve been trying, lately. I sometimes stop myself when I’m standing unhappily before the mirror (or when I’m thinking about myself at all – this isn’t just about appearances), and remind myself to try to look objectively. Try to look at myself as I would look at anyone else. It is painfully difficult. I don’t know if I will ever truly achieve it. My sight is automatically drawn to my flaws, and I list them mercilessly. I would never do that to someone else!
I was taught to be humble and to avoid vanity, but somehow I learned those lessons too well (to be clear, these are both valid lessons, and I’m not discounting them by any means). It is next to impossible for me to admit anything positive about myself. Those who know me well know that I usually get embarrassed when someone tries to pay a compliment. Seriously, compliments are very uncomfortable things, mostly because I find them terribly hard to believe. On some level, I do know I have plenty of good qualities, but somehow I don’t believe it. Even as I’m typing those words, I realize how ridiculous it sounds. But so it is.
So why am I sharing this in such a public forum? First and foremost, I’m hoping that putting this out there is a step towards defeating it. Kind of my way of saying, “I recognize it, I think it’s stupid, and I can overcome it. Eventually. Maybe.” (Wow self, way to display some amazing confidence!). Also, I know there are lots of people out there who experience this. If even one such person reads this, and afterwards can get up the enough courage to tell herself (or himself) to think objectively, then it’s worth it.