When you look in the mirror what jumps out at you? Is it your blue eyes or full lips? Your shiny hair or your white teeth? For me it was always a number of things – the fullness of my face, the fact that none of my teeth are straight, the bulges in all wrong places…. The way my face and my body morph from something tolerable to something vulgar and hideous. The longer I stared the less I was able to pick out the few things I sometimes found attractive about myself. My once shining eyes looked hollow, my breasts too pointy, my ankles too fat. None of my clothes fit right so they end up piled on my bed in a heap as tears of frustration streamed down my cheeks, smearing my makeup, making the ugliness compound.
Did this dysmorphia begin with the faceless person who showed me photos of naked women in Playboy when I was little, their perfect bodies and big hair staring up at me from glossy pages? “You’ll never look like them,” they told me very matter-of-factly. Did it continue when my first real boyfriend in 9th grade reminded me on a daily basis that I was too pale and too skinny compared to the full chested popular girls who grinded their hips up against him in the hallways, hugging him with complete disregard for my existence? Did it worsen when I dated He-Who-Will-Not-Be-Named who told me I was beautiful and flawless until the afternoon we made out for hours resulting in the sweating off of my make-up? When seeing my naked face in the setting sun later he tried to hide his disappoint at my utter commonness, but failed. He decided we were better off as just friends the next day. Or was it He-Who-Will-Not-Be-Named-II in college who made me feel like next to nothing, sleeping with as many girls as he could get his hands on, that truly instilled in me the notion that I was not pretty enough?
I wonder if we all have examples of pain etched so vividly on our hearts from childhood, high school, college and adulthood that takes over our logical brain and begins licking away at us in our vulnerable moments? I wonder if we all – women & men – stare in our mirrors breaking ourselves apart piece by piece until we are left with nothing to be proud of?
I speak of this feeling of ugliness on my photography blog because of the idea of beauty and the importance of a subject being comfortable in their skin before they can be comfortable in front of a camera. Sometimes I think one of the main reasons I got into photography was the enormous void I once felt of feeling beautiful in my everyday life. Despite my overwhelming ability to dismantle my physical self-esteem, I have an equally overwhelming ability to see beauty in everyone around me. Behind a lens I don’t see the flaws that my clients see in themselves, I see only the things that make them unique & attractive. When I meet them for shoots, I don’t know if there were countless outfit changes or numerous face washes to start their make-up over. All I see is the gorgeous soul of the person I am to photograph in front of me. It saddens me deeply to think of anyone of my beautiful, amazing clients or friends enduring the heartbreaking feeling of seeing nothing beautiful in themselves especially when their beauty is so obvious to me.
Feeling comfortable in my skin is an ongoing struggle for me, but it’s a battle I finally feel I’m winning thanks to a great support system of friends and a significant other who tells me I’m beautiful with or without make-up. It helps to put yourself in the shoes of the photographer who sees beauty in you that you might not. It helps to take photographs of ordinary objects then look closely at their details or their simplicity to see their true beauty. It helps to remember that you are your worst enemy as no one can make you feel ugly without your consent.
We live in a world where we are constantly comparing ourselves to others & not just on our status in life or how big our house is, but in how we LOOK, how well our clothes fit, how much or how little cellulite we have, how big our noses are, how small our waists are, how tan our skin is. It’s sad that we live constantly coveting what others have instead of appreciating the unique and beautiful things about ourselves. God made you YOU & your imperfectness is what makes you perfect in His eyes and in the eyes of those that love you.
I still have days where I look in the mirror and feel myself begin to hurl insults at myself in ways that pale to insults I’ve heard in reality. The things I’ve said to myself –
“You’re disgusting. Ughh, you’re so fat. You’re hideous.”
– I wouldn’t say to my worst enemy. So why then should I say them to myself? The moment I feel it begin I walk away until I am calm and ready to start over. I hope those of you that have struggled with this will join me in beginning to do the same. I hope those of you who are my friends, who I know on a personal level, know how unbelievably beautiful I think you are. I hope those of you who are my clients know there are things about each of you that stand out in my mind as perfect and amazing whether it’s your smile or your eyes or your skin. If you find yourself mirror morphing yourself into something you are not before a shoot with me or before dinner with your husband, STOP, take a deep breath, and walk away. Do something that makes you feel good on the inside like taking a picture of your baby or drawing or watching a funny movie until those cruel thoughts have sunk back.
If there is someone in your life that is making you feel less than beautiful, let them go. Though no one can make us feel ugly without our consent, it doesn’t make it okay to treat you like you’re less than human. If you are the one constantly making yourself feel like you’re less than beautiful either because of your past or for any other reason, make a conscious effort to let that part of you go. It doesn’t mean you have to turn into a Kardashian all of a sudden and start Instagramming selfies every hour. It just means being conscious of that little voice inside your head that screams obscenities at you when you catch a glimpse of your naked body after you get out of the shower & making an effort to silence it before the voice takes you over & the mirror morphs you into something you are not.
Love to you all and remember:
“You are all fair, my love; there is no spot in you.”
Song of Solomon 4:7