Do you hate seeing photos of yourself?
Do you dissect every photo of yourself that you see, scrutinise yourself, criticize your body, and tell yourself how fat and ugly you are?
Guess what. (No big surprises here ladies) – I did this for years.
I used to agonize over every photo of myself. Seeing a bad photo of myself would cause such stress, anxiety and self loathing. I would even go as far to say that a bad photo of myself would completely ruin my night.
How very sad indeed.
And let us not forget the female posing rules…
Is this my best side?
Does my arm look skinny at this angle?
Are my legs positioned right?
Is my belly sucked in?
Should I stick my bum out more?
Can you imagine if when your friend got out the phone to take a photo on a night out, you and your girlfriends actually just carried on having a great time, stood together and smiled like you meant it? Rather than popping your hip, positioning your legs, sticking an arm on your hip, before demanding that more photos be taken ’til you’re all happy?
(I’m totally still a little bit guilty of this ridiculous way of posing sometimes by the way, but I’m making a conscious effort to break the habit!)
In this blog post I want to give you some tips on how to approach photos of yourself from now on,
in a much more loving and helpful way.
It seriously disturbs me how I can look back at every single one of these old photos and immediately know exactly what I weighed at that time, what particular method I had been using to abuse my body, what diet I was on (or off), and mainly how I felt about myself when that photo had been taken.
I don’t remember the great times I had, the things people said to me, the hysterical belly laughs I had, or the fun, exciting memories. I mean – I do. But those memories are all overshadowed by how I felt. I should have been having the time of my life and loving every second of it. All the parties, the photoshoots, the events. But instead, I was consumed with self loathing. What a sad waste. I will never get that time back.
How I really felt when these 6 pictures were taken.
Top left – when I bought this dress it didn’t fit me, so I legit did not eat for 3 whole days to get the zip up.
Top middle – I had been bingeing and emotional eating a lot in the run up to this event, and had a huge anxiety meltdown about leaving the house this night. It’s a miracle I even made it out.
Top right – Calendar shoot. I don’t remember the excitement of doing this photo shoot, but I do remember extreme dread and panic, and how self conscious I felt. Also this photo is definitely NOT how I looked on the day – this is extreme airbrushing and photo shopping. The fact I was going to be on a calendar, and in a swimsuit – had caused me to have a total meltdown.
Bottom left – I was not healthy here at all, I was purging 3 times a day, and addicted to wearing one of those vibrating ab belts. So obsessed I had even brought my scales in my suitcase to Ibiza. These photos were sold to the Daily Mail and of course I went in and read each and every hurtful comment said about my imperfect body.
Bottom middle – Ryan had just come back from serving in Afghan for 5 months which meant I had been in complete self destruct mode. I felt like I couldn’t feel real joy from food until I knew he was home safe. I look at this photo now and I think I look completely vacant. At this point I couldn’t remember the last time I had eaten a proper meal. I was living on liquids and had lost my period.
Bottom right – this was actually when I had began my journey of recovery. I was much happier in my life, was eating healthily but still tracking everything I ate. I was however, bingeing a lot less, and starting to try to actually accept myself. I had to really work myself up to wear this dress because it was so revealing.
How deeply depressing and self absorbed.
I showed these photos to my friend when I told her about this article I was writing, and she said that when she looks at these old photos of me, she doesn’t connect them with the Mel she knows today. “The Mel I know smiles with her eyes, and looks happy. In all these old photos you’re smiling, but in your eyes you look shit-scared or just really self conscious and uncomfortable.”
If you can relate to this, then I’m sure you too can look back at photos from a big family event, whether it’s Christmas or even a Wedding, and remember how you felt in your body.
Does it tarnish the happy memory the photo was supposed to be capturing?
Do you look at photos of happy memories and cringe instead of reliving it and feeling joy?
Photo credit Caroline White
Here’s my best 4 steps of advice to you if you relate:
1. Look at you as a WHOLE person. You are so used to picking yourself and your features apart, you have no idea how beautiful you are as a whole person.
2. Remember YOU ARE NOT YOUR BODY. When did we become a nation of women who judged and critiqued ourselves purely on appearance?! Think about the people you love most in your life. I’m sure you think they are absolutely fricking gorgeous to you. Is it about their looks though? Do you care what shape their body, is or if they have a crooked smile in a photo, or if they have a belly podge? I’ll bet it doesn’t even cross your mind for a second. You are so much more than just your body. You are a unique, beautiful human, with so much to give in this lifetime. So much more than just the way your outer shell appears in one photo.
3. Take fewer photos of yourself. Be more present instead. I used to take a gazillion photos every time I went on a night out, but I actually have noticed recently that I will have a MUCH better night if I’m not taking constant photos. Sure, I still take a few. But way less than I used to. I try now to capture more feelings and experiences in the photos I do take.
4. Be present with your friends. Relish the entire experience. Did you have an amazing night with your best girlfriends? Did you dance ’til 3am? Did someone say or do something that night that had you in fits of hysterical laughter? Did you experience something incredible? Did you have a really special, heartwarming moment with a family member? Did you catch up with someone you love who you hadn’t seen in forever?
Don’t let yourself look back next month or next year at these photos having completely forgotten the evening apart from how you were sucking in your belly all night.
Make a commitment to go to events this party season and JUST have fun.
Focus on the memory-making moments and don’t let yourself get caught up in how you think you look, or how you can hide from the camera.
Go back and look at your photos (I bet you’ve been avoided your tagged photos folder on Facebook) and find ones that make you cringe a little, or you’d normally skip over because you think your belly looks too big, and rewrite that story.
Think about how much fun you had, how great it was to see your friends or to be there making new ones!
Re-write the memory in a positive light.
Don’t lose out on those memories because you’re consumed with thoughts around your food or your weight.
Those beautiful, real experiences only come around once.