I found myself slipping into old habits this week – namely negative self talk about my appearance. It all started from our trip to the winery in Hunter Valley. I had an amazing day, but when I looked back on photos I hated how I looked.
I had liked my outfit when I tried it on in the morning. I felt casual but still like I had dressed up a little, but then I saw the photos and hated myself. I felt like I looked so top heavy and like I was about to topple over. I thought the polo neck made my face look rounder. I thought my skirt looked too short. I thought that my arms looked doughy and pasty. Despite feeling good on the day, there wasn’t a single thing I liked about myself when I saw the photos.
I sat with my negative thoughts for a while, trashing myself and how I looked. I questioned if I had let myself go, why Jack would want to be with me, how could I wear a bikini in summer if that’s what I looked like in clothes – my mind went to some really dark places, places it hadn’t gone to for a very long time.
Then I remembered something I had seen a while ago on Instagram, about how a person was at a beautiful location and tried to take a photo of it but the photo just didn’t do it justice. They tried different angles, but the photo never matched what they saw. The colours didn’t look right, the image looked flat and it just didn’t capture the place. It made it look less beautiful than it was. The person wrote that if we can accept that sometimes photos of scenery aren’t always accurate, then why can’t we accept it of ourselves?
People say the camera doesn’t lie, but sometimes it seems like it does. There’s an old saying that the camera adds ten pounds, for starters. I have seen photos of people and not recognised that it is them in the picture. I have seen the difference that lighting and camera angles can make to an image. I have taken selfies before going out, then looked in a mirror and felt like they represent two entirely different people. Maybe my outfit didn’t look as good as I felt in it, but did that really mean that I had to talk to myself so negatively and fill myself with so much self hatred? What was there to achieve by doing that?
Even though I write about body positivity, I am not immune to feeling self conscious or low in myself. It’s taken years to get to a point where I feel more comfortable in myself which is great but it also means that I can fall back into habits of telling myself I need to look a certain way easily because they are habit. If I try on a few outfits and don’t like any of them, I will lie on my bed and say I don’t want to go out anymore. I will take a stream of selfies until I find one that I like. I will compare myself to others. I know I’m not the only one who does these things. I even have friends who won’t let themselves be tagged in certain photos or take your phone and go through your photos to delete ones of themselves that they don’t love. It’s sad that we let photos overshadow and impact our perception of ourselves and the memories made. The Hunter Valley was a great day out for me, but for a while it was tainted by my self confidence issues.
I guess the point of this article is to not take things too seriously. In the age of Instagram where we have to show perfect, polished versions of ourselves at all times, an unflattering outfit or a bad photo isn’t the end of the world. I don’t want to look back at photos from that day and think ‘if only I’d have dressed differently’ – I want to remember the unique experience I enjoyed with new people.
We view our life through a lens. I can’t count how many bars or venues I have been to that have something like a flower wall because it will look good in Instagram. Most businesses ask you to photograph their products and use a unique hashtag to identity them. We have been programmed to look at life as if we are taking a snapshot of it for social media, which means that unfortunately we look at ourselves in the same way.
But we are more than a photo. We are more than the right angle or good lighting. A sunset photo never looks as good as the real thing. The next time I see myself in a photo that I hate, that’s what I want to tell myself.