It’s been one of those minor “social should do’s” that I’ve been putting off: updating my Facebook profile photo. I’m one of those people who throws some kind of picture in there then forgets about it for months. On the list of priorities in my life, it falls way down at the bottom. However I realized the other day that my pic currently identifying me as me, was taken months ago during vacation, from a distance so you can barely tell it is me. I just liked the surroundings in the photo. So there it was.
I don’t feel comfortable taking selfies. Unless I’m with other people, then I’m the obnoxious one wanting to forever preserve the memory of being together with loved ones. Just ask my family and my close friends, I’m all about the group selfie. But a photo I take of just me, myself and I? That just feels weird. And I never like the results. I see young women posing for themselves frequently, click after click – I’m sure looking adorable – for images that quickly end up on Insta, SnapChat, you name it. And I see other women on FB posting updated pics of themselves fairly regularly. For me, I just feel awkward.
This weekend, at the end of a fun day with loved ones, I happened to be on a beach (one of my most favorite places in the world to be, no matter where that beach may be), and I figured what the heck, I’ll take a quick selfie because I have a great background. Since it was bright out, I really couldn’t see myself, so I took just one photo and moved on. Later, when I could better see the screen, I checked out the photo and like every R.W., my eye immediately picked out all the flaws and imperfections. My hair was wild and all over the place from the wind, my makeup had melted off during a hot sweaty day, my teeth are not white enough, one eye was open more than the other giving me a lopsided look, and the way I was holding my head gave me double chins. One quick look and I was all “eww, nope.”
In scrolling through other’s profile photos, I’ve noticed that they are either of something representing the person, like a flower or pet because they likely hate to have photos of themselves taken, OR they have posted nearly-perfect photos when they look great. A lot seem to be taken in cars, I think because the lighting is flattering. Our profile photos have become modern day modeling mug shots. We naturally want to look beautiful and attractive and, well, as perfect as we can be. Since we have the ability to take 20 photos within 10 seconds, then instantly review, edit, or delete, we can pick and chose until we have the best of the lot to share. Gone of course are the days of film when you had one shot, and waited a week to see it.
The next morning, I was swiping through photos I’d taken and came across my beach selfie again. When the natural inclination to be critical started up again, I stopped and scolded myself. Here I am, the woman who writes a blog about embracing our realities, being proud of our real selves and our real lives, and I didn’t want to use a photo that, when I looked at it with a fresh eye, was exactly that: the real me. This is who I am, and who I was that day: slightly disheveled, windblown, and… happy. My smile was real. I’d had a great day. I was not looking like a model. I was looking like a mom who’d had a rare day off to play.
I thought about how odd it is that we are so hesitant to post photos of our real selves, as most of the rest of the world really sees us. News flash: most of the rest of the world never sees us right after we step out of the hair salon. Most of the rest of the world does not see us in those first 15 minutes after we’ve done our hair, makeup, put on a great outfit and prepared to start our day, or our night out. People see us after we’ve already been out and about. People see us during and after a long day of work, or during a sweaty workout, or in a rush in our yoga pants and no makeup running through the grocery store. Our loved ones see us first thing in the morning, last thing at night, and when we are hanging out, talking, laughing, crying, eating, shopping, hiking – experiencing life – when we’ve forgotten to even care how we look. The real us is who everyone else sees, and who everyone else finds to be beautiful and amazing. With or without makeup and special lighting.
And so I uploaded my photo to my profile. Yes, at some point, if I suddenly take, or find, a photo of me that is more flattering, I’ll no doubt replace it. But for now, I feel like I’m trying to take a bit of my own medicine and celebrate the real me – flaws and all.
Here’s the funny thing. My husband said to me “I’m surprised you posted that photo. You are usually so concerned about how your hair looks. I mean, I think it is a good photo, I’m just surprised.” I had 35 likes on the photo, and one “pretty woman” comment from a friend. Were they all just being kind? Probably…hitting that thumbs up is just something we all do. OR, they looked at it and saw me, not my flaws, and understood I was happily in beach mode. That’s all. No deeper analysis than that.
I wish we R.W.’s were more comfortable with how we look on our real days, and could finally learn to be less critical and be more accepting of photos of ourselves. To be comfortable in front of the camera. After all, some day, when we’ve left this physical earth, there will be people in our lives who want photos of us as memories. Some of my very favorite photos of my mother are not the posed and pretty ones – they are the mom I remember and love, climbing rocks on the coast of Maine, working in the kitchen, hiking and bird watching, and being silly during holidays. The key I believe is for us to realize and remember that photos of ourselves are not about the pretty face. They are about the person inside and the experience of what was happening at the time of that “click.”
So please, be brave and join me. Share photos of the real you. It’s time to celebrate how others really see us – imperfect and fabulous.