While I was writing the post Why I Love My Stretch Marks, a thought hit me while I was looking through old photos. I write so much about self-love, but I didn’t actually love a part of myself – my past self. The one that ate her emotions, felt she had no self-worth, and stayed on the sidelines of life because of how she looked. I had forgiven myself for that – my idea of forgiveness being that you don’t condone what a person did, but simply say that it won’t stay in the way of your happiness forever. So I had forgiven myself, but I didn’t love myself. I usually pretend like the old photos of me on Facebook don’t exist. I leave them there, tagged (for the most part), because I think it is a good exercise in letting go. It’s a practice in being the person honest enough to share all the good things and all the not so good things we think or see in ourselves.
But how do I love that old self? It is much easier to love myself now, knowing that the choices I make in life are moving me toward greater health, freedom, and courage to live openly and completely. When I look at old pictures, or even new pictures, my immediate reaction is to look for what is wrong, or what I don’t like. So, as an exercise in self-love, past and present, here are some of my most cringe-worthy photos, and what I used to look at immediately, and now what I am trying to look for in an effort to forgive, let go, and ultimately love.
Below is a college “party” celebrating the fact that my roommate didn’t have Lyme disease.
With the negative blinders on, all I can see is ROUND. Round face, round chin, round body. And poor food choices. Green jello and conventional whipped cream??? I didn’t know I had food allergies then, but still not the best choice. That I can let go of pretty easily. The way I look? The way I remembered how I felt during that first year of college? Harder to let go of.
Now when I look at the photo, I see a young person having fun. I’ve always thought my smile was my best feature, and that has always been a constant. Plus, I’ve got a little dimple action going on there, which is kind of cute.
Next up, probably my biggest issue when looking at pictures: fixating on my double chin. Some days it seems worse than others, and now that I’ve lost weight there is less flesh on my face, but it still gets me every time. Even today. It’s the first thing I zoom in on.
The self-love side: my sister looks gorgeous in this photo, and I’m happy to be spending time with her and proud to be her older sister. This was a summer where I lived with my grandmother, and I wouldn’t trade that time with her for anything in the world. I think I’ve got a pretty nice tan going on here too. I still don’t like the photo, but there is a softening towards my feelings for it.
And these get harder to share as we move from what I consider bad to worse…Elephant face! Trying to inject a little humor into my situation, I don’t care so much about my cheeks as the slouchy posture and general awkwardness of this photo. It’s still a little funny, but not the first thing I’d want to put up on a dating website, for example.
From a place of self-love: It is a funny photo, and I dearly love my friend with whom I took this trip. We have a lot of awesome memories together, and I can look at this photo and remember what I good friend I am. Still not going on the dating website though. My shirt says cow, for heavens sake! Though to be fair, this is up on the internet for all to see, haha. Que cera!
One thing that helps me look at these photos is remembering the way I felt when some of them were taken. Normally, if I know someone is taking my photo or it feels very staged, I get self-conscious and I think that shows through in the picture. Take these two, for example:
Same outfit, same weight, and totally different feelings about it. The first one, my eye goes right to my middle. Yet again, my smile is nice. The second photo – I look at my face and remember what fun I had that day, cooking with my friends (and exploding a pan, though not for the first time!). I’m grateful for this photo, and my friend who took it, because of the beautiful, unguarded moment she memorialized for me. That is my grace when looking back on these photos and seeing only the negative: remembering the friends, the experiences, and the treasured memories, even when life seemed like more of a struggle than it does now.
A good illustration of that is how I have the courage to post this photo. My first thought is ACK! But when I come at it from a point of self-love, I remember how much fun my brother and I had on that trip to Germany, and again, I wouldn’t trade that time for anything in the world – not a skinnier body or better skin or more open eyes.
My brother is cute in this photo, and I really liked those earrings I was wearing. Actually, even my feelings from Sunday to now have softened around this photo. Everything is less jagged and more open – accepting even, on the good days. And most of my life has been good days. The sun was shining – I got to go to Germany, for pete’s sake! – and life is good. Life was good then too. I just have to remember to see it.
And some photos just make me laugh.