What To Do When You See A Picture of Yourself You Don’t Like

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When I decided to start writing a book (the first time) I scoured the internet for the “how to.” I thought that surely there were some secret steps to writing a book that all successful authors had figured out and all I had to do was keep Googling until I found them. It turns out that every author in every interview and blog post and article and meme is saying the same thing – Put your butt in a chair and write. That’s it! That’s the secret. The how to. I finally accepted that there is no secret formula to writing a book, just a lot of hard work and words, and putting my butt in a chair, and forming habits and practicing doing the same thing over and over again until it becomes natural and a part of me.

Loving myself has gone much the same way. A lot of hard work and words, and forming habits and practicing the same thing over and over again until it becomes natural and a part of me. A couple posts ago I shared about my habit and practice of looking at my naked self in the mirror and telling my body that it is beautiful and I love it. Have you tried it?

Yesterday my friend posted a bunch of beautiful pictures from her wedding day. I loved looking through them. It was a chance to relive such a happy day! But while looking through them I had to do the hard work of looking at pictures of myself that I wasn’t particularly fond of. I may not be able to unlock the secrets to writing a book without having to do any hard work, but I can unlock some secrets to loving yourself just as you are right now. First, tell your body you love it and it’s beautiful. Second, when you see a picture of yourself you don’t like, follow these steps!

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1. Remember what is true. The first thing I force myself to think when I see myself in a picture and I don’t like the way I look is this: “Suzanne, that is what you actually looked like in that moment. And guess what? Everyone in your life – except for the Facebook book club gals – knows what you actually look like and they still like you and love you and want to spend time with you and take pictures with you.”

Think of all of the people in your life who love you and like you and spend time with you and take pictures with you. They see you every day all the time live and in person in 3D from every angle and they still like you.

2. Remember what matters. After remembering what is true I ask myself this question: “What was happening in the moment this picture was taken and is it more important than what I look like?”

For example, in the picture above I was watching my best friend marry her best guy. We were standing in front of a monastery in the mountains and it was a beautiful picture of God’s love and faithfulness and I was so happy and grateful to witness it. All of those things are more important than what I look like. Right? Celebrating your friend’s birthday or spending time with family or visiting a new city or getting a new car or going out to dinner or whatever it is you’re taking a picture of – that event and that memory and that relationship, all of the things that picture represents, are more important than how you look.

3. Check yourself. The last question I ask before moving on from that picture I don’t particularly care for is a two-parter: “What do you not like about yourself in this picture? Are you willing and able to change those aspects of yourself?”

In the picture above the first thing I noticed in a bad way is my hair. I don’t like it like that. It looks fake and frizzy. That is absolutely something I can change but not curling my hair like that in the future. Easy peasy. Onward we go.

The next thing I notice is my nose. I don’t generally have a lot of feelings about my nose but I think in profile it’s a little pig-like, and I don’t like it in this picture. But I am not able to change my nose (or at least not willing to get a nose job), so I must be willing and able to love and accept my nose (from all angles!).

I feel like I should mention my double chin here, but I actually kind of had to hunt for it in this photo, and I think double chins are kind of cute, and also #doublechinforthewin – it rhymes ’cause it’s true. So we’re good there. I love your double chin so you can, too!

The last thing I notice is, of course, my belly, which just a couple days ago I was praising. But it seems easier most of the time to love myself when I’m home alone with nobody next to me to compare myself to. Which makes me think of that quote about flowers not worrying about who’s next to them and just blooming. And also brings us back to the “willing and able” to change question. Am I able to change my belly? Absolutely. Diet and exercise. There are pretty proven methods, here. Am I willing to change my belly? No, I am not, because I enjoy food and it makes me happy and I’m not ready to dive into the psychology behind that. Also, I think it’s more important for me to be a fat and happy girl in the world being herself out loud than it is for me to be a fat girl who wants to be skinny. (Please notice the “FOR ME”  because everyone’s story and purpose are different. You bloom, baby.)

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Now, after having processed through these three steps, I am free to move on to other things in my life! Like surprising a friend with a birthday pizza and watching high schoolers decorate each other like Christmas trees. You know, typical stuff. And I am free to remember how great that day was without making it all about how I look in one picture. Now, the more I look at this picture, the more I like it! Because I am focusing on what’s true and important, rather than what’s only in my mind and doesn’t matter.

The person I want to be doesn’t care what she looks like in pictures. So I take steps toward becoming that person. What are some practical steps you are taking to become the person you want to be?

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