“To accept ourselves as we are means to value our imperfections as much as our perfections.” – Sandra Bierig
I have a mole on my forehead; it’s been there my whole life. I barely have an upper lip. My ears are lopsided and I have a few dark spots on my cheeks from too much time in the sun.
Many years ago, I decided that I hated having my picture taken. The aforementioned imperfections are partially to blame. More specifically, I decided that there were a few select poses that were acceptable for when I could not avoid a picture-taking scenario: Stand on the left side, head tilted slightly down, hair tousled just so.
Any picture that exists of me on social media looks exactly the same, no matter the occasion. Each experience elicits the same response, and they are all manufactured in such a way that I don’t notice the things about me I dislike the most. Mission accomplished, I’ll think.
I’ve perfected this pose. So much so that those closest to me know to expect it. They roll their eyes and laugh as they submit to my request and I don’t even bat an eye or wonder if they are tiring of it because this is something that has become engrained in me.
I don’t consider myself to be a materialistic person. I always shop for sales and more often than not prefer to be in yoga pants and running shoes than skinny jeans and high heels. I wear minimal makeup and tell myself I am too laid back for jewelry and manicures. I hide behind these facts as if they make me immune to the insecurities that plague my picture-taking habits; as if they make me above it all.
I am not above it all. By now you are thinking these are the musings of a teenager, but I will be 30 in a few weeks. I’ve heard that this is the decade where these obsessions will subside and I will realize the woman I am meant to be and accept the woman I am.
I am close enough to this milestone to know that this is not a change that will happen when I wake up on my birthday. I will not forget that somewhere along the way a picture was drawn in my head of what I’m supposed to look like that I could not shake. I will have to create that change and move towards acceptance on my own.
I recently took a selfie. This is not big news if you are a reality TV star or a teenager from anywhere. It’s not big news at all, I know. Anyone with a smart phone can apply that extra coat of mascara and find that perfect filter to apply, then upload and wait for the stream of positive affirmation.
I took mine in the morning and I didn’t brush my hair and I didn’t angle my face to the left. It isn’t for anyone but me. I want to remember the moment I decided to look at myself for who I really am and not who I wish I was.
I didn’t love the picture immediately. I gravitated first toward the imperfections and felt a pit in my stomach thinking about what others might think if ever they saw it. What if my true self becomes known?
But the truth is, we all only get to take a certain amount of pictures in our lifetime. For me, I thought about how unique all of my experiences have been and how varied my emotions are. I want to smile big, and cry laughing, or close my eyes and smell the summer rain and not worry about who is watching. No two experiences warrant the same formulaic expression, and I’ve remembered that as I’ve learned to embrace who I am.
I am someone with a mole on my forehead, a small upper lip, lopsided ears, and sunspots on my cheeks, but I am someone who is so much more than that. I am brave, and scared, and wildly complex, as we all are, and we should all remember that as we decide whether or not to spend too much time wondering if we look alright in a photograph. We should all remember that as we learn to love ourselves.
Photo by Susanne Nilsson