Updated: Jun 16
When I hear people saying they hate having their photograph taken, I feel a deep ache for all of us.
Because the truth is that underneath the words, is the thinly veiled whisper “I don't like how I look.” - which is what so many of us are taught to think. I don't think people hear how brutal it is when they talk about themselves in this way.
So often hear people say, “Oh I would never say this kind of thing to other people” - because we know that it's unkind. But when we view our own photographs, we think we're just relaying facts, some arbitrary beauty metre which has let us know we have fallen into Not-Good-Enough-Ville. We think we are repeating what other people see when they look at us, rather than our own view shaped by our own life experiences and our own stories about ourselves.
When I hear people say “I hate how I look in photographs”, what I suspect they're really telling themselves is that they would like themselves more if they conform to more socially acceptable beauty standards. My work is in trying to find a place where we can treat our bodies with more compassion, and that absolutely has to begin with how we see ourselves.
And frankly, much as you say you would never speak to another the way you speak to yourself, you ARE othering people. When I hear people talk about themselves as “fat” as a pejorative, I know that they have a thought which is that one of the worst things they could conceive of being, is someone like me. I am not saying that to shame people, but I want you to know it is not missed. And it does matter. If your inclusivity politics happen to only be ok for other people, but you’re only allowed to be within a very small margin of genetic markers – you’re not creating particularly safe spaces for folk around you who do not fit within those lines.
Being body positive has ALMOST become fashionable for a few short seconds, but it never quite made it to the way many people talk about themselves. And that means it is not creating change yet. Until people see they cannot applaud Lizzo and then make some self-deprecating comment about their own cellulite without undermining the message, we’re missing the point.
How you talk to yourself matters.
It matters for you. It matters to the people who hear you, and it matters because these narratives shape our norms.
So the next time you find yourself wanting to delete a picture because you think it makes you look a particular way, try and pause and think about all those people who have the attribute you have just wanted to erase. What is the next move you could make to help those people feel more cherished and welcome in any room they walk in?
What is the next thing you could do to make yourself feel more cherished in rooms you walk in?
What if more of us felt welcome?
You have a role to play in this, and my darling, so does your cellulite, every one of your chins, and if you are lucky enough to live long enough, your wrinkly, crinkly face.
Compassion begins at home, folks. Let’s try and be a bit less filtered.