Do I Really Look Like That?

This is a high level problem, for sure – nonetheless, one of the most difficult things in my life is seeing pictures of myself, especially when they’re published somewhere the whole world can see them.  It’s rare that I even minimally like a picture of myself – it doesn’t help that I’m a master at closing my eyes, even in cellphone photos. If I like any photos, they’re usually snapped when I have no idea it’s happening.

That said, I just reviewed twenty-three pictures from a “photo shoot” (the words send shivers up my spine) I had with Eva, my Joy Ride editor/publisher/Jill of all trades, a week ago. We’re looking for a photo to compliment a Facebook page I’m in the midst of launching to support the book. As I review each one, artfully re-fashioned by Eva, that little bugger with the big voice inside my head continually critiques: your hair is a mess, you have so many wrinkles, that outfit makes you look fat, your not smiling, on and on. The voice takes over and it’s hard to quiet it enough to allow for my more reasoned self to have a say. It’s a deep inner anxiety that rises up out of nowhere to shoot down even the most flattering photo, and it takes all the courage I can muster to challenge that shouting critic, look with an open heart and mind at the photos, and be even ‘just okay’ with how I look.

Thankfully, this gut wrench has lessened over the years as I’ve strengthened the friendly, compassionate voice that resides along side the bugger. But some part of me still wishes I looked different and still has to work to overcome the negativity. I’m not even sure how I want to look; it just seems like the bugger wants to pooh-pooh any and all looks. I like life in motion, animated and fluid. Photographs memorialize moments, capturing amazing moments we may have missed given the way our lives often seem to pass by so fast. Still photos give us the opportunity to remember all sorts of moments with all of our senses and with our hearts, as we open ourselves to seeing the whole of the scene that was captured. We can re-experience the motion and animation that surrounded the moment, and can feel the spectrum of emotion from sadness to joy to rage or surprise that was unfolding as the the shutter closed around the scene.

Looking at the photos Eva took last week, I’m remembering our outing, the day, the weather, and our playful bantering as we attended to the task of taking the photos.

I’ll share one of the photos and a quote from Pema Chodron that speaks to the battle that sometimes rages inside, as my little bugger and my more accepting self spar.

Compassionate action starts with seeing yourself when you start to make yourself right or when you start to make yourself wrong. At that point you could just contemplate the fact that there is a larger alternative to either of those, a more tender, shaky kind of place where you could live.