The Girl In The Selfie

Yesterday was a token “busy day” where I had three obligations packed back-to-back-to-back. I don’t allow these days to happen as much anymore, to preserve my own sanity, but sometimes you just can’t avoid them. Long run (18 miles) followed by Track Club picnic/meeting followed by family dinner at our house. I had a moment to sit down and open a beer as dinner cooked and everyone was in their own zones of media enjoyment around the house and I thought, I’m taking a picture of myself and my beer to celebrate wrapping up an insane day.

When I opened the camera I was in a terribly lit spot in the kitchen and when I saw myself on the screen I thought, Ugg. That is terrible. I tried to turn to a better angle but because I was sitting on the kitchen island (What?) my options were limited and every direction I turned I was…to put it honestly for you…repulsed by myself.

God. My skin is so red. Did I get sunburned even though I had on sunscreen and wasn’t in the sun? Is this just the general Zoot flush that I hate so much? Why does my nose look so big. Jeezus. Is that another wrinkle? I really should wear makeup sometimes. I’m so terribly shiny and oily. I’m hideous. I can see all 18lbs of weight I’ve gain since January stacked in my ugly fat face…

I’m thinking these terrible things about myself as I’m twisting around for better lighting (Maybe different lighting will make me presentable…) and getting frustrated and then even more upset that I couldn’t even find light that would make me like my face in the slightest bit and then I kinda just caught my own eyes and for a split moment I didn’t see the hideous blotchy skin or big nose or vein in my forehead. For a split moment I saw a 41-year old woman who ran 18 miles that morning with a friend, then hung out with one of her favorite communities of which she works hard as a volunteer, and then bought groceries and came home to clean and cook for her extended family.

But in that moment, I stopped insulting the woman looking back at me from the phone. And it hit me that I was insulting her in a way I have never insulted anyone no matter HOW much I hated them. I saw her face and I replayed the last 10 seconds of insults I had been spewing in her direction and I just felt terrible for her. How could I talk to her like that?

And suddenly I found myself thinking of her like I think of the other women I love in my life. My friends, my coworkers, my family, and most importantly: My daughter. I thought about what I would do if I heard someone talking to any of them like I was talking to the woman on the screen in front of me. And my heart crumbled. If I ever heard someone telling my daughter she was ugly, or being disgusted at my friend’s wrinkles, or meanly commenting on my family member’s weight gain – If I heard anyone talking to any of the women I loved like I had just been talking to the girl in the screen – I would be outraged. I would stop them harshly and yell at them for talking to this beautiful woman like that. I would profess my own adoration for that women – be she friend or family – and I would send the hateful person away because NO ONE deserves that kind of talk, but most especially not someone I love.

And I started crying.

img_7217Because I felt terrible. I looked back at the woman in front of me, now with a face contorted in tears, and I apologized to her. I commended her for all of the amazing things she does every day. I told her she was beautiful and it had nothing to do with her skin or her body, it was because of the love she had in her heart that shined through in all of her actions. The beauty was because of her capacity for empathy and compassion. The beauty was because of her intellect and wisdom. The beauty was because of her caring. I told her she glowed with the love she had for the people in her life and she should be lauded for the positive energy she puts in the world. I told her she had beautiful eyes and that nothing else mattered. Not her skin tone or her wrinkles or her weight gain. None of it mattered because her beauty spilled out from a place beyond the wrinkles in her face or the vein in her forehead. The beauty came from her soul. And no camera could capture that, no matter how great the lighting.

24 thoughts on “The Girl In The Selfie”

  1. Your words made an image worth a thousand pictures. Let us all be as kind with our selves as we are with others.

  2. It is so hard to be as kind to ourselves as we are to others, isn’t it? Last summer after I was laid off, again, I had to fight to be kind to myself about not getting right out there for the job search, but taking time to recover first. I reminded myself that if the positions were reversed, I would never be so mean to a friend and tell her to get over it and get moving. It’s something I often have to remind myself of.

  3. You are truly beautiful inside and out. I hope that I can remember this post when I start getting down on my own self.

  4. You are such a beautiful and amazing woman, inside and out! I’m so glad I got to run 18 miles with you yesterday! I admire how well you juggle work, kids, running, & volunteering. I wish I could figure out how to volunteer more, but can’t seem to fit it into my life with my work, kids, & running. You are an amazing woman that I am so happy to have in my life! P.S. I have a hard time with my own face in selfies too. That’s why I don’t take very many.

  5. One of my favorites:
    “A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.” Robert Dahl

    You are beautiful inside and out. I have watched you become more beautiful each time I see in the years I have known you.
    There’s another quote I like… Something like her beauty can only be captured in movement. One camera click cannot capture your beauty. You are too multilayered beautiful for that.

  6. I’m a long time reader and could not let your post go by without a comment.
    You perfectly described how I talk to myself every time someone wants to take a photo of me, a 62+ year old gram. Maybe I can begin to see myself differently and be a bit kinder to myself.
    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for one of the best pieces you’ve ever written – at least in my eyes.
    And just so you know – you are beautiful – both inside and out.

  7. I appreciate your vulnerability and can so relate. Thank you for showing us an example of how we should all speak to ourselves.

  8. I’m a long long time reader and this post just made me come out of lurkdom to say: You are a beautiful, kind and wonderful woman and mother. I totally understand what you mean about the self hate and bad talking to yourself and this post just made me cry as well. You’re wonderful and don’t you forget it!

  9. In my feed, I saw the picture initially, and my very first thought was, I so totally see Wes!
    And after reading your post it really hit home, all this about how we self-talk. Everyone says I look just like my mom, and I recently realized that hearing her self-talk so negatively has adversely affected me and my view of myself. However, it never occurred to me that MY daughter (at just-turned-four) would see herself as a reflection of me (she actually looks very much like her dad), and project my poor self-talk onto herself too!
    Your post has been a timely reminder. Thank you!

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