I’ve never been one to delete bad photos of myself. My Dad died just at the cusp of the era where we all ended up with great cameras on our phones so I don’t have anywhere near as many pictures of him as I’d like. THANK ALL THAT IS HOLY that he was such a selfie-taker (before “selfie” was even a word) because we found a shit ton of pictures of him on the memory cards from his camera that he took when he traveled for work. It would be like 50 pictures of an installation site and then one selfie of him by Niagara Falls or something like that. I CHERISH THOSE PHOTOS.
I assume – maybe incorrectly – that some day my kids will cherish photos of me and us. I know they won’t notice my sagging chin or my belly or my big nose. They won’t care about the frizz or the wrinkles. If my feelings towards photos of my Dad are any indication, they’ll just be happy to see a face they miss.
So I’ve never been one to delete photos.
Now…it’s not like I’ve always loved every photo of me. As a matter of fact, there have been times when I’ve judged myself quite brutally in photos. I’ve said things to the girl in the pictures that I would be VERY ASHAMED to ever say to any other human ever.
However, one subtle change I’ve noticed lately is that I don’t judge photos harshly anymore. I mean, there’s still often a very quick and short-lived ugly critique like, “Ugg…I used to be so much skinnier,” or “Ugg…what happened to my profile? It’s so old!” but those responses don’t linger long and I have honestly been able to post photos of myself in all sorts of unflattering settings if they represent a bigger event or picture that I want to share.
I heard something the other day that I’ve been mulling over. Maybe the goal isn’t to learn to love our bodies and to do learn how to dress them so we feel confident. Maybe the goal isn’t to combat terrible media brainwashing that convinces us that skinny and young is the only “pretty.” Maybe the end goal would actually be to have ZERO thoughts about our appearance.
I mean, obviously how I’ve been defining beauty lately there’s a lot of non-physical components. Someone can be physically beautiful no matter their appearance if they radiate love and light. But we still tie ourselves up to the idea of SEEING BEAUTY in ourselves and maybe there’s an even bigger goal of simply: BEING HAPPY regardless if our clothes fit right or if our hair cut is cute.
I just know I’ve been thinking a lot about how much better I like this body now that I’ve built up a better wardrobe for it. I’m still short on summer stuff, but I established a decent winter wardrobe that made me learn to love this body because things fit better and I was buying things that flattered this new shape. And this is 100% a great step because if you FEEL good about your body because you’ve dressed it in a flattering manner, you will feel more happy.
I bought a crop top recently – and granted I was wearing it with high-waisted skinny jeans – but I felt GREAT in that outfit. Everything was 2-4 sizes bigger than I used to wear but it flattered my boobs and my butt and even though my hair was a frizzy mess I posted a picture of the outfit with pride thinking: Damn. I look good.
But what if I could wear an unflattering outfit of sweatpants and baggy hoodies – That’s the WORST shape on me because I have great curves and covering them in big and baggy top and bottom pieces does me NO favors – and still feel confident and proud and joyful? What if I could evaluate my happiness and my confidence without even considering my physical appearance?
I mean, this is not a realistic experiment because I just like clothes – even yoga clothes – so me intentionally dressing in unflattering things would dampen my excitement about walking the world. Just like if you love makeup or hair, it would affect your “joy” level to be without a good styling; not because you’re obsessed with your appearance, but because you just like putting on makeup.
But it’s an interesting thought experiment…to consider how our levels of joy and fulfillment would change if we intentionally tried to look as terrible as we could. Wouldn’t it be nice to feel as confident and happy in our least favorite outfit as we do our favorite outfit?
I’m not going to shame myself for preferring flattering clothes at all, it’s just an interesting thing to remind myself. That the end goal would still be to find joy and pride and love of self even if my entire wardrobe was stolen today and I had to walk the world in the plastic bag. It would be wonderful to find peace and joy in any outfit or any hairstyle.
I’m not going to stress out about that too much…For now I’m going to celebrate learning to dress this body so that it can still be active (it’s amazing how much easier it is to do yoga in high-waisted yoga tights) and I can feel good about myself most of the days. But I do want a part of my brain to always consider the fact that the end goal would be to be content – or even joyful – covered in green warts and wearing burlap sacks for clothes.