I hear these stories all the time, the kind that go something like:”I had an amazing time but then someone posted a photo on facebook and now I feel like all that joy is gone and all I feel is shame about the photo”.
Or that folks have tried taking self-portraits but “took one and hated what I saw and have avoided the camera ever since”.
And I so relate to them. I’ve been in each of those moments and I think a lot of us have.
I hear these storeis almost every week. I get tagged in posts in body positive facebook groups I’m in when folks share these stories (and thanks so those of you who share Be Your Own Beloved as a resource when folks are struggling with how they see themselves in photos). Almost every Body Positive memoir I’ve read (and I’ve read plenty of them) or body image experience I hear on my favourite Podcasts has a moment like this in the story of their body image journey where they saw a photo that sent them down too and it comes up in conversations regularly.
We see ourselves in critique in a photo and it feels like it stops us in our tracks as we feel shame for what we see.
But the challenge is, we stop there.
We hold that moment as a truth, as ‘proof’ of what our body looks like or how we feel about it. And, like in those books or experiences folks share on the podcasts I listen to, for many of us, it becomes a part of the story of how we see ourselves.
As though it was written in stone.
But here’s the thing. What is missing from this way of being with photos and in my opinion, is the missing piece in body image healing especially in relationship to photos is this: resilience.
It’s what has been at the heart of my own journey to heal how I see myself in photos too.
I had a story of what my body looked like too, written in stone, confirmed in my heart and mind as proof. In fact, the photo felt like proof of what my inner critic had been saying all along.
And in a way, it took hitting rock bottom with my self-worth that it changed. It took a point where it felt like there was no other choice but to try something other than self-hatred.
It took the tiniest whisper in me saying “Um…pardon me, but I don’t believe that your time on this earth was meant to be spent thinking your body is something you’re meant to hate and fight against. Could we at least try something different?”
And because I was at rock bottom, because I had listened to my inner critic for so long as though it was my guru, that voice felt like something I could at least try.
It felt like what Angela Davis said “Sometimes we have to do the work even though we don’t yet see a glimmer on the horizon that it’s actually going to be possible.”
I feel like that’s where resiliency resides in us. Not in the places where we can see that there is going to be anything different, where we actually have that photo that we can see ourselves differently in. Or that moment when we shift past the self-critique in relationship to that photo we just got tagged in on Facebook.
Instead it’s in the moment where we stand before self-critique and self-compassion and choose a direction. Even if we don’t believe it yet. Even if we don’t think it’s possible.
This is how I became photo resilient.
I started a conversation with the woman looking back at me in the photo, through the lens.
And listened deeply for a story that wasn’t rooted in self-critique.
Even though it didn’t feel possible yet.
And perhaps most importantly, continued the conversation even when it got tough.
That’s the pivotal part. That’s where we become photo resilient.
Not by getting it perfect the first time and never having a hard day with our self-image.
But by showing up again and again.
This is the work we’re doing in the upcoming Photo Resilience class running September 1-15th. I’m sharing the tools that I used during this time of healing how I saw myself (and continue to use to remain resilient).