What will people think when we post a self-portrait?
Will they think we are narcissistic? Or self-obsessed?
Will they judge the way we look in the photo? Will they see something different than what I like about the photo?
Its enough to stop us from ever wanting to share photos of ourselves isn’t it!
But, stopping ourselves from sharing parts of ourselves (be it through a photo, or just by being ourselves) doesn’t serve us, does it.
In fact it puts the value in the hands of what other people think about us, rather than what we think about ourselves.
I know for most of my life, I handed that value right over to everyone else, and its so easy to do in a world that so regularly tells us what its expectations of our body, our gender, the way we present ourselves to the world should be.
It was a few years back now that I hit the wall with this. My body/spirit starting shouting at me that my well was empty. I knew that I needed to start figuring out how to value myself, and quick. I can’t tell you the process was pretty. It wasn’t at first, but it was what led me to start taking self-portraits, as for the first time in my life, I finally had a tool that gave me the control over how I saw myself.
I got to control how the picture was taken.
I got to make the process of taking it a space for me to explore feeling at home in my body and to be playful.
I got to delete ones that brought up other people’s voices about my worthiness and make room to take more that felt like they spoke with my own voice.
Yet, sometimes it happens. I’ll realize that the way someone else is seeing in one of my self-portraits might not be with the same kind eyes that I’ve been workings so hard to see myself with. So what if someone does see one of our self-portraits with a critical or judgemental eye?
I used to let this overwhelm me, but as I’ve been learning to nourish my own relationship to how I value myself, these judgements don’t have as much power anymore. In fact, it becomes easier each time to remember that the judgement isn’t actually a reflection of me, but of the person putting it out there and their relationship to themselves.
I wanted to share this photo alongside todays post, as it was one that at first I looked at and felt worried about about how others might see my arms. Yet, I’ve been working really hard to see my arms with compassion rather than criticism in my self-portrait journey and I loved so much about this image, including being able to see myself with kindness in it. Might it bring up someone else’s ideal of what the shape & size of someones arms should be to be ‘beautiful’ are? Maybe? But that is their relationship to their body that might be seeing my photo or body with criticism, not mine. Plus…when I saw this photo after taking it I though…we need more photos out their where women aren’t hiding the shape of their bare arms or only sharing them in ‘flattering’ ways and I don’t want fear of other people’s body standards to stop me from sharing it! So I did.
So, I thought I’d share a couple ways we can try to reclaim these moments where we get caught up in someone else’s evaluation of us over ourselves:
- Try to return to to how you felt before the judgement (or perceived judgement) happened. What do you love about the photo? How did it feel to take it? Sometimes someone else’s judgement can cloud our own perception and make us doubt our initial view of the photo, but the kindness you looked at yourself with is SO valuable and valid and worth finding your way back to (yes, even if it takes a few days to).
- Take more self-portraits! Yes, if you are feeling like you are standing in the muck of someone else’s perception of you…yet taking self-portraits lets you feel like you have a voice of your own value, return to it! Keep taking photos. Or if there are other creative acts you do that help you feel confident, worthy and value yourself…do them.
- I also like to recognize what feel like safe spaces to share self-portraits. Places like Instagram or Flickr feel like places where even if someone is judging my photo, I’d have no clue because people are just kind there. Places like Facebook might not feel as comfortable to many of us. We get to choose the way that we share our self-portrait journey and there are plenty of places that are a nurturing space for us to share our photos. In a post called ‘The Importance of Community & Self-Portraiture’ I shared a bit more about how sharing our photos, feeling supported and encouraged can actually be healing to us, to reclaim feeling empowered in sharing our photos through doing it in a space where people are on the same page as us!
I hope that your experience of sharing your self-portraits online has been supportive but if it hasn’t, please don’t let it stop you. There is community out there that are beautifully supportive and by taking and yes, even sharing our photos is a way for us claim space and honour that our story is worth being told.
Its okay to not share our photos too, but we can decide that out of a place of value & intuition…rather than fear.
As well, I know its super hard sometimes to step out of that muck & mess that a judgement can make you feel, but it is not a truth about you, just someones reflection of their own relationship to their body imposed on you.
You get to define your own worth.
You get to choose love.
P.S…If you’ve love some support in finding your voice, your value, your self-compassion with self-portraiture as a tool for this…come join me for Beloved Beginnings (starting next Monday, March 10th) or the much loved class Be Your Own Beloved (which starts April 1st)! We always have a truly supportive community and non-judgemental energy as we share our photos in class and that ends up being an unexpectedly nourishing element of the journey for so many participants. As well, I’d be truly honoured to get to be a support for you on your path to self-compassion.