On the night I went looking for photographs, I knew something had to change. I needed a few photos of me with my two young daughters for a video I was creating. So I sat in the blue glow of the computer screen, scrolling through files and folders, looking down deeper and deeper to find photos I was certain were there. Where had they all gone? I wondered. Where were all the photos of us together? The sad truth dropped like a weight in my gut: The photos were never taken.
Among the thousands of photographs I had snapped over the years, I found only a handful of me with my daughters.
At first, I blamed the lack of mother-daughter footage on the fact that I’m usually the one behind the camera. But that’s only partially true. The bigger truth is this: I have not wanted to be photographed.
At the computer, I copied and pasted those precious few photographs into one file folder—like a little treasure box that held rare jewels. The lump in my throat tasted like regret. I would never be able to rewind those years and snap the photos I’d missed.
I grieved the Christmas mornings when I, with mussed hair, scooted out of the shot that my husband was framing up. I grieved the pictures-that-never-were from summer afternoons, when I believed I was too pasty-skinned and “too fat.”
Oh, I wouldn’t have dared utter those words out loud, because I have never wanted my girls to hear their mother complain about her looks or weight.
No, I hadn’t spoken my insecurities aloud. But what had they read between the lines of my not-so-subtle escapes from photo shoots? And someday, when they grew older and wanted to find photos with their mom, they’d wonder, “Where have all the photos gone?”
Looking back, I have always hated the way I looked in pictures. I’m not even smiling in my senior pictures, because I had braces on.
As I grew older, I always figured the photos could wait until another day, after I lost 10 pounds, toned my upper arms, had a zit-free chin. But here’s the deal: even 43-year-old women get pimples. And while waiting for some elusive better-hair-day, I missed photo after photo.
Even in the best photos, I found flaws—for instance, the fact that one of my eyes is bigger than the other.
That night at the computer screen, I saw how scandalously critical I’d been about myself, and how I’d missed the opportunity to capture unrepeatable moments with my girls.
I realized that I had often seen myself as a series of ugly pieces, rather than as a whole woman, beautifully fashioned by an inventive God. The truth rises up against those spurious self-accusations in places like Psalm 45:11. “The King is enthralled by your beauty.” Enthralled!
So I vowed a better way, to see myself whole. I said it like a pledge, and sometimes I have to repeat it: I am lovely and brave and crooked and banged-up and beautiful, and, yes, rounder than I used to be. I am wrinkly and stray-grayed and goofy-smiley and courageous and scarred and gutsy enough to make babies. I am a wonder and a miracle, and my scars are part of my story. I am not a series of bad parts; I am whole.
How do you feel about pictures of yourself? Have you avoided the camera for years? Can you dare to love your selfie?