I don’t have to think back too long in my life to recall those uneasy moments of posing for pictures. My wedding aside, I am referring to the family photos taken by that aunt who got a tripod for Christmas and just had to bring it along to the holiday party. Or the group shots with friends while everyone is out to dinner. There’s always the same scramble to arrange yourself just so, hold the perfect smile and try not to be the one caught mid blink. While those concerns were present in my mind, my real goal was to be the “floating head”. Overweight and obese people will know what I mean.
Seeing how these family holiday and “special moments” pictures tend to circulate around online and will inevitably outlive us, we think perhaps if our entire body is hidden we won’t have to recall exactly how large we looked. Of course I don’t speak for all overweight individuals, but I know I am not alone in how I used to feel on this topic.
I specifically remember a time when me and a close friend were posing for a photo. I kept trying to keep my left arm and left side of my body behind her , forcing her to be slightly closer to the camera than me in hopes that I might appear smaller. Yeah, that didn’t work. Neither did telling myself that it was just a bad angle. If I couldn’t be the person furthest from the lens then I would go with the classic crossed arms pose, trying my best to hide as much of my body as I could.
I’ve used the trusty pillow method numerous times. My stomach always seemed to expand more when I would be sitting so I would frantically reach for the nearest pillow to hug just in time for the picture to be snapped.
Despite any compliments I would receive on my smile or how I looked, when I would view photos of myself I could actually SEE the sadness in my eyes through the smile that everyone said was so pretty. The self loathing thoughts that would go through my mind as the camera flashed would shock you.
The amount of stress involved in such a simple act as taking a picture is incredible. So looking at past photos used to be a reminder of every bad thought I had about myself.
Before the existence of FaceBook and the like, these photos would stay on the down low. You might find them on a Christmas card or a copy might be given to you by the friend that took them, but it would eventually end up in a box or photo album never to be seen again. Now they are plastered all over other peoples social media pages and you get the honor of being “tagged” in them. These unflattering pictures can be found at the click of a mouse – along with the memories and feelings associated with them.
As you might guess, my hatred of cameras started around the same time as my weight gain. Fancy that! Prior to my fear of photos, I was quite the “ham” when it came to picture taking. My mother – who I remind constantly of how lucky she is that I’m an only child because there’s no way she could keep up the level of photo taking and memento saving for any more than just one kid – saw to it that from birthdays to just Sunday afternoons, everything gets a photo.
As a young child I was happy to oblige. Once the idea of body image entered my world, all that changed. The photos of me in my teen years reflect someone with very poor self esteem and body image.
In the spirit of getting out of my comfort zone these days, I thought that I would add something out of the realm of food or physical activity to my ever expanding list. A friend of mine who is quite the aspiring photographer (Colleen McCourt Photography) was the perfect match to help me get over my hesitation towards taking pictures. I decided I would set the tone of the photo shoot. I wanted to call the shots – I could smile or not smile – it was all on my terms this time.
I know that I have grown leaps and bounds in the confidence department, but some self doubt will ALWAYS remain. In most of my cases with confidence – it is “what will other people think?” I really didn’t want this photo shoot to come off as self indulgent, self obsessed or too boastful. I hope no one assumes those things. (If anyone does think that, they should re read this blog post.)
Gosh, I can remember back in the 90’s when Glamour Shots was a thing at our local mall. They had outfit changes and a make up artist.
Hell, I was just going to buy a simple outfit and curl my hair. Nothing over the top. For once I was hoping to feel comfortable in my own skin and try my best to translate that through the lens. When all is said and done, these photos are really just for me. No one else. The ones I choose to share in this post are to highlight the contrast from where I have been to where I am now. Of course there is the physical difference, but my hope is that you can see the confidence and positive energy that makes up my life.
These photos will serve as a reminder of my hard work and a time in my life where I didn’t feel like hiding in the background.