We’re probably being jerks (to ourselves). Or: Why Beyoncé isn’t the problem
I had an important realization today. I was never as ugly as I thought I was.
This is important, actually, because it still holds true today. There’s a reason why a blog post by a photographer telling us to love ourselves despite our fat rolls elicits so many tearful comments. [No, but seriously, get in the picture with your friends and family. You’re ninety-year old self will thank you.] We’re all deeply insecure about our image.
Exhibit: The USA had their Super Bowl yesterday and so now many American women are hating themselves. It’s all because of Beyoncé and her glorious, professional self. And her magic legs that go on forever.
She’s fab but she wasn’t always Queen Bey. I met her back when she was still part of a fine-looking trio called Destiny’s Child and I kinda of agree with this assessment that she didn’t give them enough of the spotlight yesterday. Also, while we’re on the subject, did they intentionally mic her to be louder than everyone else? But I’m not here to talk about the singing today…
Yeah, I know, you can remind yourself that the wealthy have access to lots of stuff we don’t: trainers, chefs, stylists, etc. (and that “etc.” may include *ahem* a team of physicians for some post-natal sprucing), but when the harsh light of your bathroom hits your sagging chin at 3am on a Tuesday, it’s cold comfort. [I know, baby. I know. Even the prettiest people in the world feel this way about themselves at times, I promise.]
So back when I was merely a medium-sized mouth diva, I hated [HATED!!!] having my photo taken. I grew up with a stunningly beautiful family and I always felt like the unattractive “funny” one. [You know, the one with the good personality?] This is not fishing for compliments, people. Below is a typical photo of my mother. I grew up with images like these all over the place and this is what I had to live up to:
[Posing on the banks of the Seine in 1960s Paris. I’ve got 8,000 of these and they’re all stunning. No pressure.]
But here’s the thing about “typical.” My mother, like Beyoncé, was a professional entertainer. This photo represents years of experience in front of the camera. Knowing how to pose in a snap is a well-paid profession for a reason: It’s hard! It takes years to perfect the ability to look casual yet compelling in a photograph.
So what was my revelation? Starting in high school, friends and I would pull a camera out for fun. When I took photos of my friends they would look great, but the picture of me would be lord-have-mercy AWFUL. Last night I realized that the problem was only partly with my inexperience and lack of poise. The problem was with the photographer! Unless you live with a professional you’re not getting professional-caliber images of yourself. I was castigating myself for looking bad when I should have been impressed with myself for taking damn fine photos of my friends! In fact, I suspect growing up with all those amazing images of my family helped to train my eye so I was better at photography than most of my friends yet I didn’t realize it until last night.
You probably have some horrible photos of yourself from back in the day… was the person taking your picture a pro? No? Did you have years of experience in front of a camera? No? Stop beating yourself up and STOP comparing yourself to professional entertainers!
A typical photo of me in high school:
[Definitely not as hot as Beyoncé.]
Look at that photo! That’s crap! There’s actually nothing wrong with the person in it, but it’s all backlit and dark and grainy and too close and generally terrible. It gives me awful under-eye shadows and a weird outline. Apologies to my high school friend with no photography skills, but this is 90% the photographer’s fault. And yet at the time I thought I was simply more unattractive than everyone around me.
Compare the above photo to a photo below from same time period, only here the friend yielding the camera has some training. Note, same lack of make-up and general awkward, self-conscious manner, but the photo is easily 90% better:
[Yeah, okay, still not as hot as Beyoncé.]
And another one a few years later when I lived with a friend who is a professional photographer. This photo features the same self-conscious, awkward girl as in above, but it is WORLDS better. Still not as hot as Beyoncé–or my gorgeous mom–but it’s not half bad!
[Weird hair. I’m not sure what I was going for with this look.]
Moral of this story: You should hire professional photographers once in a while and stop being so hard on yourself. Or perhaps take some photography lessons so you can capture your family and friends at their best. Also, practice getting your photo taken. I drive my partner nuts because I have to take at least five shots of a thing before I’m satisfied, but with time he’s learned to get comfortable in front of a camera. Perhaps I’ll offer tips on how to make peace with the process in a later post.
Perspective is so strange, I thought I was a weird-looking teenager when in fact I was a pretty good photographer. Why did it take me so long to realize this?!