With summer coming, there are more opportunities for photographs and lots of women find they don’t always love the photos of themselves that are posted. This comes up a lot in the Healthy Habits Happy Moms community and Annie and Jen have information on why this happens and some helpful tips about what you can do about it.
- The mere exposure effect and why selfies are more familiar looking
- Why we are more drawn to the familiar
- Moving past panic when you see a photo of yourself
- The missed opportunities of deleted photos
- Why you should keep taking photos
- How digital photography has changed our expectations of photos compared to when photography was less accessible
- Resisting the urge to “fix” ourselves based on one photo
- Managing expectations about not every photo being amazing
- Practicing self-compassion when viewing photos of ourselves
- How the image quality we see on social media adjusts our expectations of ourselves
- Expectation vs reality, how we feel when a photo was taken vs how we look in a photo and what happens when those don’t align
- Learning to respond rather than react
- Photographs as memories for our kids
- Keeping photos in defiance of beauty standards
- The impact of fat phobia on our willingness to share photos
- Not judging ourselves as a way to stop judging other women
- Normalizing aging by sharing photographs
- Maintaining perspective about how much we value physical appearance
- Deciding what you are willing and not willing to do to conform to beauty standards
- Episode 7: What is Fat Phobia & How It Hurts Women at Every Size with Bethany Bellingham
- Episode 8: Amanda Thebe on How to Navigate the Stages of Menopause with Confidence
- How to Not Hate Being Photographed – xoJane
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Annie: Hey everyone, Annie here, thanks for joining us for another episode of Healthy Habits Happy Moms Radio. On today’s episode, Jen and I discuss a situation that has come up in our community more times than I can remember – what to do when you see a photo of yourself and you hate it. Before you hit the delete button or try to fix whatever it is that you don’t love about the photo give the show a listen. We share some thoughts behind why this happens and you’re not alone and some possible solutions to help you become more comfortable with photos. Enjoy!
Jen, welcome to the show, how are you?
Jen: Good. How are you?
Annie: Good. What are you up to?
Jen: Well, it’s morning here, I just dropped all my kids off at their various places and now I’m chatting with you.
Annie: Doing the little morning shuffle, the morning routine.
Jen: yeah more like chaos.
Annie: Are you almost ready for summer? How many more weeks do you have?
Jen: We go right to end of June, I think June 29th but…
Annie: Oh my goodness. That’s a long time.
Jen: Yeah, I mean, yeah. I’m like probably your typical mom that is looking forward to not having a routine slash dreading two months of kids home.
Annie: Our kids are out of school on Friday.
Jen: Oh, that’s crazy. But you guys go back in August, don’t you?
Annie: Yeah, we’re almost there. But we have a nanny for the summer. Our first time having a nanny.
Jen: Yeah, that’s going to be amazing. We have someone in the summer too, she comes and we have for the last couple years so she comes, the girl we have this summer we have three days a week.
Annie: That’s so nice. Our nanny I guess is really excited about doing activities with the kids. And she has all these plans for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.
Jen: Oh that’s awesome.
Annie: I’m like, “You go girl.” Remember when you, I used to be that mom. And now I’m like “Go play outside.”
Jen: I know. It’s exhausting. You know what, I do find since I’ve gotten, for me the same as for you, when you have three kids and you need childcare, a nanny is actually the cheaper option, really, so I don’t know what childcare costs are for you, but here it’s about $5 per child per hour, so for me that would be $15/hour to have them in childcare, and it’s also $15 an hour for me to have a nanny. So it just makes sense that we would hire a nanny. Just to have somebody show up at your house, and handle everything. Rather than getting your kids out of the house being the hardest part, right?
Annie: Yes. And packing all those bags.
Jen: Yeah it’s a gong show and packing lunches. It’s just so nice to have somebody show up, handle it all, and I also, like I’ll often put tasks on her list like doing the kid’s laundry, tidying up their rooms, just little things. She doesn’t do any deep cleaning, but I get her to do little things.
Annie: We’ve talked about that before, I don’t know if that’s a Canadian thing, or cultural thing but I don’t know if, I could be wrong, I don’t know if American nannies are expected to do any housework or if it just depends on the nanny.
Jen: I’ve always required it.
Annie: Just ask.
Jen: Yeah, like, the thing is if, I mean, my kids often lay down in the afternoons still, especially in the summer here, because they are go go all morning and they need some quiet time in the afternoon and so what’s the nanny supposed to do just sit down and relax? Which is fine.
Annie: If you’re a mom it’s fine. If you’re a nanny, you gotta get up and clean.
Jen: Then I think like, “Well, you can fold some laundry” or sweep the kitchen or put the dishes away.
Annie: Yeah, they’re getting paid.
Jen: So anyways, I highly recommend that as a childcare option if it’s available to you. I know a lot of female entrepreneurs who work from who try to just manage it over the summer and I’m like, I would lose my mind.
Annie: Yeah. The three of us have had some summers like that and it’s just you can’t really be a mom and you can’t really be working. You’re just trying to divide your-
Jen: You’re just frustrated constantly.
Annie: You can’t really be present in either element and then that doesn’t ever leave me feeling very fulfilled.
Jen: I know when we started this company I had a 1.5 year old, a 3 year old and a 5 year old and none of us had childcare when we started, we weren’t making any money. So and that was so hard. I remember most of my work hours were nap time, evenings. I don’t know how many people know this but I built our first website which was awful. But it got built between the hours of 8pm and 2am for the first couple months that we first started. And that’s what you do when you’re starting a business. But I’m so glad we’re past that now. That was brutal. A rite of passage though.
Annie: It wasn’t awful it just was, you know, I mean, you did a great job, much better than I could have. Mine would have been like a myspace account or something.
Jen: Thank you.
Annie: Here are your top friends.
Jen: Yeah, well thanks.
Annie: Anyways, okay. Should we get into this topic or what because it’s a good topic?
Jen: Let’s do it.
Annie:Yeah. I’m really pumped about this. This conversation comes up in our community so so many times and I feel like with summer brings more parties, more reasons to celebrate, more weddings and women are just seeing more photographs of themselves. What happens or what can happen is you have a photo taken of yourself whether you asked for it, whether it was taken without permission or whatever, it gets posted online, you view it somehow and you have this moment when you are like “I don’t like that photo at all. I don’t like how I look. I don’t like my body. I don’t like my hair, I don’t like my makeup. I don’t like my outfit or you just have this flat out, “Oh my gosh, this is what I look like?” moment and I’ve been there, you’ve been there, right?
Jen: Yeah. Definitely.
Annie: So we wanted to talk about A. Why this happens and B. What you can do. And in researching this topic for the podcast I actually found some research that backs up why this happens and it made me feel a lot better, because it was kind of like, “Okay, this isn’t just me, this happens to a lot of people” and one of the reasons, have you noticed a difference when you take a selfie in your camera vs instagram?
Jen: Like the instagram camera or?
Jen: I don’t use the Instagram camera so I haven’t really paid attention but what’s the deal?
Annie: I could be wrong, we might get some feedback on this but I’m pretty sure the Instagram camera, on the Instastories is a mirror and the actual camera, like your camera app on the iPhone, it flips the image so it shows what you really look like in that moment and the reason this is important is because there’s something called the mirror exposure effect, and I can’t take credit for this, this is not mine, but what happens is we’re used to seeing ourselves in the mirror which is a mirror image of us and when we see ourself in a photo which is not the mirror image of us, we’re kind of like, “Huh, that kind of looks like me, but kinda not.” And so what happens in when we take selfies and we get the mirror effect it’s like us looking in a mirror it looks really familiar to us and so I think that that’s why I’ve preferred the Instagram camera-
Jen: Annie, you’re right! I just did it. So while you were talking I took a selfie with my camera and then I flipped over and did a picture with my instastory and yeah. It’s different.
Annie: Isn’t it fascinating? So, again, it’s called the mirror exposure effect and essentially it boils it down to the more familiar we are with something the more we like it. So we are used to seeing ourselves in the mirror and we aren’t used to seeing ourselves head on like strangers see us or like everyone else sees us. So when we see a photo of us it’s kind of like, “That picture is me but it’s not really me.”
Annie: Isn’t it weird?
Jen: it’s so strange. Yeah so when I look at my Instagram selfie that looks like me, you’re exactly right because it is like I’m looking into a mirror and then I flip back to my iPhone camera picture and my part is on the opposite side and it’s like, “That’s weird.”
Annie: I know! That’s why i take a lot of my selfies in the instagram camera because I think I prefer it.
Jen: Good tip.
Annie: But the thing is, you would probably see a photo of me taken in a normal camera and not think anything of it. I just happen to have built up a preference to the mirror image of me because I’m used to looking in the mirror. And that’s how we’re used to seeing ourselves. So when I see. You can’t see on video right now but she’s sitting there taking selfies.
Jen: No I’m zooming into my eyebrows and I’m like, “I need to pluck those babies.” They are getting out of control.
Annie: Stay focused, Jen. Stay focused. But they’ve even done studies on the woman in the article that was talking about this did the Mona Lisa and she showed her class the Mona Lisa mirror image of it and which one they preferred and hands down almost always they preferred the original versus the mirrored image just because it was more familiar.
Jen: Right, yeah.
Annie: You probably if I said to you “Which way is Mona Lisa facing?” you probably couldn’t tell me right off the bat but if you saw the image you would naturally be drawn to the one that you’ve seen before. Isn’t that interesting?
Jen: It’s really interesting.
Annie: yeah, so I think that’s just, again, there’s a reason why maybe when you look at a selfie or you look at a photo of yourself a friend takes a photo, a headshot, you’re having some professional photos at work taken you’re like, “Is that what I look like?” Like.
Annie: It’s not because that photo is good or bad or anything it’s just that you’re probably not used to seeing yourself. Look. She’s still taking selfies.
Jen: I’m not. I’m still looking at my eyebrows.
Annie: Your eyebrows.
Jen: There are some stray wild hairs I can see.
Annie: Your eyebrows look fabulous. You need to go into the car and tweeze those.
Jen: Yeah, I do, as soon as we’re done here. You know what I’m going to be doing.
Annie: The car rearview mirror is where I always find eyebrows that are out of place.
Annie: The other reason that this could happen when you have this “Oh my gosh I don’t like that photo, I hate that photo, is that what I look like?” kind of moment when you see a photo what happens most of the time is you’re just not used to seeing yourself.
Jen: It’s just different.
Annie: yeah. Especially your whole body and what was really interesting to me is like probably 3 or 4 weeks ago I found my first iPhone which would have been from 2010 maybe and I’m scrolling through the photos and I was not in a single photo on that camera roll. And I have some hunches why I just didn’t want to be photographed and I was gaga over my baby at the time so it was all photos of her but may some selfies but definitely not whole body.
I think a lot of women are that way and we also hear that in our community that women are intentionally asking for their partners, their spouses, their boyfriends, their moms or dads or other children even to take photos of them with their kids so they can actually get in the photo but what happens if you’re not used to seeing yourself in the photo it can be kind of like a, “Oh, okay, is that what I look like? That’s what I look like.”
Annie: Seeing yourself from a variety of angles and a variety of lighting and a variety of apparel and positions and seated and standing. I’m not just talking about the “skinny arm, with the hips at the right angle.” You know what I’m talking about.
Jen: Basically the bikini model stance. Yes.
Annie: Like your hip cocked, your hand on your hip, head tilted down.
Jen: One leg with the knee pointed in on the tip toe.
Annie: Yes. I mean we’ve all read the tips in Glamour whatever it is. So the bottom line, as we mentioned the mirror exposure effect just breeds this sense of comfort and it can be a lack of familiarity that we just aren’t used to seeing our bodies and I know the inclination can be to shock and panic and kind of freak out and have this moment of “Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! I need to do something about this” but that’s actually our first tip on what to do, how to get more comfortable with seeing photos of yourself is “Don’t panic” and we’ve talked about this before in our community but the diet cycle, the “on the wagon, off the wagon” cycle of dieting often begins with feelings of shame or negativity about your body and I know that seeing a photo of yourself can often be that trigger to want to like diet, and change your body or “Oh my gosh I’ve got to get new makeup or I’ve got to stop wearing that dress. Or I have to like lose ten pounds. Or remind me never to wear my hair like that again or tuck my hair behind my ears.”
Jen: Or suck in next time someone brings out a camera.
Annie: Or don’t be on the end of a group photo. You can have these moments of panic. “I need to fix whatever it is that you hate about the photo.” We would urge you to just pause, take a moment, you can recognize those impulses, absolutely you can say, “Okay, this is what my instinct is telling me or my gut is telling me or the shame and the embarrassment I have about my body in this moment, this is how I want to address it.” But that doesn’t mean you have to take action on it.
Jen: Right. So the first time this happened to me and I did not delete the photo. That’s the other thing I wanted to mention is with ever since digital cameras came out we also have the ability to delete any photos that we don’t like of ourselves. So you can see it, you can instantly delete and then it doesn’t exist anymore and then your photo library just becomes a series of photos that you like of yourself. So we’re not even getting accustomed to these images that we don’t particularly like because we are deleting them, you know what I mean, rather than getting more comfortable with them.
Annie: Yeah. I can understand where that desire to just “Oh my gosh, get rid of this. I don’t ever want to see that photo again. Just delete, goodbye, out of sight out of mind.” But then, like you said, we really aren’t addressing the issue. We’re not leaning into that uncomfortableness. What is it about this photo that I don’t like and why does that upset me so much?
Jen: Right and if you go back say, I don’t know, 20 years, I remember we had family photos done when I was young and back then it was film camera so you didn’t get to see the photos until after they were processed and it was really expensive to get a photographer back then, I mean, for our family anyways, and so I remember we got, and family photos weren’t something people did, you know, our family anyways, I should just speak to our family, you didn’t do them every year, you didn’t hire a professional every year to get or every second year, whatever people do to get professional photos done, I think we have just a couple from my childhood that were actually professional.
So, you hire the photographer, you go out for the day wherever you’re going or you go to a studio, you get the photos done and then you wait to get the photos back from the photographer and you get what you get and if you have a weird smile or you don’t like the way your body looks, you get what you get and so and you just have to get used to it, I guess, right. We have all these photos from this one photo shoot we did with my whole family, aunts, uncles, cousins, and everything and we had one shot at it and we got what we got. We got them back.
And I never really thought to ask my mom how she felt about them but she also didn’t complain but maybe that’s something that back then when it wasn’t an option for us to choose the most flattering photo delete the ones we don’t like, maybe that’s something people just weren’t as picky about.
Annie: And we had a colleague, I don’t know if she’s still running the group today but I want to say that it was Jessica who was doing a group that was dedicated to one take selfies. Do you remember that?
Jen: No, I don’t.
Annie: The premise of the group was that you would just take one selfie a day. That was it and you didn’t take a hundred selfies to get the perfect lighting with the perfect angle and the perfect hair and the perfect smile and fix your eyeliner and then do your hair again, you just took one. And that was it. So not only was it this practice of like, “Okay, I’m just going to take one and that’s going to be good enough” but it’s also the practice of “I’m going to take photo of myself and I’m going to look at it. And I’m going to look beyond just the stuff I don’t like.”
Jen: Right. Yeah.
Annie: Which kind of walks us right into our second point. After you don’t panic, I mean, you can panic, you can have this moment or moments of discomfort and acknowledging those impulses like “This is uncomfortable, this is hard to look at. I don’t like how this feels.” And like I said, you can acknowledge the desire to maybe want to fix it, or to address it but that doesn’t mean that you have to act on it. You don’t have to throw away the clothes that you were wearing or start a diet or or this intense exercise routine, get a new bathing suit, whatever it is, but step two is to keep looking and keep taking the photos and this was kind of a solution that has worked really well for me that I just happened to stumble upon naturally on naturally and I know that it can feel counterintuitive to keep taking photos of yourself especially if they are causing discomfort but in my experience repeated exposure to seeing my body, again, in a variety of angles and clothing and lighting has really helped me getting more comfortable with just seeing my body and sure, there are some angles and clothing that might be “more flattering” which I really don’t like that word because of what it implies but seeing my body move through space, which I was taking videos mainly to help with lifting technique, I just got really comfortable seeing my body moving, jumping, lifting, standing and it was really eye opening to me and the more I did it the more it was kind of like, “Oh, okay.” The first time I saw it it was like “Ugh, cellulite.” Now I see cellulite, it’s like, “Ah, no big deal.” It doesn’t carry the same weight or the shock value that it used to.
Jen: Yeah so I wonder now, we have, the reason we would be disappointed in the first place is we are uncomfortable with what we see which you had said so why are we uncomfortable? Is it because inside our heads we have an image of what we think look like or is it because we have an image of what we think we should look like. Is there something we’re hoping for? And it’s sort of like moving past those ideas and ideals we’ve set and understand that is what we look like from that particular angle.
What people see when they are looking at you is different than what a photo captures and the way that we’re not three dimensional in photos, do you know what I mean? And that’s why for professional photographers, there’s a whole industry, the makeup industry that is around for videoing and taking photos, it’s to make people “look better” in photos and on video.
So the other things is that if your social media feed or whatever, if what you look at day in and day out is more professional photos and I see a rise of that even on people’s personal social media pages, they’re only sharing touched up photos that are either professional photoshopped, have filters put on them, then you aren’t being exposed to real life photos then yours can look even more shocking. But you have to remember that people are just sharing their best or most flattering photos and videos and so when you just take a random snapshot or see a random snapshot of yourself that can also be why it feels shocking.
Annie: They seem to pale in comparison.
Jen: Because you don’t see that in other people, right?
Annie: And someone in our group, I’ll have to go back and look who said it, she had a wonderful analogy because a member had come to us and she said “Look, I just had this photo taken and I’m freaking out about it. I do not like it whatsoever.” And she essentially kind of said, “Think of a sunset that when you’re viewing a sunset with your own eyes and then try to capture a picture of it, the picture never does it justice.”
Annie: When we take a photo we often think at least our image is reduced, all of our being is reduced to this visible platform. This visible image and that’s not all of us. That’s just us in that one moment of time and I think, again, you just like segwayed right into our third point which is not every photo is going to be an amazing photo for whatever reason and that’s okay. I think that it boils down to managing expectations, like you said, why do I think this is an unflattering photo, a bad photo, why do I not like this, what do I expect it to be and then practicing self-compassion.
Jen: The other thing is that I think another reason we might feel disappointed is because maybe in the moment that our photo is being taken we feel good. We’re having fun. We’re with friends, kids, whatever, and you feel so good in your mind, you start thinking you must look so good because you felt so good and then you see the photo and you feel like it doesn’t reflect how you felt in that moment and Bethany Bellingham, a woman in our community and a previous podcast guest, she’s talked about this in our group and she has said the same thing, “It’s okay to not particularly like a photo that you see of yourself but try to remember how you felt in the photo rather than how you look in that photo.”
And that happened to me a couple weeks ago here, we had come home, the boys and I and we had brought this huge haul of groceries, we pull into the garage and the boys jump out of the car and they start riding their bikes up and down the driveway and I’m hauling all the groceries in and my oldest son had grabbed my phone just probably from inside the car and he took a photo of me and first he had said, “Mom!” and I stopped and I leaned against our vehicle and smiled and kind of crossed my arms and he took the photo of me and how I felt in that moment was really strong.
Because I was hauling all these groceries in and I was just feeling like such a badass and I felt really confident so when I crossed my arms and leaned against the car I just felt strong and confident and I thought the photo would reflect that but it did not. And it was taken from a kid’s angle so it was taken on the upward angle, you know, the best angle ever, not, and I was leaning against the vehicle and my thighs were pressed up against so they were bigger and I was a hot mess, my sunglasses were perched too high on my nose, there was just so many things I didn’t like about this photo. And I went through this same process that we’re talking about here.
So many years ago I would have just deleted that photo but today I just sort of know better. So I work on responding rather than reacting because I am kind of a reactive person. So that’s something I’m working on personally but that is something people can apply to looking at photos. Stop reacting, take a minute, be mindful and respond rather than react.
So I decided to keep the photo and in that moment I remembered how I felt and also how my boys probably saw me. They probably saw me as this strong woman, mom getting things done. Lifting things that they can’t lift. So I kept the photo and it’s still on my phone and if I’m flipping through my photos and I see it I have worked through the feelings.
Obviously we all have this ingrained fat phobia. When we see our bodies looking larger than we maybe thought they were, that can trigger shame or whatever and I clearly all have all that stuff in me but I’m just working through it. So I kept the photo and the more I’ve looked at it the more I have come to actually like that photo and now I feel when I see it, I do see a strong woman because it isn’t necessarily how I look, it is how I felt, you know?
Annie: Yeah. And I think you hit the nail on the head. It just is ingrained in a lot of us that when we see a photo of ourselveså, we’re instantly drawn to everything that’s wrong with it. And if you just sit with it for a few moments, maybe even put it down, come back to it in a day, a week, put it down, come back to it, put it down, come back to it, I would be willing to bet that eventually you’re going to move past the stuff that you hate and start seeing the rest of the photo and remembering how you felt when that was taken. And, in fact, that story reminds me a lot of, there’s a photo, I should have shared this and I kick myself in the butt, is that the right term?
Jen: Okay. Yes.
Annie: I was going to say head. I don’t even think that-
Jen: I think that butt is better than head. I kick myself in the head. Is that what you do when you’re trying to motivate people, Annie?
Annie: Yes, that’s one of my personal training strategies.
Jen: Come train with Annie, she’ll give you a real kick in the head.
Annie: I don’t kick anyone ever. I might poke your butt, but I would ask permission first. Anyways, there’s a photo of Blair when she was one week old and I was rocking her in a chair and we had a photographer come to our house and take these beautiful, beautiful newborn photos and I’m rocking Blair in the rocking chair in her room and the lighting is just beautiful, and when I see it now, even when I talk about it I’m getting verklempt, but when I see that photo now, I think, “Oh my god, that’s just the most beautiful photo ever. I intentionally did not post that photo when I had her because I did not like the way my stomach looked. I was one week postpartum.
Annie: One week postpartum.
Jen: I think that happens a lot, actually Kathleen who works for us, she’s a Balance365 coach, she just did an Instagram post on this at MamaInspiration which is her Instagram handle and she shared a photo of herself a couple days postpartum and you swipe and you see a similar photo uncrossed and she talks about how her son is about 3 years old now and how 3 years ago she was so upset and insecure about her postpartum body that the photo she decided to share on social media she cropped out her stomach and she was choosing today to share the zoomed out uncropped photo because that is the reality of what she looked like and that is a more realistic portrayal of postpartum, which I thought was just beautiful. And we need to see more stuff like that, right?
Annie: Absolutely. But two years ago, when I saw that photo I was just, I mean, my heart broke almost. Like I was just, all that yucky diet culture postpartum body was just telling me that I couldn’t see past my stomach and so I just opted to not post this beautiful photo of me rocking my baby girl at one week postpartum because I didn’t like how my stomach looked. Now I can look at it and say, ‘That’s exactly how I should have looked.
Jen: Right, exactly.
Annie: That’s what I would expect. It was just a little too raw in the moment. You know? But I’m happy that I have that photo now. Had I deleted that because I didn’t like it I would have missed out on that.
Jen: And as you move along in your body acceptance journey, it is nice to look back on those photos. I have one from when I was 9 months pregnant with my third and I was putting a birthday cake down in front of my son, it was his 4th birthday and everybody was singing and my husband was taking videos and pictures and same thing, when I saw it, so this, oh my gosh, this was five years ago. When I saw it I was just mortified about how big I was. But same thing, I didn’t delete it.
I even knew back then, that is a moment that you will treasure and you do not like the way you look right now but just keep this. Keep this and come back to it. Now, when I go back to that photo 5 years later, I’m like “So awesome.” So glad we still have that photo.I was 9 months pregnant. I hosted that birthday party for a whole bunch of four year olds and it was just like Mom, real raw, look at what you were doing and proud of that photo now and very, very proud that I decided to keep it and that I have it.
And you know, we say to our women all the time, “Hey, do you look back on photos of you and your mother and think, “ugh, my mom was so fat, why did she keep this photo?” Like, most women our age, we don’t have a lot of photos with our mothers and the majority of women we talk to wish we had more. They don’t care how their mother’s body looks and so if we can just keep that in mind and also keep in mind purposefully, you know, for me, I sometimes, when I share these stories and talk about keeping these photos sometimes I feel like my purpose is sort of defiance of those feelings that I know are just conditioned feelings.
I think “No, I am keeping this photo whether I like it or not and I’m keeping it in defiance of a society that says I should delete it and diet and whatever” but I’m also keeping it for my children so that my children can maybe understand one day that it’s okay, right? To have various different photos of yourself that aren’t all “flattering.” So I think if you can find a purpose. In the moment you might not be able to think of any reason to keep that photo but if you zoom out and think of big picture why you would keep that photo, that can kind of help you. Even if you have to tuck it away for a while and come back and look at it later.
Annie: You don’t have to do anything with these photos. They could just sit on your phone. It’s not like they have to be on social media or be plastered on your Facebook wall or, I mean, they certainly could if you wanted, but you don’t have to show anyone these photos. This isn’t about anyone else’s perception of you but you. This is all about how you feel when you look at those photos and finding strategies and tools and ways to help you feel more comfortable being photographed and be more compassionate when you see an unflattering photo or a photo you don’t like.
Jen: And that’s the thing. That’s probably a big reason why women don’t share these photos and why we don’t see more of them, because we know as women living in this society for however many decades you’ve been alive that people see women’s sizes. They do. They’re just conditioned to so the smaller you can make yourself the more likely the people you show the photo to will not just look at you.
And what I mean by that, here’s an example. When I was 4.5 months pregnant with my first son I bumped into a friend I hadn’t seen my whole pregnancy and she saw me from across the parking lot and I saw her hand go up to her mouth, like gasping, and as she gets closer to me she’s laughing and she goes, “You don’t even look pregnant, you just look fat.” And I know. Which is, I was horrified back then, my feelings were so hurt, and now I could handle that fine. That says more about what goes on in her head than an actual reflection of me.
There’s just a million different scenarios that I could share that are an example of how our society just picks apart women’s bodies. and that seems to be the first thing they see. Of course we take in a scene and we notice people but actually what it is is an example of our fat phobic society if everytime we walk into a situation we are noticing a woman’s size and I think we know that and I think that’s what can be scary about sharing a photo that’s not “slimming” – you know what I mean?
Annie: Right, and I’ve talked about this before when I was at the peak of my really distaste for my own body. I’ve made the comparison to I would look at photos of myself or I would look at photos of myself with almost like a magnifying lens and I would just head to toe hold that magnifying lens over everything, just nitpick myself to death. And what’s really sad is I did that to other women. In some sick, strange twisted world it was like I felt better about myself when I did that. So I know that when other people, like that woman, what’s the saying, “What Susie says about Sally says more about Sally than Susie?”
Annie: Are you impressed?
Jen: Good job. That was awesome.
Annie: I nailed that! I know that that’s usually a reflection of what’s going on in their heads vs anything that has to do with me but the great thing is as I’ve moved towards more body neutrality, body positivity and I have decreased the amount that I nitpick I also decreased the amount that I nitpick other women. Like now I look at a photo I’m not even looking at another woman. I’m like, “Oh she looks happy. Oh that looks like her playing with her kids” or sometimes i might be caught by a beautiful dress or great hair or something but I’m not like “Ooh look at that” sort of thing.
Jen: Well the thing is if I look at a photo of a woman that has a larger body, the thing is I don’t have judgements attached to size anymore where I used to. Which is terrible. But we have talked about it before on this podcast. We’re all coming from the same fat phobic society. So if I were to see a photo of 8 women lined up on the girls night, all their bodies are different sizes, first of all, because I worked on my own body confidence I’m not doing what you were talking about. I’m not looking at the larger bodies or whatever but it’s just a subtle difference.
Ten years ago I may have looked at all the different sized bodies, definitely noticed them, and also passed judgment on them, where today I may look at that same photo, see all the different sized bodies and pass zero judgment. I’m able to look at other bodies and see the different sizes and feel neutral about that. But here’s the thing one of the reasons you have to keep looking at photos of yourself, what I say to myself is “That’s the way you look, deal with it. That’s the way you look.” So when I see a photo of myself on a certain angle and I can see all my crows feet on the side it’s like deal with it. You have wrinkles. You are in that stage of your life. Deal with it. Move on. It is not the most important thing about you.
The other thing for people, I guess to remember is when we choose not to share those sides of ourselves, again, your choice whether you want to or not, another reason that can add to your purpose is that is we’re sort of just adding to the problem in some ways. So, the reason people need to see more of these photos is so they can become desensitized to the fact that women have fat, cellulite, stretch mark, wrinkles, I mean everybody does and that’s just a part of life and the more we keep trying to hide that part of ourselves the more we’re saying those parts are not okay, and don’t deserve to take up space on our social media feed.
Women need to see more of that stuff and if you find yourself with a social media feed that is just full of photoshopped pictures, find some other people to follow, like Amanda Thebe who we have also had on our podcast she’s at Fitnchicks on instagram and on facebook she, I’m not sure of her age, I think she’s in her 40s or 50s, and she shares photos of herself all the time, with wrinkles exposed, no photoshopping and talks about “This is the stage of life she’s in” and she loves that, it’s a blessing to grow older and I love that she shares that. I just think it’s beautiful, even for someone like me heading into that stage of life myself it’s great to have her as an example of embracing that. So we need more people like that.
Annie: Yeah and I think the funny thing is, I still notice this in myself, when I see that in other women I think it’s absolutely beautiful. The struggle comes with finding the beauty when I see it on myself.
Jen: Right, yeah, and I can understand that.
Annie: That’s a little bit tougher for me. I’m better than what I was, I’m certainly not perfect. I mean, this is kind of a journey and an evolution and a process that we’re all on and I don’t think you ever just arrive. Or have immunity. I mean, you and I and Lauren still have photos that we’re like, oh, like we’ve had a number of photoshoots and finding a photo that three of us all like of ourselves in one photo can be challenging and the funny thing is, you’ll look at a photo of me and Lauren and you’ll be like “You look great, this is such a good photo of you.” And Lauren and I will be like “Ugh, no!”
Jen: So I would compare that to, that’s your self love self acceptance journey, that’s part of it. And because you think about, I don’t think I’ve seen a bad photo of my kids, do you know what i mean? You just love them so much and if you love someone unconditionally and accept them for who they are then you just can’t see a bad photo of them. And I guess that speaks to how much I love you and Lauren. I feel like I can’t find a bad photo of you guys. But of course I-
Annie: I take pretty good photos. Selfies.
Jen: You do. You are quite photogenic. But I think, you know what, we all know that I’m not very photogenic and I’ve seen you and Lauren even cringe at photos of me.
Annie: You just get a little stiff.
Jen: Yeah, I’m super awkward in front of the camera.
Annie: But here’s the thing too. Here’s how I know that my perception has shifted about photos and I said this to a girlfriend and she kind of gave me a look like, “Okay.” But I just did a little fitness-y photo shoot project not too long ago and I said to her and I was legit serious, “Sometimes I feel like the camera cannot capture my whole beauty.”
Jen; That’s awesome.
Annie: And she kind of gave me this look like, “Yeah, Okay.” And I said, “If I take a bad photo, or if I see a bad photo, I think that’s just a bad photo. That’s not because I’m not cute or because I’m not pretty or because I don’t look good, it’s just a bad photo. It’s the photo’s fault.”
Jen: That’s a really awesome thing. That’s a great response to seeing a “bad photo” of yourself is to say, “I’m super cute, I’m gorgeous, that’s a bad photo of me.”
Annie: And in fact, when I was looking for information on this podcast, Lesley Kinzel wrote an article for xojane about how she grew more comfortable loving photos of herself and in that article she made a really great analogy, “If I took a photo of you mid-sneeze, you probably wouldn’t like the expression on your face but you wouldn’t believe you looked like that all the time, you would just think ‘That’s what I look like mid-sneeze’ and that’s it and you would kind of just brush it off.
And that’s how really every photo is. It’s just how you looked in that split second, in that lighting, in that outfit, in that position, you know, in that surrounding, that’s what the camera caught as a visual. That’s not all of you. Not even close to all of you and certainly not what you look like all the time.
Jen: What I will say is if you run through our list of tips of how to accept photos of yourself and you still look at the photo and think “That’s a bad photo” what I will say is that for me it often comes back to reminding myself that looking good, “flattering” is not part of my value system. Physical appearance is just not high on my values so I just sort of come back to that often, if I see a bad photo of myself or if people listening just really cannot accept that photo, yes, it’s just a bad photo, of course, but also we are more than our appearance.
We are more than our bodies. So here’s the thing: some of us are tall, some of us are short, some of us are closer to society’s ideal of beauty and some of us are further away, some of us are fat, some of us are thin and some of us are medium. And here’s the thing, we just live in a society that values a certain look and it’s just a no win game to go through your life comparing yourself to what that look is.
So if you can see that photo and you hate it and you don’t like it and you want to delete it and no matter what Jen and Annie say, you’re never going to accept that photo, maybe you can come back to how much do you actually value physical appearance. If that’s a hard no for you, you don’t really, then it’s really not a big deal. Because I don’t think people understand how much society’s beauty ideals affect us and nobody seems to care – can you imagine if society was obsessed with people with people with brown eyes? Like obsessed. Do you know what I mean? It would seem ridiculous. So we would all go out and buy brown contacts because everyone wants to have brown eyes and that’s what we do with our bodies.
Bodies come in all shapes and sizes but we are obsessed with thin bodies. SO everybody’s just trying to be thin, that’s what they’re doing, they’re dieting and they’re doing all these extreme things to change their body to be thinner. But put that in a different context, eye colour, guess what we’re all born with different colour of eyes. You just put it in a different context and be like, “Wow, we really put a lot of value on physical appearance in our society and then what we seem to value constantly changes from being very thin to having a big butt to the thigh gap and people are just following these trends what we’ll do to fit into the ideal.”
Annie: Without even stopping to question it.
Annie: Why do I think this? Why do I value this? Why do I want this? Where did this come from?
Jen: Like butt implants are a thing now that people are doing.
Annie: Well I like big butts.
Jen: Yeah, so people do, but here’s the thing. I don’t have a big butt and I will never have a big butt. It is just not in my genetic, unless I tirelessly worked my glutes constantly but it would still never be as big as yours. Do you know what I mean?
Annie; Thank you! I’ll take that as a compliment.
Jen: Butts are in right now and I don’t have it. So it’s like what extreme am I willing to go to to have a bigger butt? Am I willing to go get butt implants? Well, no. I’m not. And if brown eyes were in, I wouldn’t be willing to wear brown contacts every day. And so I think people need to stop and say, “You know, my body is what it is, and what is within my control and what isn’t within my control. And what am I willing to do?” And that answer will be different for every person. I’m not going to judge you if you want butt implants, brown contacts, whatever. I’m not going to judge you but I just bring that back to my own individual values and look.
Annie: And that’s for the individual to decide. If they value big butts and they want a butt implant, then do you, boo. But at least give it some consideration, where does this desire come from? Where are my values? Do I want that to be part of my value system, do I not? Yeah.
Annie: Okay. So, real quick recap, here are Jen and Annie’s tips on growing more comfortable with photos of yourself. Step one: don’t panic. If/when you do see a photo that you don’t absolutely love, you can take time to feel all the feelings, notice any impulses but you don’t have to act on them. Maybe just keep the photo, restrict the urge to delete it if you can and revisit in a few days or a week or an hour or whatever you need and then see how you feel about it. Step two: keep looking and keep taking photos. I know, like I said, it can feel counterintuitive to do that, like I don’t want to do the thing that makes me feel really uncomfortable. Because comfort zones are comfortable. And I want to keep taking photos with my skinny arm and my cocked hip and my smirky smile where I don’t show all my teeth – ahem, Jen. In a photoshoot (this is side note), in a photoshoot when I smile you can see like all of my teeth, all of my teeth, and Jen looked at me in a photograph and was like, “Is that like a strategy of yours when you smile?”
Jen: Well, you have a beautiful smile. And i”m just like when I look at it, I just could count your teeth. You’re just like a dentist’s dream.
Annie: It’s because I have a big mouth.
Jen: And I’m like “Wow! Look at all of her teeth. Is that a strategy?”
Annie: And if you could see her right now she’s trying to smile like me and she looks like she’s snarling at me. Anyways, so keep looking, keep taking the photographs even though it can be a little uncomfortable. You can just do that in the privacy of your own home which is a fair amount of our community members have done, they have just set up their phone on a dresser or what not and just snapped some photos, taken a video, then take stills from the video is what I often do and just try to get a little bit more comfortable and focus on what else you see in the video or the photo besides maybe just your dislikes and then lastly, acknowledge that not every photo is going to be an amazing photo that you’re in love with. Like I said, Jen, Lauren and I still take photos and we’re like, “Nope, I don’t like that one, get rid of it. Or that’s not going in the hat for our website or social media. That doesn’t mean that you need to start a diet, that you need to lose weight, that you’re a bad person, that you’re just not attractive, that you’re not desirable, it doesn’t mean anything, it was just a photo. And that’s all it is and you’re way more than the visible image that a photo could ever, ever capture and practicing some self-compassion, examining where those values come from, managing expectations I think can all be a really big help when you’re improving your relationship with the camera, so to speak.
Jen: and just last one is, I just want to add, when you’re struggling bring it back to how you felt inside your body when that photo was taken.
Annie: Yeah, I forgot that. How did you feel when that photo was taken?
Jen: And just bring it back to that.
Annie: Keep that in the forefront. Good, I liked that. This is fun!
Jen: Yeah it was fun.
Annie: Good. Good job.
Jen: We can’t seem to get these podcasts under an hour though.
Annie: Well, maybe we talk too much about nannies in the beginning.
Jen: Trying. Yeah.
Annie: Okay, thanks, Jen.
Jen: Bye, Annie!