I looked around my house a little over a year ago and noticed I had one picture of myself hanging up. One. It is a black-and-white picture that was taken on my wedding day while I was dancing with my husband, 14 years ago. It didn’t even show my face, and for some reason that was the one I chose to showcase for all to see when they come into my home. One picture, of my back.
I have never been one to love having my picture taken, I am not very photogenic like my sisters are, and as I got older and a camera came out, I had a million excuses and would always find a way to step behind it. I became very good at tending to things that didn’t need tending to because I don’t like my smile, I don’t have good hair, my nose, my thighs — I could go on and on.
I couldn’t have my picture taken because then I would have to see myself. And apparently I wasn’t good enough to really be seen. If I didn’t want to see myself, why the hell would anybody else? So there were no moments captured of me with my kids on Christmas, Easter, or Mother’s Day. I did not get in their first day of school picture. I was the photographer at all of their 1st birthdays.
If you look through their baby books, I am absent in every one — me, their mother, not one picture. There were some tucked away of when they were first born, pictures other people would take while visiting and later send to me. I shoved them in the back of a drawer, because for the most part, my kids were my muse, and I didn’t feel worthy to get in front of the camera.
That all changed when I saw this beautiful woman on Facebook about two years ago. I didn’t know her in real life, but she took a selfie without a smile or makeup in honor of her 40th birthday, her blonde hair hung in long braids down her chest. She posted it and spoke of all her insecurities and how nervous she was to post the picture, but she did. I went back and looked at it many times. When I saw her, I saw none of the things she saw in herself. I studied her, still, nothing.
I had been a mother for almost 12 years, and I was so wrapped up in my own distorted view of myself, that there were very few pictures (where I didn’t deliberately cut my head off) of me, and I decided it was ridiculous and really sad.
After all, if you can’t fully love yourself, how can you expect others to? We all have things about ourselves we wish we could change, but you know what is beautiful? When you own yourself as a whole person, mistakes, faults, flaws, and all. Here I am world. I may not fit the current stereotype of what it means to be beautiful or sexy, but I just can’t care because life is happening right now, and I want my kids to know that I was along for the ride.
We tend to see ourselves in little pieces and think, if only I had a better ass, longer legs, if my belly was taut, if my locks were long and shiny, if I could pull off dying my hair blue, if only…if I could…if I was…if I didn’t have..if I did have…
But when I see your picture, I see you, all of you, as one whole, beautiful person. To me, you aren’t pieces that if swapped out for others would be better. You are not your size, your smile, your hair, or your thighs. You are a woman, a soul, and I’m not looking for your flaws because I’m too busy appreciating your spark.
So, take your picture. Post a selfie. Do it all made-up, do it first thing in the morning, do it feeding your baby, do it when you feel sexy, do it when you don’t. Get in the picture with your kids, even if you have to ask a stranger to take it for you. It makes people smile to capture a moment like this, and there is a reason for that. It is because life is best lived in the moment, even if the moment includes no mascara and a ratty top knot.
And please, don’t just look at yourself and see little incomplete pieces that don’t seem to fit together, and I will try to do the same. Because when I see your picture, I see you. I want to see you. And by letting people see you, you never know when you are going to help another woman see herself the way she should.