accepting my appearance

August 3, 2012 | 25 Comments


The complimentary self-portrait via Instagram is a science I have lassoed: Head tilted, chin tucked, iPhone positioned overhead, various rehearsed smiles donned. Snap, snap, snap. Delete, delete, delete. Choose. Apply filter. Find a reason to repeat ten minutes later BECAUSE OMG THERE MIGHT NOT BE ENOUGH PICTURES OF MEEEE.

Remember that time you heard your recorded voice played back for the first time? Yeah, that’s what you sound like TO EVERYONE EXCEPT YOURSELF. For reals. I’ve been witness to many of those firsts, and it’s tough to convince the speaker of this truth.

With my unflattering photos there’s a knee-jerk resistance present in absorbing this uncontrolled, more natural representation of my appearance. There’s something unnerving about the permanence of being photo-archived with chins tiering, belly swelling, and my mouth in its perpetual droopy state.

When I look in the mirror or take a picture, I make adjustments until I can cope with the reflection. I don’t have that control moving through the majority of my day. People see me slouch and they stand on my “bad side” where there’s the most scarring from years of acne. What I look like is no secret. I know this, but I wrestle to accept myself from all angles and in bad lighting.

The above picture is from Steve’s Instagram feed. When he finished cropping and adjusting, he had me sign off before uploading. I hate the picture. The way he’s played with light, texture and pattern is fantastic; his right brain is genius. I just wish I wasn’t in it, or that it had turned out less frumpy. Less cleavagey. Less butt-crack cleavagey.

But I did sign off on the upload. I signed off because I want to be more honest with myself. Honest about my appearance. Comfortable with it. Celebratory of it. I want to believe in all of my tripple-chinned, thick-armed, pockmarked-skin, wrinkle-necked, fine-haired, big-bellied glory I am beautiful. I am lovely. I belong. I matter. I want to believe that how I present, unfiltered and unposed is enough.

Pass the fucking zen.

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  • Eden

    Oh man does this ever speak to me. I am so used to being in control of my own image, that seeing a photo someone else took of me where I didn’t have a chance to snap into one of my Picture Faces is such a weird moment, but I’m also working on loving it.

    • Shannon

      HA. Your sentence sums up my entire post nicely. I’m going to call you next time I have something to say. I’m glad you can relate. Honestly, I’ve never seen a bad picture of you. You’re so lovely from all angles, Eden.

      Like me!

  • Kim

    Ugh. That was painful to read on so many levels. Because I ‘get’ that self-loathing on a cellular level, because it hurts to read such words about some one I love, because the multiple photo snapping is true for me too, and I would bet every.other.female putting pictures out there. Ow. The truth hurts. But thanks for the honesty, and for trying to be Zen about it and work through it. My prayer is that you do and that you will see the wide eyed, olive skinned, open hearted beauty we all know and love.

    You know, the most painful reality of it is: our little girls soak up our self-hatred. It wounds them so deeply because they love us so unconditionally. Every daughter thinks her mommy is the most beautiful mommy. And then what happens is, someone says, in the most unintentionally harmful of ways – you look just like your mom! And the cycle perpetuates because all out girls have ever known is brutal and I unforgiving self-criticism of every invisible and imagined flaw We believe is ours. Heart-breaking. So much truth. Xxooooxx

    • Shannon

      Kim, yes. Painful to read and to write. I struggle with knowing how to protect Emma from the torture of self-loathing. It consumes me. Or at least did. Slowly I’m beating it down. And I’m hoping, too that one day I do see myself the way you do. The way I should. Thanks for being in my cheering section. You’re a voice I hope I have in my life always.

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