A few times of year I sit down and write a post that makes me uncomfortable. In the past I’ve talked about surviving divorce and about how I never wanted to be a mom. Sharing in that way is always liberating, but also really frightening, which I guess is a good segue for admitting that writing this post scares me. Today I am writing a post called, “The Very Real Reason I Don’t Share Photos of Myself Online” and I’m opening that post with a photo of myself. In a word, I am terrified. Over the last nearly ten years I’ve built a brand and a business online, and I’ve done so in a way that puts nearly all of the focus on the work I’m doing and the things I’m creating, and very intentionally not on myself. As much as I cherish my relationships with my readers, I’ve also been completely freaked out by the idea of making myself and my face the center of attention in any way shape or form. And the reason is simple. I don’t look like a lot of bloggers do. I am not perfectly thin, and petite and cute, and no clothing brands are going to want to send me their fall collection to feature on my Instagram feed. Ten years ago I lost over 100 pounds and after maintaining it for a few years, I’ve gained much of that weight back. I judge myself every single day for that and I think that part of me is always afraid that you’ll judge me for that, too. I don’t share photos of myself online, because I’m not skinny. And even though I truly, authentically love who I am on the inside, I can’t get past the fact that for me, the two images of who I am (the one I see in my head and the one everyone else sees) simply do not align.
This post is not a post about weight loss. I have every intention in the world of getting back to the weight and size that made me feel most alive and most joyful. I hope someday I get there. I don’t intend to ever stop trying. But in the meantime, this post is about getting real. I read endless articles about body empowerment and self acceptance, about loving ourselves and feeling worthy. I would spew endless rhetoric about the same to any of you if you were down on yourself about your weight. You are beautiful, you are loved, you are valued, you are you. And I would believe every single word. The problem is, I don’t actually feel a lot of those things for myself, and for whatever reason I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I should share that truth with you. There are few things in life I’m as passionate about as my career, and over the last couple of years I’ve come to the mounting realization that I am holding myself back professionally because I am too afraid to flip around to the other side of the camera. Because I’m afraid people will realize I’m not thin and they’ll judge me or think differently of me and so I stay hidden away. On so many levels, I am confident and secure. At times I’m even outright proud of the work I produce, the content I create and the business I’ve built from the ground up. I also know that I’m a kick ass mom, spouse, sister, daughter, cousin and friend. Like, really really kick ass. But somehow, I still don’t feel quite as worthy as everyone else around me, because I don’t feel cute. And that might just be the saddest thing I’ve ever admitted to myself, let alone to the internet at large. The reality, though, is that in my industry, most of the bloggers you see are attractive. Like, really really attractive. And because many of them are actually my friends, I can tell you that they’re also really wonderful, caring people in real life, too. So, being me? Living in this body? It feels so incredibly isolating.
I imagine this is the part of this post where I should confess that I am crying as I type these words. I’m not even quite sure why. Probably in part because of fear, but also largely in relief. For too long I’ve held myself back from the things I’ve really wanted in life, both personally and professionally, because I have this huge mental and emotional block surrounding my weight. I think the tipping point for me was last week, when a giant film crew spent two days at my house and I realized I wasn’t even sure I was going to be able to look at the photos or watch the videos we spent countless hours creating, because I didn’t think I’d be able to bear to look at myself. Even knowing how thrilled the client was with my work and that they were ecstatic with what I was doing on screen, I still felt like a complete and total fraud. Because I don’t look the part. And that breaks my heart. No one should feel that way, especially on a day when they hit a grand slam in every sense professionally, and I hate that I do.
I am not sure how all of this plays out, but somehow the last couple of weeks have changed my outlook on life a little bit. It has made me determined to put myself out there, no matter how scary it is. To not limit myself before I even try to achieve something because I’m already pre-judging myself based on how I look. It would kill me if my daughter ever judged herself the way that I judge myself every single day, and I want to be a strong and confident role model for her so that she feels empowered to grow into the kick ass little girl and woman I already fully know she is going to be. So in part, I had to write this post as a way of drawing a line in the sand. There was before. And now there is now. The now where I am going to try really hard to sort through all of my complicated emotions on all of these things and actually grow to believe that I am worthy, no matter what size the tag says in my jeans. And if nothing else, I hope perhaps this post will resonate with even one person who feels the same way I do. I hope it brings some realness to all of the picture perfect photos and Instagram Stories and carefully edited videos we watch every day. I hope it reminds you that we only have this one precious life and we can’t stop living it, because we’re afraid we don’t live up to the internet’s standards of beauty and perfection. I promise that from now on, I am fighting every day to live my truth, right out loud and in the open, and I hope you promise yourself the same.
[Photos by Alice G. Patterson.]
Monday 11th of July 2022
I have so much to say… I found your post from a google search because I was thinking about this topic, about photos and how uncomfortable I feel about them now.
It wasn’t always like this. I’m almost 50 years old and I remember a time before digital cameras or phones that could take photos and instantly post them and make them public.
Back circa 1990 everyone looked bad in photos. It was normal! If you took some photos, it might be weeks before you’d know if any of them were any good. I always had red eyes in every photo. It was so normal to have flawed photos that no one would look at a bad photo and think it was the person who looked bad. It was just a bad photo. If you wanted a good photo you needed a professional or something like “glamour shots” which was a physical place you went to get your picture taken and (pay $300) and actually look pretty good in the resulting photo.
Now, we can immediately see how we look in the shot, and I think that’s made it more possible to (with a lot of work) actually look good in a photo… to work with the angles and lighting and all that….but it’s also raised our expectations too. Now every shot is supposed to look like a glamour shot. Every photo is supposed to be your best self…. Ugh.
We used to look at photos and be okay with how bad they were, because that was normal and we knew we didn’t look like that in real life. But now it’s the camera literally showing you instantly what your two dimensional self looks like right in that moment, it’s harder to digest that. Where did that wrinkle come from? What is that red spot on my forehead? Where did my jawline go? Do I really look like that?
Damn that will ruin my day or even week!
In three dimensions, no, we don’t look like that photo anyway. There are still issues with light, reflections, shadows and things we don’t think of now. Some people look better in a photo than real life even. People with sharp features tend to look good in photos and people with softer rounder features look worse… but totally different in real life.
I think you are right to keep the focus on what you do. You are a beautiful woman by the way, but no matter that, let it be about what you’ve done and what you plan to do next.
Everyone is going to age and that’s another pill to swallow. I forget my age sometimes and then catch my reflection and think “who is that?!?” Lol. I’m trying to keep a more updated and realistic idea of myself in my head.
Sunday 14th of January 2018
I'm just now reading this (linked from the 17 Favs. from 2017 post). Thank you SO MUCH for opening up; it makes me feel less alone. Like many, I follow design and lifestyle blogs for inspiration. However, I allow myself to feel less than, unworthy, when the inevitable mental comparisons begin. How does so-and-so eat that and yet maintain a size 2,? How do all these women get that perfect blogger-mermaid hair? The internal monologue of abuse is never-ending.
Last summer, Better Homes did a three-day photo shoot of our home and family. They warned us it takes a long time between initial contact to publication, yet since we haven't heard from them since the shoot, my mind keeps going to that place of "it's because I'm fat; I'm not pretty enough and the editors ran screaming away." Access to the internet and social media has helped give me the tools to create. Unfortunately, it has also amplified that critical inner-voice of self-doubt.
For what it's worth, I think you're super awesome. :) And I love the earnestness in this post.
Tuesday 16th of January 2018
Julie, thank you so much! Your words and support mean so much, truly. I can't wait to see your BHG spread!!! I seriously dream of our family being featured, so I can only imagine how exciting that process was. But yeah. For sure I'd be having HUGE anxieties worrying about how I looked and if they were going to reject me or whatever. The thing is, I would NEVER even think they'd do that to someone else nor would it EVER dawn on me to think anything other than, "look at this beautiful family!" if I saw someone else featured. So WHY WHY WHY do we do it to ourselves, when we sincerely don't look at or judge other people that way because of their weight? It makes no sense and that's the greatest frustration. Our standards for ourselves and our lives should have the same love and grace we hold for other people. Also, your Instagram feed/family/home/face are all stunning! I kind of want you to adopt me, if that's ok? Sending huge hugs! I'll be keeping an eye open for that spread! XOXO
Laurie Jane Wright
Sunday 19th of November 2017
Keep being authentic ... people will see the beauty of the inside you & keep blogging bc we all need more real in our lives!
Monday 20th of November 2017
Thank you so much, Laurie! That means so much to me. xoxo
Sunday 29th of October 2017
I stumbled upon this article the same day I asked my son to remove my photo from a group of Facebook pictures of our new grandbaby. I cried too. It's hard when how you actually look doesn't match how you feel.
Monday 30th of October 2017
Oh Mary, I am so sorry to hear you feel this way, too. Sending you huge huge hugs and I'm glad you found this post! If nothing else I am amazed and inspired by how many of us feel this same way and I am planning more posts to explore this more. It's time we free ourselves from feeling so crappy!
Around the Web - Heart and Bloom
Wednesday 23rd of August 2017
[…] This article from Cyd over at The Sweetest Occasion blog really resonated with me. It is refreshing to see such an honest piece of writing on the web. Cyd’s experience helped me recognize that part of growing creatively will require me to confront tough emotions I have been grappling with for years. […]