I have a really hard time with taking photographs of myself, or allowing them to be taken. I always felt that if there was going to be photographic evidence of what I looked like, I needed to look my best. Only times when I felt thin or beautiful were ever photographed – after fasting, meeting different weight goals, being dressed up for weddings and other events. The strange thing is that when I was my thinnest I hated the way I looked and kept waiting for photos until I lost more weight, I don’t have any pictures from my worst times. This is both good and bad; bad because I feel as if I need to get to that point again so that I can take pictures and have proof that I was that sick, a strange thing to say but it’s the truth – good because it’s easier to let go of those times of my life.
The biggest problem with the lack of photos is that I have no evidence that I actually existed between the times the photos were taken. Every adventure I went on, happy times I had, experiences I want to be able to remember are all missing everywhere but my own mind all because I felt too fat and ugly to let any photos be taken.
My most recent experience is strangely with yoga photos. I wished I had gotten photos of me in my poses when I was thin, in my mind they would have been the most beautiful. I see others’ photos and they look not only thin but graceful, calm, serene – the very kind of yoga pose perfection you would see on tv or a yogurt commercial. I don’t have photos of myself in yoga poses looking lithe and beautiful, all because I didn’t want there to be any stray rolls or strange angles until I was thin enough to look like that yogurt commercial. This is actually the only yoga photo I have, it was taken hastily by a friend as I demonstrated the headstand we had just learned. I came down shortly after it was taken and obsessed over the size of my butt and how the angle could have been more flattering, showing more clearly how thin I was at the time. I was frustrated that the photo didn’t reflect my body the way I wanted it to be seen, I looked fat and it was my friend’s fault for not taking a photo that showed my body looking that way.
I have wanted to take a yoga photo more recently as I get stronger and more confident in my practice but I am terrified of how my body will look in the skin tight yoga clothes as I contort my body into all kinds of strange positions. Yesterday while in downward dog in class the teacher asked if she could take a photo of our row in a reverse plank, I tentatively agreed and so did the other 3 girls. I panicked for a moment but swallowed it and got into the pose when the teacher called it. As soon as class was over I went searching for the photo, looking for proof of my giant size and how ugly I must look while doing yoga. This is what I found instead (I’m in purple).
I focused for a minute on my chubby tummy and face, telling myself that I don’t actually look too big but that’s only because I’m the second person in and there is someone else’s body hiding mine. Once I got past examining my body parts I saw the whole picture and was awed – I look so strong! I look confident, powerful and happy! There will be more photos of me doing yoga in the future and I will focus on the strength and ability of my body, not how it looks or how I think it should look.
We can’t spend our lives wishing we were something else or we will spend our whole lives waiting. From now on I will take photos of my adventures and there will be evidence that despite my size I lived a full life. I spent so long waiting to do anything until I was “perfect” but life isn’t about perfection; it’s about getting messy, exploring, having fun, taking chances and being brave. I will be brave and enjoy the time I have on this planet, even if my body doesn’t look the way I want it to. I will have evidence to show to myself and my children that the most important thing in life is to have a life you can love and be proud of, regardless of the way you look.