Affirmations and body image boosts 👇, but first an essay from me…
Crack, pop, flash! Another soul is captured for eternity as picture day commences. The line inches forward and I cautiously move one step closer towards the bright light.
It’s 1996. I’ve got a fresh, slick golden bob that was prescribed to me as the only hairstyle I could manage as someone with limited tolerance for styling and brushing. To this day the sound of a blow dryer is worse than nails on a chalkboard.
There are only two days a year I get to swap my Catholic School uniform for real clothes — Carnival and picture day. It’s imperative that my outfit choice tells the story of who I am, but it must also meet mom’s approval. The result is never quite right for either party. This year’s pick is a striped blue v-neck vest from LimitedToo, the Sugarhigh Lovestoned of the times.
I look ahead to see what my classmates are doing for their “faces”. Serious? Seductive? Funny? What should I be remembered as this year? And God, what ever will I do with my hands?
I settle on trying to make it through the session looking unremarkable, with a side of “wow, she’s really cute, how did I never notice”. This will be a theme for years to come.
Somewhere else on that same day, in that same auditorium, my future husband is taking his school photo. It’s his eighth-grade shot, and the stakes are even higher for him. The eight grade book is one you keep forever, we’re told. He opts for a sarcastic grimace, and a coded nickname, “Elmo”.
Weeks later, I’m handed my photo package in a crinkly, plastic, and paper envelope to take home for my family’s approval. We’ve prepaid for these, and they better be good. I’m in luck, the photo is exactly what I was hoping for — average.
I carry on carefree, lucky to come of age at a time when one image — not an entire camera roll — is all I need to worry about for the year.
Mama’s affirmations 🙏:
My beauty is the kind that moves, a photo will never capture the real thing.
If a picture is worth a 1000 words, sometimes write the essay instead.
Body image boosts 🚀: School photos
It’s that time of year! School photos are underway for most parents. With the advancements in technology, it’s time to rethink why we’re still relying on this as a cornerstone keepsake from our child’s year. Is there a better way to encapsulate the year (how about a magazine of our kids’ art)?
I get it, the school photo has a ton of nostalgia, I’m not here to talk you out of buying the $50 instant download package. But let’s bring some awareness into the emphasis we’re putting on nailing that photo, the weight it will carry, and the seeds of negative self-perception we might accidentally start sowing with a few well-meaning jokes. And, let’s give the same attention to non-image-related moments from the year, that also undoubtedly showcase what mattered most to our kids outside of an awkward, staged photo.
The same goes for us grownups who are racking our brains for our holiday cards or seasonal Instagram posts that we’re ready to put out into the world as soon as we move past Halloween. By all means, go for it. But do it consciously, and try not to pass our “stuff” about the importance of our appearance in these photos down to our kids while doing so.
We know this in our gut, but just to give you a firm why: photos of others take a sneaky toll on us. Research backs this up, with a 2021 study of 15 to 35-year-olds that found that the more people compared themselves to images of others, the more they increased their body dissatisfaction and drive for thinness.
Instead of facts, today's issue poses two integration challenges:
First, consider how else we can foster connections with others (grandparents, classmates, coworkers) that don’t rely on an image of ourselves.
Second, spend a day taking inventory of how many images of others you are exposed to. Even if you take traditional image-based social media out of the equation, how many images of faces (which is way different than encountering someone IRL) are you seeing while reading the news, following a comment thread, researching your holiday shopping list, etc. My guess is it will surprise you.
Let me know what you discover in the comments!