Disclaimer: You have every right to say no to having your photo taken. People should check with you before uploading a photo of you to any social media sites and you have every right to ask them to take it down.
When you are struggling with how it feels to exist in your body, having photos taken of you and seeing yourself in photos can be very triggering.
Photos are a way that we capture a special moment in time that we wish to remember - to be able to look back on and reconnect with how we felt in that moment or to cherish the people, places, or animals in the photos.
With the proliferation of smartphones, photos are taken more often and we can review and edit them immediately. Some of you may not even remember using a camera to take photos on film, taking it to be processed and the nervous anticipation of having no idea what the photos would be like till you go back to them! I'm sure we can argue the pros and cons of these advancements.
The reality is that photos are being taken of us and by us. We see more images every day than our ancestors did in months! And that isn't changing any time soon.
But what if you don't like your body? What if you don't like seeing it on the screen or on print?
What if this creates discomfort or shame?
In a culture with so much emphasis on appearance, and bodies. Where we are taught to objectify ourselves and others this anxiety makes so much sense.
I'm curious; when you look at photos of others what do you see?
When you look at photos from when you were a child, or your parents, or old school photos.
Why do we look at old photos?
I cant answer for all but I can offer some ideas of why I look at old photos.
I appreciate seeing a moment between people captured. A freeze frame of a look, body language, a place, a feeling/.Looking back at photos of the past with more kindness then I perhaps offered myself and others at the time it was taken. Looking back at old photos to build a sense of where we have come from and what went before us.
I know that the people I look at in photos may not look at themselves in these photos in the same way that I do. They may look back through their own critical lens that is so often triggered when we see an image of yourself!
They may look back with compassion for themselves now that they didn't have then.
This will be unique for each person.
A story I hear often from people is that they dislike having photos taken of themselves so much that they avoid it so much that there are no photos of them for periods of time. That they regret there not being a record of them in the world at that time. Children talk with sadness about not having photos of their parents to cherish.
What about the trends to have photo shoots? To capture engagement, marriage, pregnancy, pets, newborns, family, birthdays?
Is it just to have the ‘perfect’ photo for social media or is it something more?
Are we wanting to preserve this special moment in time? And as such isn't that something all people in all bodies deserve?
You may feel very uncomfortable about it now; but will future you or future mini you appreciate it?
So how do we navigate photos? Particularly formal photo shoots!
Nervous about the shoot?
You adore your family and you recognise that this is an important moment in time and as such you want to capture this time; this moment with your loved ones. Congratulations on making the decision to have some photos taken; this is a big step.
Shop around for a photographer whose style you like. Ask around about others in your community's experiences. Did they feel comfortable, did the photographer put them at ease and make it fun? Did the photographer appreciate the complex emotions that can come up in this situation?
Spend time interviewing photographers until you find one that you feel comfortable engaging with.
It is normal to be apprehensive about the shoot.
Think about the things you can do to support yourself. Planning to take the photos at a place that feels calm and safe for you. Having comforting music playing. Having support people with you who you trust. .
Before the shoot. Prepare yourself!
Ask for some help from family and friends to be with you while you prepare or to help with little ones so you have a little more time to get ready.
Make sure you feel like you. Choose something to wear that reflects who you are and that you feel comfortable in. If you feel uncomfortable you will stand awkwardly and be pulling at your clothes. Focus on why you have chosen to do this. You may not feel like this about yourself for ever. This is a special time and these photos will help you remember the good bits.
At The Shoot. Try to enjoy yourself!
If you feel self conscious you may struggle to relax in the moment while the photos are being taken. It may be helpful to have some of your favorite music playing that will help you relax. Put it on Loud! Sing along, dance. It will help you to relax and laugh. If you feel awkward find something to focus your attending on such as interacting with the other in the photos; this may help you to get out of your head and the negative thoughts you may be experiencing; and more into the moment.
Take some deep breaths. This can be physiologically calming. Take 4-5 deep breaths noticing the air moving in and out of your lungs.
Another grounding exercise if you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed can be to list 5 things you can see, 5 things you can hear and 5 things you can touch.
Don't compare yourself with anyone else. Remember that social media often shows others highlight reels rather than their normal. These photos are for you and your family to enjoy now and in the future.
When you get the photos:
If you are feeling anxious about how you will look in the photos or how your body will look maybe don't click to open immediately.
Wait until you have a little space to do this. Think about if it would be better to do this alone or with a trusted friend.
When we look at ourselves in the mirror or in a photo we automatically look at the bits we don't like. Have compassion with yourself that you may do this; be aware of it and then take your focus off the bit you don't like and look at the photo as a whole. As a stranger would.
When you look at the whole photo look at the expression on your and others faces, the excitement, the love you can see in each other's eyes.
So often women are left out of the photos as they don't feel comfortable in them; or they are the one always behind the camera! Your significant other, family friends and/ or children adore you. They don't care what you look like, the shape of your body or the appearance of your skin.
They love all of you and want all of you all the time!
When they are older and look back on photos they will look with love at the mother they adore and the body they find unconditional love and comfort in. Don't deprive them of having photos of you to look at by avoiding having them taken, not printing the ones of you or deleting them!
In years to come you will be in a different place and inevitably your body will change as it always does with time. If you are not feeling confident about the photos right now remember there will be a time you will look back at these with pure joy about the memories.
If it is too hard to look at the photos then that is ok. It may be for now that you are happy to have them and know they are there for future you or maybe future mini yous.
Curate your social media
Social media is a part of our life and here to stay. Social platforms can be one of the places we compare ourselves to others. If someone is posting articles and images that make you feel bad about yourself - unfollow them!
Avoid diet based and exercise focused feeds that are trying to self you something as they often work by generating shame. Diversify your feed. Curate a feed filled with people and bodies who look like you. Be aware the #bodypositive tag has being co-opted by many fitness and dieting companies!
Some hashtags that you can use to search that will help finetune your feed are: #self worth #takingupspace #bodyacceptance #sizediversity #allbodiesaregoodbodies #antidiet #bodypositiveathletes #losehatenotweigh #allbodies #inbetweenie #aussiecurves #beautybeyondsize #mysizeox #beautyredefined #honormycurves #celebratemycurves #pmmlovemybody #effyourbeautystanda #styleisnotanage #lovethekinyourin If you identify as being in a higher weight body some helpful tags include: #fullfiguredfashion #plussizefashion #plussizelife #plussizemum #curvesarein #curvyau #plussizestyle #plussizepregnancy #curvyblogger #curvyconfidence #whatfatgirlsactuallywear
Need more support?
If you feel like you need a safe place to talk through your concerns about your body concerns counselling may be a helpful option. Talk to your GP and look for counselors, psychologists or specialist dietitians in your area. Looking for HAES aligned folk or practitioners specialising in body image, disordered eating or eating disorders will ensure they have the skills and expertise to support you. Some places to start searching include: HAES Australia, ANZAED, APS, DAA