Tuesday, April 10, 2012

On Being Vain and Weird and Silly

picnic

A couple weeks ago we spent the weekend at my parents', and towards the end of our lazy Sunday I got out a huge box of un-albumed photos my Mom had hidden away in her closet. This was the first time I had seen many of these pictures, and I was in awe. She'd always been good about putting photographs into albums, but somehow this box of photos hadn't made it into one of the many books my Mom had put together over the years. There were pictures of my parents on their wedding day, photos of my grandparents under big willow trees. There was me as an infant in my Dad's arms, hundreds of photos of my sister and me, hundreds of photos of everything in our life that now stands as a memory.

I pored over them. I was lost, entranced for hours looking through so many new-to-me moments, flooded with both nostalgia and happiness. I had never seen a pregnant photo of my mother and I hadn't seen too many of these candid shots of so many of the people I love, from years and years back. It was one of the best Sundays I'd ever had at my parents'.

Later that night as we made the two hour drive home I found myself looking through my Flickr album via my phone, while Hank listened to a basketball game on the radio. I saw the kinds of pictures that Henry might one day treasure- small moments, happy smiles, candid shots. And I thought about the fact that I had hundreds, thousands more on my computer, some even better than the ones I chose to put on my Flickr but didn't for one reason or another, usually involving the way I thought I looked in them.

There are so many times I'll go through my own photos and see such great moments, but end up hating them because I don't like the way I look. It came to me on that drive home that after going through every single one of those photos at my parents', there wasn't one time where I thought "gee, my Mom sure has a double chin from that angle" or "she should have put one hand on her hip so her arm didn't flatten against her body and look kind of chubby." Of course nothing like that crossed my mind. And why would it? I was focused so much on the love in those memories that my Mom could have had three heads and it wouldn't have mattered.

So for now I am learning to love all of the photos we take for what they are, little snapshots of happy times, and learning not to be so critical of myself. No one cares that my hair is out of place or my round face looks even rounder when I smile in that certain way, or that I have no makeup on Easter morning or a stain on my shirt from a family dinner. I'm a perfectionist by nature and my own worst critic, but I'm learning that perfectionism does not mesh well with motherhood. So as hard as it is, I'm slowly working on letting go of feeling like everything has to be just so.

When Henry and I got home today I uploaded a bunch of photos from our day. There were so many I adored- so many photos where we were both laughing so hard, smiling with our whole faces- and of course my initial reaction was to be overly critical of myself.  But I thought back to that weekend at my parents', looking at those photographs, and I realized that all of these pictures we take aren't about me. They're about the memory. And being vain and weird and silly about them is well, vain and weird and silly.

And so I remind myself of what's important- that Henry will one day look at all of the photos of us and see a happy mama and the happiest baby boy. He will not see the imaginary double chin I decided I had in a certain photo, or the way my thighs look a bit too thick for my liking in another. He'll see smiles, and crinkled eyes, and so much love. And to me, that's all that matters.
 

61 comments:

  1. Beautiful reminder. I have never ever looked at old photos of my mom or my grandmother and saw anything but perfection. I'm sure my mom would look at them and point out every imaginary flaw ... the same way I do with my pictures now. It's about capturing memories and friends and family and times that you'll never want to forget. Who cares if there's a little pudge over the the waistband or a little frizz in your hair?! As if that will matter even one minute from now when you look back on your day. I love your perspective.

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  2. What a lovely post, thank you. We are all our own worst critics; it takes a very secure and self-aware person (self-aware in the *good* kind of way!) to be able to see that and move past it.

    I, too, will try to get past the vanity and hold onto frozen moments, not just for me, but for those around and after me.

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  3. I NEEDED to read this post. I do this way too often and end up with no pictures of myself with the kids and hardly any of just me! Thank you for this reminder!
    My kids don't care about my "just had a baby" belly or my makeup less face. They want to look back and see Mommy.

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  4. I love this post.
    It's so true, not posting a certain photo because of my appearance...I've done that same thing so many times in the past.
    As I have gotten older those thoughts aren't around as much as they used to be.

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  5. You are such an inspiration and Henry has an amazing and wonderful mother. I've looked through old photos and hated the way I looked, but more recently am accepting how I looked and remembering those moments and those feelings that were true happiness, not how I looked. You're right, I don't look at my families old albums and think "Wow, my mom put on a few pounds! (never would I say that)" but I think of how much fun they used to have, even before I was born.
    I enjoy your blog so much because you document it all, you've got tons of pictures and amazing memories that Henry is going to love to hear/read about. I definitely look up to you and hope that when I'm a parent, I can do the same.

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  6. Thank you for this post,Danielle. I needed the reminder!

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  7. i had a realization like this when my oldest son was about a year old. (although to be honest, there aren't that many photosnwith me AND my kids, because i'm always the one behind the camera.) but just like you said you didn't think critically of your mom in any of those photos, i hope that my kids won't think of anything but love when they look at the pictures from their childhood. :)

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  8. Oh man, I love this. I need to remember this, too. I try but it's hard. I'm a perfectionist by nature as well but with everything in me I'm trying to change that. I mean, it's good in some respects but it means that if something isn't perfect I'm a mess!

    Beautiful photo, by the way. Have a beautiful night.

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  9. This is such a beautiful reminder/realization. Thanks so much for sharing this. I needed it.

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  10. This post has seriously changed my view for the better on how I look at photos of me and my family now. Amazing!

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  11. such a raw post. right on Dani. I think many of us needed this eye opener. I know I've often not posted pics that I wanted to bc I didnt like the way "i" looked. But you are right its not about the "I's" it's about the MEMORY.

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  12. I really loved this post. I think that vanity is something that everyone struggles with from time to time, especially with our culture being so appearance driven.

    Thank you so much for this great reminder! Henry is one lucky kid to have a mom like you :)

    -Karasyn

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  13. Thank you for this, I can totally relate. Funny enough, I recently started to work on accepting myself for the way I look everyday. I used to be in better shape, yeah but I also was a lot younger and I banned cookies out of my life. Was ever happier back then, certainly not! Actually it was the opposite. As a woman it is hard to accept ourself in this society. I think that the key is the happiness inside your mind. If you are happy, if you accept yourself with your imperfections you will shy on the outside.... it all comes from the way we are willing to handle it.

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  14. 'Perfectionism does not mesh well with motherhood,' yes, yes, yes! SO true! To me every moment spent with my daughter is perfect, whether or not I'm wearing make-up, in work attire, or in a t-shirt with a hole in it;) Lovely post!

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  15. ya know what's funny? when you posted those pics from easter morning i really did think "oh wow, it's cool to see danielle in 'real life.' you could tell that you were all celebrating together early that morning as a family and it was so precious to see.

    thanks for this inspiring and challenging post!! <3

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  16. I never realized it until reading this post, but I do the same thing. I have so many photos I have never even printed, just sitting on my computer, because I can't stand the way I look. And let's face it, how many days when you are adjusting to motherhood and waking up with a newborn baby at all hours, who feels like pulling out the curlers and heels?

    Thanks for the reminder that we need to remember who those pictures are for...and it's not us.

    Lauren

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  17. The point that you gave through this post was what I needed to hear today
    Pictures are a way of holding a memory
    I've been struggling with the way I look in photos a lot lately and not stopping to think about what memory I've created in that moment captured or how my kids will remember that moment down the road
    Thanks

    Martina

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  18. What a great way to think of pictures. I think we all get so caught up in what we look like in photos that we forget about the point and purpose of having the photo. I think to when my friends and I would look at pictures and disagree about which one was the best (all because each of us though WE looked bad) It's all about the memories! Thanks so much for writing this great post!

    xo Eden

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  19. Such a good reminder that our memories will live on in pictures if we can get past what we see, & get to the beauty that others see. No one else is noticing the minute details we are.

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  20. great post! definitely something i need to think about too.

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  21. Danielle,
    you are an inspiration && i truly do admire you. You're gorgeous by the way!

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  22. Very true! When I look back at photos I am struck by the good memories and how beautiful the people are, but when they are of me I pick them apart like you. It's such a struggle sometimes, but you are very right, it's something we could all work on I think. :)

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  23. I cannot even tell you know much the post means to me. thank you for reminding me to stop making every picture about me. you're right, it's about the memory and that's what matters. you are always so insightful. thank you.

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  24. this is all so true, and I'm really glad you wrote about this! i was just thinking about this the other day. even though I can be my own worst critic too,when i look back on photos i always remember the memories, and that's the important part.

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  25. I've never in my life commented on someone's blog, but this post just rang so true for me. It's a great reminder to love myself as much as my daughter loves me. She doesn't care if I don't look perfect :)

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  26. I am a scrapbooker. But hate getting pics taken of myself. I hate how I look and just cringe at pictures of myself. BUT I also know the value and importance of being in our albums. So I scrapbook the pics of me even though I hate me in them because I know that when I look at pics of my parents I dont pick apart them.. I giggle at the clothes, wallpaper or furniture (or explaim how much I want that sofa) and enjoy the feeling of a glimpse of the past. I think its so cool how we can preserve pictures and video these days. Our kiddos will be so grateful for it one day. :) In fact I was picking pics from 2007 to print yesterday so I can start scrapbooking them (yup that far behind) and we spent ages laughing and remembering all the memories. :)

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  27. oh this is such a good reminder for me. And that photo is precious.

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  28. Thank you for this lovely post. You made me a little emotional... I definitely understand what you're saying. In most pictures I think there's something wrong with me. Strange smile, weird face, no eyes (I have very small eyes and when I smile, they try to disappear) or just standing wrong. Hihi. But when I lost my mom a half year ago I began to treasure every single picture with her and I love them all. No matter how I look, I was happy the moment my dad or someone else took it and you can see and feel that when looking at them. And not even the pictures with here. Since that day I treasure all my pictures. Even when I do look funny or weird!

    Love, Sari

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  29. A great reminder. I like to say that the memory is more important than the state of my hair... but sometimes it's hard not to focus on the quadruple chin I've suddenly gained.

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  30. I looked at a few pictures of myself from a year ago that went unblogged. I remember thinking at the time they were so unflattering and I tore myself to shreds because of it. But looking at them a year later I didn't see anything wrong and thought of all the time I wasted. I try not to be so critical now and will keep your story in mind for when I start to be. I am definitely my harshest critic and I should be my biggest fan.

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  31. What a great message, and so true! Thank you for sharing this!
    That photo is just adorable too!!!!

    xo Kayla
    http://www.sealedwithakay.com

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  32. What a lovely post. It's funny isn't it how you can spend so long obsessing over these little things that don't matter. I am really unphotogenic - which kind of makes the situation worse because as soon as a camera is thrust in my face I have a mini panic and pull the stupidest face ever! In fact I invented a "face" called gorilla face which all of my friends soon adopted so we have a good couple of years worth of photos where everyone is pulling this stupid face (imagine a gorilla - it's pretty much like that).

    Point is - the photos where I am laughing (that I hate because I don't like the way I look full mouth smiled!) are probably the nicest - because they show how happy I am. For a while on instagram I started sharing silly pictures of me pulling stupid faces and not attempting to look presentable - and i got a lot of comments (all good) saying how it had made people smile or laugh.

    Here's to "not so perfect" photos! Great post :)

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  33. such a beautiful post and an even better reminder. Thank you.

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  34. I've thought some very similar things about my picture taking/saving/sharing habits recently. My film photos are more precious to me than most of the pictures I've taken in the past six years - they're more rare, so it doesn't matter so much when I see little "imperfections" in myself. That is why I have switched back to my old point and shoot film camera for all memory photography. I'll appreciate them more and look at the moment, not the slightly weird shadow that my nose makes or the squishy arm chub. :)

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  35. Why is this such a hard lesson for us to learn? It's so easy to be overly critical or judgmental of ourselves, I know. I am 29 weeks pregnant and Mr B has been asking me to have photographs done so that we (and our child) can cherish them later. I've been resisting: I feel fat, and veiny, and my hair hasn't been coloured in more than seven months, and blah, blah, blah. But I know that if I do this, my little one won't be looking at my weight or my hair colour. Instead, she will marvel at my belly: "I was in THERE." I need to get over myself.

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  36. this is such a wonderful discovery and life lesson!
    thank you for sharing it.

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  37. This brought a tear to my eye. Maybe i'm just overly emotional today or something but this was lovely.

    Louise xo

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  38. I do this all the time when I'm editing photo albums. I think, "I don't want my children to look at these and think I was horrible looking when I was younger!"
    But you're so right. My mum's terrible 80s hair just endears her more to me in her photos and I will be no different. x

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  39. What a great post to read this morning and an excellent reminder. I am definitely my own worst critic but I am slowly learning that sometimes those type of things just dont matter
    Also, It reminds me to take more pictures! :]

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  40. I always love your posts like these along with well every single post, but particularly these because it's so nice to sometimes hear that others relate. My husband gets onto me alot of the time for over analyzing pictures too much. When a few years ago I would have uploaded anything not even thinking twice. Now I critique every picture and I know will one day regret alot of the moments deleted right in front of me because I might have been having a puffy day or I wasn't wearing any makeup. My legs not looking how I had imagined or just the fact that I don't like the look of anything I see at all. I really like what you've said and will also try to just thinking about the moments in the pictures rather than focusing on irrelevant matters.

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  41. Motherhood doesn't mesh will with perfectionism...a very astute observation. :)

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  42. What a beautiful lesson to all. Thanks for putting it out there. I for one is always behind the camera and never in front of the camera. It's time to let it be!!! Thanks again!!!

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  43. I agree with the rest of the comments - this post was really good because I think we all struggle with vanity and self-esteem at times, esp if we are sharing our lives via a public blog.

    Over the last year as I became a devoted reader, I noticed that a large majority of the posted pictures of you looked very similar - hand on your hip, head tilted slightly, closed lip smile, your leg sort of turned in a little - and I assumed that this was the pose where you felt most comfortable/beautiful. This is not a criticism at all, I just noticed it and it made me more aware of my own photos and was I also "posing" for every picture instead of letting more of the real and candid moments?

    Thanks again for posting your thoughts on this - it's a great reminder and encouragment!

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  44. I am the most un-photogenic person you will probably ever meet. At my wedding? During the ceremony, I realized when looking at photos that I was kind of slouching back and pushing my belly out. I was nervous and didn't pay attention to the way I was standing. I hate those pictures! But I've tried to do my best to see past all of that and see what truly matters... that we got to capture and look back at the exact moment I was marrying my best friend.

    However, I do the same thing on most occasions. I pick and choose where I look best. But there are always a few that I cherish, even if I look like of crazy or chubby, etc. As I age, I'm finding I'm becoming more comfortable with myself. At about 15 lbs heavier than I was in high school, I am 200% more comfortable with the way I look (usually) and it feels great!

    You and your family are gorgeous, truly. But it's the love and the memories that we see in those pictures that really stand out.

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  45. Great post! Shared it on our fb and linked back to you. You are so totally right.

    -Leah
    Superstition Vintage

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  46. This is a beautiful post. It's something I struggle with (and am trying to overcome!) as well,a nd something I don't think we can remind ourselves of too often!

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  47. Wow.. I love this post. My favorite I've read this week. I struggle with this too...but after reading your perspective and what you experienced with your own childhood photos...it puts things in a whole new light. Thank you for sharing!

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  48. Thank you for this post. I reallllllly needed to read just THIS. I am constantly doing the same thing - deleting memories because I look fat or my smile is stupid or my hair looks funny. I needed this slap in the face to wake me up and realize that it isn't about any of my hang-ups. It's about the time flying by that we were lucky enough to freeze in that moment.

    I really enjoyed this. I, too, love to spend a day looking through my mother's old photos. It's so dear to my heart. Thanks again for the wake up call.

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  49. I don't own a single picture of my parents together, or of my mother pregnant with me, or of me as a baby with her, so I understand what you mean! I've been trying to be diligent about printing off pictures and keeping them in albums, because I would not want to lose any of my memories due to a computer crashing. I want to be able to look at my pictures and share them many years down the road.

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  50. All I have to say to this is: YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! I love you!

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  51. ah, you've got a way with words! loved this post. xo!

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  52. Great post! Thanks for sharing.

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  53. LOL, I thought I was the only one who noticed the "hand on your hip so your arm doesn't look chubby" thing! Funny part is, I never notice it on anybody else except me. The truth is--nobody cares! Most of the time, we are the only people picking ourselves apart in photos. Nobody else is inspecting us nearly as closely as we are. Love this post.
    xx

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  54. Oh goodness, so true! And often my favorite photos of someone I love are their least favorite photos of themselves. One where their eyes are closed or their feet are turned in or their hair is up in a messy bun... because really, THAT'S the person I know. I don't know the Mom who is plastic and perfect in every way. I know the one who had bags under her eyes and flour in her hair as she was up at four to start Thanksgiving dinner. I want to remember the woman who did all that for us, not the one who is perfectly coiffed with a fake smile to match!!

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  55. Thanks for writing this. I struggle with the same thing. It's gotten easier, the older my son gets, to look past the old hang-ups and through to the love or laughter in that captured moment.

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  56. Also, I thought you might be interested in this embrace the camera idea, since it echo's your thoughts here. I came across it earlier this year through Under the Sycamore, and have yet to really thoroughly embrace it through actual photographs, but I'm on board at least with the idea of braving the camera for my kids.

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