I’ve never been a fan of having my picture taken. It wasn’t that I had a problem with my appearance, necessarily, but it seems like as soon as there’s a camera on me my face tends to contort into strange expressions and I adopt the most unflattering pose possible.
It wasn’t that big a deal though; after all, I knew what I looked like, so why would I take pictures of myself when there are so many other things/people that I might want to remind myself of?
Over the last few years, my mental illness has led to a lot of changes in my physical appearance. I’ve gained a significant amount of weight from being on multiple medications that cause weight gain. The stress has aged me, and that’s quite visible on my face.
I’ve mostly come to terms with that. I don’t particularly like people in general, so it doesn’t really matter to me all that much what they think. I simply don’t care enough to dress up, put on makeup, or put effort into my hair.
And that’s fine. Mostly.
That brings me to the present. With another book being released in a month, I decided it was time to have a semi-decent headshot to use as an author photo. This would replace my current choice, which I actually really like, that’s of me peering out from behind one of my pet guinea pigs.
I’m not looking for anything fancy, so rather than doing any sort of photo shoot I decided to go with a selfie. Should be easy, right? Well, I reversed the camera on my iPhone, and shuddered at what I saw. The angle from which I held my phone showed off at least four of my chins, which was two more than I’d realized I had. Plus my face looked about 10 years older than the rest of me. No, that was not going to work.
It’s one thing to accept my physical imperfections in my head. It’s another thing when my phone is trying to beat me over the head with them.
Okay, time to bring in some reinforcements. I did a full face of makeup, which I never did even when I did wear makeup in the past. I corralled my hair into submission. I snapped a bunch more pictures, of which one seemed passable. Then I opened it up in full screen on my laptop and thought damn, it’s a good thing Apple Photos lets me do some editing.
The disjunction between my selfie insanity and my typical lack of caring what I look like struck me as rather odd.
After a bit of (non-mirror) reflection, I realized the source of much of that discord. While my mental illness hit at 27, it wasn’t until my mid-thirties that the body changes and the accelerated aging kicked in. Three quarters of my adult life I looked one way. I look quite different now, but my mental image of myself hasn’t shifted all the way from how I used to look.
I notice it occasionally looking in the mirror and don’t pay too much attention, but there’s something about what the camera showed me that made me stop and take notice.
It showed me a woman who has been through a whole lot of life experience. It showed a face that’s missing the joy that used to light it up. It showed someone who’s a survivor, and hasn’t given up yet.
I don’t know when the self-image inside my head will catch up with what’s showing on the outside, but there’s still a core part of me that accepts myself as I am, multiple chins and all.