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Keep Your Pictures, Dammit (Before You Go On A Deleting Spree)

Save The Picture by Emily Nolan for My Kind of Life

This has been an ongoing dialog for as long as camera phones existed: Delete that, I look fat. Delete that, bad angle. Delete that, the lighting is bad. Delete that, the background’s not great. Oh, send me that one! I’ll edit it and post it to Facebook.

Not too long ago, my Mom and Grandma came down to spend a girl’s weekend with me in Miami—for my 29th birthday. It was, to succinctly describe such a momentous occasion for the three of us, just incredible. We rented a fabulous ocean front hotel room, ate at the best restaurants and had a weekend filled with a puritans idea of hedonistic pleasure. Fabulous hotel room, delicious food, loungewear all day.

On this trip, I made a point to have my husband take a lot of pictures of the three of us together acting like tourists in my hometown. We had so much fun and the pictures were just beautiful, capturing each moment so honestly.

When I went through the photos from the weekend–which are now a complete treasure to me–there were comments like, “I look like a whale in that picture,” or, “Oh, delete that! Please!”

The unpleasant comments, which I have said to myself at times (learning to accept myself the way I am will always be a work in progress), were so uncharacteristic of the moments. There was so much more to the picture than seeing a “whale” or a bad angle. These moments snapped in time, in fact, are as precious to me as the Koh-i-Noor diamond is to the Brits. We captured the essence of life—family—and quite tragically, the only thing we’ve been trained to see is ourselves.

Incredible, that if we were to show the picture to anyone else, they would see the beauty in the shot, yet, we’re culturally trained to apologize for our personal appearance. I’d like to make a motion to end all personal apologies of the kind.

It’s important to remind ourselves, when flipping through our pictures, that the way we speak to ourselves directly empowers or disempowers the ones that are listening, or watching. The way we carry ourselves and own up to shame, insecurities or confidence in an honest way can tremendously help others by holding space for them to choose confidence. Alternatively, if we choose destructive words, we can bring others down with us, almost unknowingly. Even when your intention was to only speak of yourself.

This is the classic case of the girl’s lunch date, as my girlfriend Kathryn Budig likes to illustrate. One girl says she looks fat, and then the other says, “Well, if you’re fat, than I must be too!” And then the first girl responds, “Oh, no, no…you look great!” But it’s too late. The seed has been planted and she’s unknowingly disempowered her community. We must support each other by choosing to love ourselves first.

I'm Keeping The Photos, Dammit by Emily Nolan for My Kind of Life

My sister-in-law recently inspired me when she sent a bunch of goofy photos of her and her kids to her Grandma. I loved the uncut, unedited, just-the-way-we-are appeal to the pictures, that it moved me enough to send my own hard copies of the photos we took during the girl’s weekend to both my Mom and Grandma.

The hard copies of photos serve as moments of life captured, something way greater than vanity. We are three generations, standing and laughing together at art galleries. We are the same blood, sitting around a table sharing a meal together as adults. We are women that support each other beyond the grave. We are so much more than our earth suit. We are an incredible, immeasurable beauty, despite what society wants us to think about our reflection.

The only natural reflection that the Universe gave us is people. When you try to look too far into a pond, you fall in. So instead, we must look to our community—our people—to measure the beauty of our spirit. That is the way we should measure our worth–in spirit and community.

When I look at the pictures of the three of us, standing together with so much love, I see so much beauty in the moment that it consumes my heart. The two women that raised me, together, for an incredible weekend. I can’t think of anything more my heart would desire most times.

When I go back through those pictures of us on my birthday, I keep one photo from every moment stored in a folder—regardless of who thought they looked terrible or wanted the photo deleted. I’m keeping the photos to remind myself that our bodies are these impersonal vessels for human experiences, like love.

If I were to throw away an incredible moment because of the way society has skewed our body image, that should be a crime of the first degree. Of course, it’s not our fault that media’s fed us this idea of what we’re supposed to look like. That said, we’re now educated on the matter and it’s our personal responsibility to trust and support ourselves, in exactly the way we are.

Before you go on a deleting spree, save your pictures, dammit. Even when you’re blinking or it’s taken from a bad angle. It’s true, we’ve all seen you blink before, and again, we’ve all seen your body from all angles in person. If the picture’s a moment you want to remember, take the photo and hold on to it. Give the moment power and put it in a beautiful frame to display in your house.

We are not whales, or bad angles, or blinking eyes, or cellulite. We are the reflection of the people around us. Capture your words carefully, the way you’d capture your “perfect photo.” Speak of yourself the way you’d speak of your community, because that’s what The Source would ask of you. You (and your body) are just as holy and worthy as the next.

It’s our personal responsibility to own our declarations and actions and see that they ripple beautifully throughout the people around us–the people who show us what our true reflection is. The next time you start to judge a picture of yourself, pause for a moment and say something beautiful about the picture. I love that we’re together. I love this moment. I’m so happy. I’m glad we took that photo. This captures us so well. I’m keeping this photo, dammit!

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this kinda rocks!
oh darling, indulge a little
this kinda rocks!
oh darling, indulge a little