Photographs - We Are Our Own Worst Critic

"Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are." - Malcolm S Forbes

It seems to be one of the things of life, that often we can be our own worst critic.

Most of us have been handed a photo taken of us with a group of friends or family, and the first thing we tend to do is is scan our own image with a critical eye! How many times have you heard people say - I look awful! I hate having my photo taken!

Other people looking at the same image wouldn't see what you are seeing, they would just see YOU!

Recently a group of us had a day out, including a lovely lady who looked vibrant and sparkling in a gorgeous shade of purple. She just radiated sunshine! with her big smile and sense of fun and made the day nicer just by her being there and sharing her enthusiasm, her energy was effervescent!

Afterwards when looking at the photos of the day, the lady in purple exclaimed that she didn't like to see herself and pointed out all the things that she judged as 'wrong' with how she looked.

"Shake off those thoughts,
They're strangling you,
Let out your human song."
- Donovan

It made me realise that when we observe ourself in a photo we are just seeing a flat image, just the surface appearance - but what others are seeing and responding to is so much more, it is the whole of you, what bubbles up from out of your core, your energy, your smile, what you radiate out from the inside.

I suppose, because we are looking out from inside ourselves, that we can never truly see or experience ourselves as others do, and that is perhaps why we sometimes get caught up in judgements about the surface of ourselves. We are not feeling the energy that goes with the visuals. It is sad that we often don't realise how much beauty we hold because we get too concerned with our wrapper.

“There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.” - Thomas Merton

How do you feel when you see yourself in a photo?


Suz said...

Oh have outdone yourself...this was a fabulous post..well written, well thought out and very dead on. Loved the quotes...Human song! Love that...And Merton's quote...I have been told that all my life..but there are days I son't see that at all..I just have to believe the love of others! This should go in some is that good! What you say about us seeing only the flat image.that we never can enter what people see in us..becasue we are looking from within...great insight....I remember looking at fresh pictures and hating them..then coming across them years later and liking them..go figure xxox

Colleen Loehr said...

I loved reading this post! It is a loaded topic- all the feelings each person has about their physical appearance- and rarely addressed as directly and kindly as in this post. I like your term for our physical appearance as the "wrapper." We all age- I'm 53 now- and I've felt all kinds of distress about the shape and appearance of my "wrapper." Now I am beginning to realize that joy is not contingent on any particular physical appearance, and that joy is not blocked by any body condition. Joy is blocked by the mind, not the body. Your post is a breath of fresh air! With all the images of perfect bodies in the media everywhere we look, it is so easy to feel deficient...Thank you for a healing message Susannah.

Ann said...

How very true. I have to say, I am guilty of this. Hate seeing myself in photos.

tamara hellgren said...

So true! I think it's not only your energy that is missing in a snapshot, but also the memory.

When a friend that was with you for hours sees a photo of you (that took a fraction of a second) they look at it and have millions of "brain snapshots" to put it in context. One awkward face in one photograph won't make them forget all the times they saw you from a good angle, in good lighting, and looking great.

However as you said we don't see ourselves from the outside, so that one snapshot carries a lot more weight--it's the only view you have of yourself from the outside.

If that makes sense?

Anyway I really like this post! I hope I can keep it in mind!

Susannah said...

Hi Suz, the realisation about the flat image really helped me to understand what was going on!

I also think that is may be because we don't look at ourselves very often, just when we are getting ready, or a glimpse of our reflection here and there. So that when we DO see ourselves frozen in time like that it can come as a shock! as we don't look on the outside, like we feel like on the inside!

Thanks for the kind comments, I'm glad you could identify with this post. It's always good to see you. :-)

Susannah said...

Colleen, as you say this is a loaded topic, with all the feeling people have about their physical appearance. I especially feel for young women with all of the media portrayal of false perfection that they are encouraged to measure themselves against.

I really love what you say about joy, it is so true, joy is only blocked by the mind.

Thanks so much for your comments they are always appreciated. :-)

Susannah said...

Hi Ann, yes the sad thing is, I think that most of us do! That is why it is good to understand a little of what is going on.

We should be feeling good about ourselves not standing in judgement of ourselves as we often do.

We can wound ourselves with these judgements.

Imagine if someone was saying the critical things we think about ourselves about our sisters, or daughters, or mothers, or best friends, we would be incensed! but we allow ourselves to have those negative thoughts about ourselves.

Good to see you Ann, thanks very much for joining in. :-)

Susannah said...

Hi Tamara, I think that is a brilliant point about the memory being missing, that is exactly it! Others will be filling in the missing pieces and seeing it in the context of the whole, but we are only seeing us at that split second and as you say it carries so much more weight!

Thanks for adding that dimension to the understanding.

Now, I wonder if all of my new understanding will temper my response next time I see a snapshot of myself. :-)

Good to see you here Tamara. :-)

loreley lotus said...

Susannah, I just discovered your blogs and they're lovely and inspiring! Thank you for sending out such good vibes.

Susannah said...

Thank you Loreley! - it is really nice to meet you, please pop in again. :-)

nothingprofound said...

Loved this post, and it's so true! If only people could realize that beauty inside them, and not be so self-critical.

Susannah said...

nothingprofound - I am with you on that thought! I suppose the best thing we can do (as with most things) is start with ourselves. Good to see you here, thanks for visiting. :-)

Barbara Scully said...

Hi Susannah: great post and very true. I do agree that our energy is missing from a photo making it flat but good photos can also reveal a lot about the person. I suppose I am talking about proper, portraits (especially in black and white) as oppose to snaps.

But that said I am regularly horrified at how I look in photos.. Lately I have learned to keep my mouth shut. I am usually talking and it does not make for pretty photos. And of course this year both my drivers license and passport which were ten year documents had to be renewed with new photos. How traumatic... to look at your ten year old photo (and in the case of passports when you could smile and look happy) and compare it with the now photo. Not good. Was going to phone each department and ask if they could keep the old photos and just update the information! Ha ha

Susannah said...

Hi Barbara, that is a very good point.

I think there is a definitely a difference with a portrait photo, as you know it is being taken and you are usually prepared for it and looking directly into the lens.

I agree you can tell a lot about a person like that. Their energy and truth seems to shine through it - I think it is in the eye contact and the way a person holds them self. It is a more deliberate act somehow.

I have a black and white photo of myself as a baby/toddler, I am being held in my Mothers arms and looking directly into the camera, my eyes say so much, in moments like that the energy is caught. I really think it comes down to the eye contact through the lens.

It's good to see you, thanks for visiting and joining in! :-)

Jennifer said...

Susannah you make a great point about one's energy not being evident in a photo. Or maybe sometimes it is - if we only stop scrutinizing our own images so harshly and look at the photo as a whole!

I used to work for a photographer and he once pointed out to me that the simple reason we're often unhappy with our own image in a photo is that when we look at a photo, we don't see the image we see every morning in the mirror - because the photo flips everything. In a mirror, we see our left eye on the left, our right eye on the right.

In a photo, our image is as others see us, right eye on the left and left eye on the right. Since no one has a face that is perfectly symmetrical and we're used to seeing the the mirror image, but in a photo, we see the face flipped over, and we might register everything on our own faces as askew!

His advice: Be kinder to yourself and stop scrutinizing your own photos! :-)

Susannah said...

Hi Jennifer, that's a really good point! I never thought of that before, It could explain a lot about our reactions to ourself.

Good to see you and thanks for that. :-)

Michaela said...

I'm one of "them". I don't like seeing me on photos. Well, with few exceptions.

Susannah said...

Hi Michaela,
well for all my analysing of the subject - I am one of 'them' too! :-) . . . but from now on I shall try to have a different (and kinder) response when I see myself in photos!

Good to see you. :-)


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