Making jokes. Laughing out loud and then shaking the head. Breaking into a sprint. Ducking behind someone taller. Screaming "no" the way you scream it when someone tells you to get rid of the spider in the room. What do these reactions have in common? They are all responses I get from people when I suggest they have their picture taken.
So why is the camera so scary? Have we ever really asked ourselves this? It's just a little lens attached to a light sensitive machine that captures whatever light and shadow it sees. It's harmless.
So why are we so afraid?
1. WE BELIEVE OUR APPEARANCE DOES NOT MEET A CERTAIN STANDARD
Let's jump right on in. Has someone ever criticized your appearance? Yeah, me too. It's bad enough when they're someone you barely know, but it's worse when they're someone you love. And what about you - what did you tell yourself when you looked in the mirror today? Did you compare yourself to the celebrities you just saw on your favorite show or the friends you follow on social media? You probably did. And I bet you weren't even aware of it.
Here's a new belief I dare you to try: "People who have criticized my appearance were simply showing me they're not happy with their own. When I compare myself to others, I lose sight of the magnificent beauty I possess because I compare apples to oranges. Instead, I want to believe that I am worthy of a portrait simply because I am a unique and wonderfully made human being."
And if you scoffed at that last sentence or thought it was cheesy, I want to give you a hug right now. I'm sorry that you've been hurt and its made you cynical - I have been too. I'm sorry that people have taken their insecurities out on you and made you hate the way you look. But you know what? Today is new. Today you can choose to believe whatever you want.
Try giving yourself a chance.
2. "I NEED TO LOSE FIVE POUNDS"
Isn't that interesting. As a portrait photographer, one thing I've been made aware of time and time again is that we all, collectively, as a human race, "need to lose five pounds." Fascinating! I hear it from people who are 20 years old, and people who are 60 years old. I hear it from size 2's and size 22's. I hear it from women who had a baby last month and from women who had a baby 20 years ago. So forgive me if I readily call BS on that statement every single time I hear it. I don't mean to sound insensitive - I just know it's an excuse and hear it for what it REALLY means:
"I need to lose five pounds" = "I'm not good enough yet."
But you are. You are magnificent the way you are right now. (Even if you think you're "too skinny," which is another excuse I hear.) And if you weigh 400 pounds through your 20's and then 200 pounds through your 30's, aren't both eras of your life worth remembering and celebrating? Weight and age are numbers. The only reason we don't say, "I need to lose five years" is because it isn't possible. But we do say "I'm too old," and it comes from the same core belief.
Also, as your portrait photographer, it is my job to advise you on clothing and then light and pose you in such a way that is as flattering as possible! I take this seriously, and I promise it will give you confidence.
Your legacy is worthy preserving and celebrating regardless of how much physical space you occupy.
3. SOMEONE TOOK AN UNFLATTERING PICTURE OF US, SO WE BELIEVE THAT'S HOW WE LOOK ALL THE TIME
I got this email from a client last week: "I wanted you to know how you have helped me to not be so critical of myself in pictures that I have no control over. There are always going to be those unflattering pictures out there, but I have to remind myself that that’s not me. I have your photos to reflect upon and feel amazing about myself."
It never ceases to amaze me how often I am surprised after meeting a client in person when all I had seen before was a couple snapshots of them on Facebook. They always seem more attractive in person! And isn't that a portrait photographer's job? To see the way each person uniquely lights up and capture the very best version of them.
Maybe you had a bad experience with a professional photographer. If that happened, don't hide from the camera forever. Find someone you trust who cares about who you are and wants to do all they can to create a portrait you'll be proud of.
4. WE LIKE [NEED] CONTROL
Some of us are selfie masters but shudder at the thought of handing someone else the reigns. It's terrifying - I get it! And while there's nothing wrong with a good selfie, it's important to hand over control to a professional who will capture who you really are, along with your interactions with loved ones. Selfies are fun but they're not a Portrait. And if you have a difficult time giving up control, interview your potential photographer first! Ask to see their portfolio (with more than just the 20 year olds who look like models), and look for Before and After images. I do a consultation with all of my clients before they even book the shoot so they can talk with me and get a feel for everything before they commit!
And on a personal note, I finally scheduled a photoshoot with a photographer I've known and trusted for a long time. The shoot is in a couple weeks, and I have butterflies! But do you know why I'm not afraid? Because I know the photographers, have seen their work, have met with them to plan the shoot, and trust them to do an incredible job.
It's easy to think, "Well what if the photographer doesn't make me look as good as I can in a selfie?" when we should really be thinking, "What if they can make me look even better and show me something new?"
5. WE DON'T LIKE OURSELVES
This is the tough one, isn't it. Hi, I'm Mitzi, and I'm a recovering self-hatred addict. Why do I say addict? Because you get addicted to things that serve you. Yikes! Here we go!
- If I believe I'm not good enough, that means I don't have to try.
- If I believe no one will like me, I don't have to be vulnerable and reach out to people.
- If I believe I'm bad at this or that skill, it means I don't have to push myself to develop it.
- If I believe I am too far gone, it means I don't have to stretch myself out of my comfort zone.
- If I believe everyone will treat me negatively, I'll go into every interaction with that expectation and make it true.
- If I believe I am worthy of accepting who I am, then I have to be responsible for who I am.
Yeah, those are heavy. So here's a question: How do you show the people you love that you actually love them? Do you tell them? Sure. But don't your actions speak louder?
The only way to start loving yourself is to start believing you are worth loving. You'll accept whatever you think you deserve - So start expecting the best.
One of the most powerful transformations I see within our clients happens because they SHOW UP for themselves. We spend time, money, and energy on the things we love. Who do you love, and what do you give them? Have that list in your mind? Good. Now start doing those things for yourself too.
If nothing else, I hope you hear this from my heart to yours: You are worthy of the love you are so eager to give to others. You are worthy.