I got into the habit when I was younger of posting a photo of myself before every night out I went on. After spending an hour or two getting ready, I would then ask my mum or my sister to take a photo of me. I was pretty self conscious so sometimes I’d ask them to take the photos with their eyes closed so they couldn’t ‘watch me’. One time I even asked my sister to stand in the shower tray to get a higher angle – what can I say, pre night out photos were serious business! There would be a collection of over 50 photos and I would always only like one or two of them, if that. When I liked none of the photos – and even if I felt like I looked pretty in person – I would head off out feeling downcast and insecure.
The photoshoot didn’t end there. Pre drinks at a friend’s house meant another photo session. On the night out itself, we got photos too, only they were much less posed and always ended up being my favourites.
These extraordinary lengths I went to for a ‘nice’ photograph of myself have become a learned behaviour, a habit from the age of 18 to the age of 25… a habit that I need to break.
My realisation happened last week when I was going out for Jack’s birthday. Having not ‘dressed up’ for a while, I wanted a photo to mark the occasion. Jack, my unofficial photographer, was happy to oblige. We went onto the balcony, but I didn’t like any of the photos he had taken of me. We then went inside and the same thing happened again – every photo was a firm ‘no’. I felt pretty, but I hated the way I looked in photos – I couldn’t pose right, my arms looked big, my smile was miserable, my hair looked flat… the list of things I berated myself about was endless.
Jack kept telling me that I looked beautiful and I had felt it, but every time I looked at the screen, I picked apart what I saw – my leg was a weird angle, the lighting wasn’t right, my waist looked too big. I was getting angrier and angrier with myself, wondering why I looked so hideous, why I wasn’t able to look pretty…
…And then Jack made me laugh.
I was mid trying to rearrange my ‘flat’ hair, grumpy and feeling incredibly self conscious, but when he made me laugh, I was free. The size of my arms or how frizzy my hair was didn’t matter – I just wanted to laugh. That photo is the one photo from the night that I like. I could have posed for another hour and I know I wouldn’t have taken a photo that I like as much as that one.
Jack also managed to capture this second photo, a photo I couldn’t not share with this article. He caught me mid telling myself off, shoulders slumped, riddled with insecurity, berating myself for not being able to take a ‘proper’ photo.
Not to sound dramatic, but to me the difference between the two photos is stark. The sadness on my face in the second photo really struck me and I found myself thinking ‘what was the point in all of that?’
I had spent 10 minutes of my life angling my body, moving to different locations in our apartment, faking a smile… for what? To post a photo on social media for a few likes and then be forgotten about forever more? To go out feeling like I didn’t look as nice as I had hoped because I didn’t feel pretty in the pictures?
Why was I putting myself through that?
Honestly, I couldn’t answer the question. I still can’t.
But I’m glad this happened because it’s made me reassess my night out routine. It’s made me realise what’s important, and slaving away for a photo I don’t hate isn’t on that list.
This isn’t to say that I am going to never take photos of myself before I go out because hey, I like a good outfit selfie as much as the next person, but if I try take a photo and it doesn’t look ‘right’, then I’m going to walk away. I’m not going to talk to myself how I did. I’m not going to tell myself that I look ugly, to question what’s wrong with me, to bring up insecurities that I am moving past, because an ‘ugly’ photo doesn’t make you an ‘ugly’ person.
I am more than a photo, more than likes, more than a night out. I am me, I am good enough and I am beautiful regardless of what any bad angled photo makes me want to believe.