For one year I took a photo of myself once per day. I only missed 3 days.
As a Photographer I ask people to stand in front of my lens and for brief moments show themselves as natural as possible in order to “get the best shot.” Many times as these people are getting ready to pose for the camera I hear about their insecurities, physical insecurities. It is my job to make them comfortable.
That last sentence is why I did the photo a day project. If I am to make people comfortable with their insecurities I had to become comfortable with mine. I needed to see myself beyond my thoughts about my physical imperfections. I have always disliked seeing myself in photos.
I actually had larger plans with these photos. I wanted to be super creative and do fun shots but after the first few I quickly realized that me in raw, authentic form is what was needed to make this work. I did my best to tell a story from my day and not all the days were exciting or funny. In fact most days were completely uneventful, some tough, some quite fun.
In the beginning it was easy. Smile, take photo, add the date, the story or blurb and post to Facebook. As the weeks passed it became harder because I began to do the things I had sometimes read about. Instead of taking one photo then posting, I began to take multiple. I tried to find the best angle, hide the bags under my eyes maybe limit my double chin. I would waiver back and forth and some days I would only take the single shot.
Side note: Before I began this project I was perfectly happy with my appearance, my smile and who I was.
It was when I began taking multiple photos before posting the perfect shot that I began picking apart my appearance. I smiled everyday in each shot except I think 2. Those 2 were days I was exhausted, too exhausted to even smile. It doesn’t mean I wasn’t happy those days, just tired.
What did I not like ? My sometimes lazy eye, the bags under my eyes, my scar under my left eye, the cyst I have under my jaw or how exhausted I looked somedays. I hated when I could see how dry my skin was on certain days or the scars I have from small facial lacerations. I hated that no one would really see what was going on behind my eyes, I hated even more that I did not have the courage to talk about it. I started to not be comfortable with how I looked. This is not acceptable. We are all imperfect and yet we compare ourselves to what we think may be perfection.
The smiles. Oh the smiles. The good and the tough days I still smiled in the photos. Why ? That is a simple answer. Everyday, no matter the joys, challenges or feelings of loneliness, I had a reason to smile. The reasons differed but each day I could smile. The biggest reason to smile is that I was given each new day whether I deserved it or not. I was able to smile because each day I was trying to be better a better person than the day before. Some days I succeeded, some I failed. But I smiled.
So what did I learn? So, so much my friends. Good, Bad and Ugly. I could probably write a small novel about my lessons and leanings.
I learned just how much one person can really beat themselves up for thier own perceived flaws and how outwardly we can show people how much we like ourselves, our appearance and our lives but inside we question those same things.
I learned just how easy it is to manipulate our social media presence.
Through photos, stories and daily posts that our friends see and read we can make our lives seem so damn amazing, meanwhile, the reality is that many of us are lost and our lives are not as amazing as they appear.
Why would we show our real and Facebook friends anything other than perfection online ? There were only a few who were able to notice my less authentic days through my photos.
I learned that it is ok to be authentic. Yes at times I was criticized but who cares, I was me trying to be me.
I did my best not to allow myself to create a perfect presence in these photos but I also bet very few people would really know the difference between my authentic smile and the one I forced on the harder days. With each story that accompanied the photo I shared what I was doing, where I was ( sometimes) and a few of who I was with. I was as authentic as I could be.
After taking time to review each photo before writing this it was clear to see it was almost the same people liking my photos each time. I found at times I loved getting a lot of likes, it was rush and I actually felt maybe this wasn’t such a bad project. There is a whole other piece to the likes that I will share in another post.
Beyond the obvious likes and comments that regularly happened something else pretty awesome happened. Something that I was unaware of until the photos stopped. There were people who never liked a single photo, who didn’t comment once but made me aware of how much they appreciated and enjoyed seeing my photos daily. One person going as far to say that seeing me smile each day helped them get through some of their harder days. There is more to that story and I will be sharing in another post. Whether you know it or not, people are watching even when you think no one is. You can impact someone by just being you.
People will mock you.
People will write unpleasant messages, people will block and remove you from their online presence. People will even post almost daily, in a mocking way and not explain in a clear manner why it was important for them to take that 20 seconds to post under your photo. They didn’t seem to see how it was disrespectful and wrong Even with the mocking posts I still saw true friends who stuck up for me. Good from the bad right ?
This project challenged me, made me happy and at times made me dislike myself but in the end I own every part of it and what it took to actually complete it. It taught me that I need to keep doing odd stuff that people might find odd or intriguing because it gets me away from my comfort zone.
In the end I have to say this. I can’t promise I will never look at a photo of myself and be slightly insecure but I can promise that I will see beauty in my smile and what it can do, if even for a moment in mine or someone else’s life.