Seeing myself through others’ eyes

We recently had family photos done for the first time since Q was 5. He just turned 10. We tried to do family pictures with my dad before he died, but the weather refused to cooperate, and he got so weak, so fast, that the best we could do were a couple of group pictures, then one of my parents together, and one of Q and my parents, both of which I treasure. My friend, the photographer who did those pictures for us, gifted Q and I with a mom & me session a few months later, and I will forever be grateful for those too.

But since then? It’s pretty much been me and my cell phone camera. Which, in all honesty, does work pretty well, but I’m just not able to get the types of shots a pro can get with a “real” camera. Dont get me wrong, I love the ones that I take, but sometimes it’s nice to be able to step back and let someone else take charge.

I was a bit nervous about it. We would be working with a new photographer that didnt know us at all, or anything about us. *I* know my good angles, but would she? How would Q respond to her? Could she get him to act natural? Would it be too “posy” and unnatural looking? Would it look like us?

The last several months gave been not great for me, healthwise. I’ve been struggling with my CRPS and mental health, and am always working against the medications I take to manage them, many of which can cause weight gain. I try my best, but I certainly haven’t been feeling my skinniest lately either. Dealing with chronic illness can be really hard on one’s self-esteem, and often don’t love seeing pictures I haven’t taken of myself. Nevertheless, having family photos, and pictures of our life in general, is really, really important to me. I know that personally, I absolutely cherish the pictures I have of my dad, especially the ones with him and Q, and I want Q to have those gifts one day too. It’s hard, though, when you aren’t 100% thrilled with yourself. I know that’s on me, though, and my self-confidence has taken a bit of a beating of late. I figured I’d get over it though.

I picked out one of my favourite outfits, went and got my hair washed and blown out, and applied a bit of makeup. I made sure that Q had jeans that fit (surprisingly difficult these days!), and that our outfits didn’t clash. I was ready.

Fall selfie

The photo session came and went well. We had even decided to bring Gator, which added an interesting dynamic, haha. The location our photographer had chosen was beautiful, full of fall colours and leaves.

After we were done, I thought of a couple extra pictures I wanted to get, but hadn’t thought to mention. I grabbed a selfie that I loved, and some fun shots of Q in a tree. I was feeling good, and was excited for the actual pictures to come back.

We waited a week, and our photographer Dylaina sent me the link to our gallery. Flipping through them, my heart sank. The ones with M and Q were gorgeous, and the ones with just Q took my breath away.

But me? I wanted to cry.

I’m going to be honest and say that I found myself falling right back into old habits and thought patterns as soon as I saw them, criticizing everything about my appearance, thinking my face looked too round, hating my smile. Did I really look like that? Why did no one tell me? How I see one thing in selfies and something totally, shockingly different in “real” photos? I knew with 100% certainty that it had everything to do with me and nothing to do with the photographer, because everything else about the pictures were spectacular.

I thought about how I’ve encouraged people to step out of their comfort zones, and done so myself. I remembered that what *I* perceive as unattractive or unflattering isn’t necessarily so to others. Then I remembered how much I love these crazies, and how happy they make me, and realized that *those* are the things that shone through in these pictures. Who gives a crap about the rest of it?

I started to look at them in the light in which they were meant to be viewed. I saw the laughter, and the cuddles. I saw the kiss Q planted on the top of my head, or the look in M’s eyes as he looked at our son, or at me. I saw Q expressing himself through his outfit, seeing him growing up and looking less like a little kid and more like a rock star. I saw how I laughed, without worrying about double chins, or crinkled eyes or a stupid-looking smile. I tried to see what other people saw, and not what the ugly voices in my head told me to look at. See myself through others eyes.

Our photographer Dylaina did a wonderful job of capturing our crazy family. From the hilarity that ensued when we tried to throw leaves in the air (but ended up throwing them at me), to trying to keep the dog from dropping a log in the middle of a shot, to just Q, well, being himself, there was so much more to those pictures than what I saw at first.

I’m not sure why I’m sharing this (big surprise, Brandee, right?), except to say that it’s hard to break away from disordered thinking and problems with body and self image. We have been indoctrinated since birth about what is attractive and what we “should” look like, but frankly, it’s bull. I hate, hate, hate the fact that my first instinct when I saw myself was feel upset and horrified with what I saw, to be so critical of myself that I couldn’t see anything beyond my own biases. I have to work so hard, every day, to keep this kind of negative self-talk from Q. I want him to grow up in a home where his mum loves herself, because he will learn to treat women the way that I show him and I have been determined since the moment I found out I was pregnant not to pass my issues on to him. I didn’t know it would be so hard though.

I want him to live in a world where people are not judged by the number of chins they have in a picture, but by how they treat those around them. It’s never going to change, though, as long as we keep allowing these “ideas” and stereotypes to take up real estate in our heads.

That will start with me, today. No longer will I look at those stunning pictures and see my flaws. I will look at them and see my strength, not my size, my big heart, and not my big hips, my genuine smile, not the fake one meant to look “normal”. I will try my best to see myself the way my guys see me. Beautiful, hilarious, natural, me.

photo credit: Dylaina Gollub Photography


  1. Maryanne says

    These pictures are beautiful Brandee. We have never done family pictures. I have all the self conscious worries you do. I also know how much my husband cherishes the pictures of his parents who have both passed. I just need to do it.

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