Do you remember feeling beautiful/handsome as a child? I don't. I don't remember having any recollection about looks at all until I was about 13 years old when I was hit with a growth spurt that made me taller and chubbier than the rest of my classmates. I was 5'7 by the time I was in 8th grade and let's just say... "I stood out". I drew both positive and negative attention because my most outstanding trait was my height. Each comment made me more introverted and slightly embarrassed to stand next to others. I didn't notice this happening until I had a clear vision in my mind that "I was different". I'm now 5'9 (barefoot) and still with extra pounds I could shed. These are not the type of stats that make me (or many others, for that matter) feel comfortable but they stand true.
When you're a teen, you want to blend in, you want to be "part of a group", wear similar clothes, and say similar phrases....the older I've gotten, however, has opened my eyes about what exactly makes us each beautiful...our differences. As a creative director, my job is to make my clients stand out and be different, and a photographer, I like to show my clients how they're incredibly unique!
I recently photographed a client whose images looked great right off the camera, and once I cleaned them up (enhanced her eyes and overall lighting) looked amazing. I gave her her files, she opened them up immediately in her computer and her reaction was less than "ok" she was, in fact, disgusted. I felt warmth in the pit of my stomach "had I failed as a photographer?, were they not good enough?" She scrolled through photo and photo and she had nothing but negative things to say and looked truly disappointed. I was devastated (inside) but quickly realized that it was not the photography she was such a hard critic of, it was her self-image...her appearance.
The moment I realized this, I told her one quick statement that oddly enough resonated with me, "You know, you are very harsh on yourself. Had you not pointed out your "flaws" I would have never even consider them. What I see is a strong woman, with a beautiful face and a sparkle in her eyes." Her eyes watered and she told me the photos were fine, but she just didn't think she "looked" that way.
I went home that day feeling a little sad, and that feeling stuck with me until the next day when I saw her and told me "I'm so sorry for my reaction yesterday, I realized on my way home that I must have made you feel that your work was bad...but it's just ME. My husband loved the photos and when my (grown) children came home, they were so excited to have a picture that showed me as beautiful as they always see me. After sharing my first impression with my husband, he got after me and said I have always been my worst critic. But your work is truly wonderful and now all my children want to have their family portraits taken by you".
I felt better. I felt the seal of approval on my work, but did she have the seal of approval on herself? Do I have the seal of approval on MY SELF?
Perhaps we are all a work in progress, but PROGRESS is what we should aim for. Let's become those inhibited children we once were where looks/appearances were never an issue. Let's look at ourselves with the eyes of the world and realize we're all beautiful.