Sunday, June 27, 2010

Body Image -- Getting Over It


I was just asked to provide a photo of myself for an article. I wish I could have gotten away with sending the one on the left. That was taken in London a year before my oldest niece was born -- she just turned nineteen.

If you had asked me for this photo twenty years ago, I would have balked. I'd have said it made me look too fat, too old, too tired, too frizzy... Now I look back at the photo and think, "Now that's back cover material! Alison Bruce, Woman of Mystery."

I wish those Dove commercials had been around when I was growing up.

Now, and I will be the first one to admit it, I hide behind cartoon self portraits. It started with "Coffee Girl". Note that she isn't skinny. I got over the "must be skinny" phase decades ago. In fact, I have a bad habit of offering unsolicited advice to strangers talking about the latest fad diet -- especially if they've teens.

"I dieted myself to my current weight," I tell them. And it's true. At age sixteen I was a curvy blonde bombshell that saw herself as a fat girl. If I could go back in time, I'd give that kid a slap.

Maybe when I'm eighty-something, I'll have the same thought's about the current me.

So, no skinny cartoons -- but no Bell's Palsy either. I have to admit, that's the sticking point picking a photo these days.  No bow-lipped pout for me. If I don't smile, I look grim; if I do, it's all too obvious that one side of my face doesn't work as well as the other. Yet, when I spot other people who have had Bell's Palsy -- Jean Chretien comes to mind -- I recognize it without thinking it mars their looks. I'm just hard on me.

I suppose the bottom line is, I don't see myself the way I look in photos. Mirrors are kinder. (Except first thing in the morning, of course.) The reflection of myself in the eyes of my children, friends and family is even better. That's how I need to see myself -- the way they see me.

It's a work in progress. In fact, I'd say I have it covered until I have to supply a photo for something.

 Post Script....


I've decided that I really need to get myself a trench coat and fedora... or maybe a riding coat and a Stetson for when I write westerns. In the meantime, this blog led to my niece Sophie making me pose for a new profile photo.

9 comments:

  1. Oh wow, Alison, you hit all the right notes about body image in this posting! Being one of the full-figured, fat store, plus sized group, who also dieted herself to this weight,I fully identify with your sentiments. It's true that friends and family find you beautiful, and that's what keeps you going, but when asked for a photo or catching my image reflected in a store window - it's not easy. The only consolation is that fat does appear to be a good wrinkle filler; large women do tend to look younger!

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  2. I need to make an appointment with Vince -- he takes a great picture of you.

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  3. Dear Lally: Lots to pose on here. Reflections come in many forms. As we get older, they can be the fuel of self criticism, but they can perhaps serve two other purposes: 1) to celebrate the unique journeys of our lives that are written on our faces and bodies, and 2)to motivate us to take better care of ourselves like a photo I saw of myself at a Golf Tour this week did for me - time to walk the dog on a daily basis!

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  4. Some people had trouble posting comments and emailed me.

    Alison,
    I shudder to think I may have been the cause of this angst. Your honesty is refreshing, your writing is pure. And I agree, you are too hard on you. Your lopsided smile adds to the enigma of 'Alison Bruce, Woman of Mystery'. Work it. Smile like you have a secret the world would die to know. Be the next Mona Lisa!

    S
    www.sherryisaac.com

    The angst I felt was and is shared by so many girls and women -- for no good reason. It's something we've got to get over.
    A

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  5. This photo brings back memories... your new one will someday bring back others.

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  6. I love this post. I read it a week ago but found myself thinking about it today, when SOMEONE asked for a photo to accompany an upcoming blog post. For me, it's not body image; it's face image (I hate my face in most photos, and tolerate it in real life). But with all the photos required for author promo stuff, I've switched my thinking: now instead of trying to find a photo where I look pretty, I try to find one where I look relatable. This has made things so much less stressful, and it feels right. I don't want to read the work of some beauty queen; I want to read the work of someone who looks thoughtful and kind. And we can all look thoughtful and kind.

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  7. Robin's comment got me to investigate her links and see some of her pics, and... all I can say is, when she looks at her photos, she can't be seeing what I see. I wonder if we all do this, judge our own appearance more harshly than everyone else does. I hope this is true for me -- I mean, I hope that when other people look at me, they see something better than what I see...

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