Every since I can remember I have hated photographs of myself. It is in my nature, and in the nature of others with an eating disorder to be controlling, and this transcends to my relationship with photos. I have probably only changed my Facebook profile twice since I got it at twelve(I am now almost 19 years old), and I would constantly “borrow” cell phones and cameras that had unflattering photos of me, and delete them, and when I got my graduation photos from high school, I made sure I shredded the photos into a million pieces, trying and trying again to erase the image from my mind. I feared the photos, just like I fear the number on the scale, photos were physical evidence that validated all the feelings of hatred I had for myself. It was as if my eating disorder was telling me, “Ha! I told you. Just look at you-fat, ugly, repulsive. This is how people see you, and do you really want to be seen this way, because the whole WORLD sees you this way now”. Recently, I had an experience where videos and photos of me were all over social media for a publicized event at my university, and I felt absolutely terrified, and angry because I could do nothing about it. In that moment, I didn’t have the power to delete the photo, shred it up, or even erase it from my memory-I felt powerless, and helpless, and I felt like the world would forever be exposed to something I hated, my body.
What would happen if I didn’t delete all those photographs? What if I kept all those precious memories of vacations to Europe, my sister’s sweet sixteen, my high school graduation? What if I left them, and decided not to care? When I look back at photos 5, 10, 15, years from now, am I going to see all those hateful words written across each glossy photo or Facebook post? No, I won’t.
As painful as it is going through and eating disorder, sitting through feelings and emotions, the disorder is temporary, and so is the way you view yourself. With recovery comes real acceptance, and this applies to the way I view my body whether or not it is documented. Despite the fact that I may feel a certain way about myself when looking at a photograph does not mean I will feel that way forever. When I look back at photos I will do so with the understanding that the young woman in that picture is struggling, and she needed love and acceptance from herself. I will look back at pictures and think, “If that girl in the photo saw how well she is doing now, she would be smiling a genuine smile, and I’m sorry that I couldn’t realize my strength, power, and beauty then”. I want to have pictures that I can look back on, I don’t want to erase the special memories for a temporary, split second feeling I have about myself. I don’t want to erase myself from pictures because I don’t want to erase myself from the world. I want people to know, and most importantly, I know that I am here, in recovery, and worthy of existence and so are you.
Do you have a hard time seeing photos of yourself?