Recently, I posted two posts to begin a series on lessons I’m learning. One on authenticity and one on self-image. I received a ton of feedback; they were probably some of my most important – and commented on – posts.
But I didn’t expect the reaction I received…
I thought my Christian audience would freak out at my lack of modesty. Quite the opposite. They praised me for following what I felt God put on my heart to do.
I thought my male audience – although I don’t have much of one – would not see the post for what it was. I was wrong. I had a few male readers send me messages about how they thought my post was spot on and that my message was one their wives and daughters needed to hear.
And I thought that I would be understood for my self-image issues and self-deprecating attitude.
I was. But, I wasn’t.
I can’t tell you how many people, friends mostly, got on my case for the commentary I added to the pictures I posted. I laughed it off. But, now. Now a stranger has commented on the post with an amazing reaction that I never expected.
Here’s where I was wrong – and trust me – I’ll be the first to step-up and admit when I am wrong about something, especially something as important as this…
I shared this lesson with you, but I forgot to apply it to myself. See why… here’s what Jessica has to say about my post:
I first want to commend you on following through with this post. You are beautiful and these photos are amazing! I’m know it’s not easy to write about these feelings, much less pose for the photos and post them on your blog for the world to see!
But I have also got to say that I really feel that you should reconsider the self-deprecating captions you have written on most of these beautiful pictures. In fact, I’m begging you.
To me, they undermine the entire rest of the post. They make me sad, and they are – well, just mean. Imagine these photos as if they were prints and your captions as what you are saying out loud about the pictures when you’re showing them to your kids.
Would you say those things about a photo of your daughter? Would you say them about a photo of a friend? Would you say them about a photo of a stranger while talking to your daughter??
Of course not. It’s not nice to say those things about anyone, so please don’t say them about yourself. And especially not in this post!! You even say, “What kind of mom would I be if I constantly talked down about how I felt I looked? It would teach them that I’m ugly. That beauty is all that really matters…”
My mom always told me never to point out your flaws. Most of the time, you’re the only one that notices them! Go back and watch that Dove video again!!
Let me tell you the things I noticed about these photos of you.
The photo of you on the sofa: the lovely soft lighting and the simple pose. You look so comfortable and peaceful, with the tiniest hint of a smile that looks like you might have a fun little secret to tell, or like you’re pretending you don’t notice there’s a cute guy totally checking you out while you’re lounging in your lingerie.
…Then I read your caption, and I went back to look more closely for those fat rolls that I hadn’t noticed.
The closeup photo of you, looking to the left: Your beautiful glowing skin and your beautiful eyes – I wondered if you did your own makeup or if it was professionally done – it’s just the right amount of makeup, sexy and soft, and very flattering to your skin tones and eye color. I wondered if you might be part Irish because of your dark hair and lovely complexion, then thought – maybe even Italian with those hazel eyes!
…Then I read your caption and went back to look for your ‘chin fat’ that I didn’t notice.
The one of you lying down on the sofa looking at the camera: this woman could very possibly be related to Sophia Loren.
Guess what? By the three photos at the end of the post I’m starting to look at you differently. Looking for imperfections. Looking to see if I can figure out what you don’t like about each one.
I urge you to go back and change the captions on your images. As they are now, they *reinforce* those lies that society tells us about ourselves.
What if you said something like, “This photo is one of my favorites because…” or “I love this photo because…” or “I like the way…”. Or “I feel so brave”/ “I love the way I look in black and white”/ “i’m keeping a print of this one in my wallet” ?
Or what if you just simply said, “I am beautiful” ?
It’s not easy, but try looking at yourself and seeing what other people see…and I mean EVERY time you look at yourself. I PROMISE you, it’s not what you see. You should be at least as nice to yourself as you are to everyone else!!
And, now. Now I have to explain… I wrote those captions as a way to show you that even in our most beautiful moments, we all still find faults with ourselves. Even in our most beautiful moments, we all still see the ugly. You may not see it, but I do. And I figured you’d understand. You can read my interview on Jodi’s blog to see more about why I did the photo shoot…
So, Jessica, I stand corrected. I apologize for not seeing the beauty in myself more. I know that my little boy and girl will see this post one day, and they’ll see those captions. And they’ll hear ‘I’m not beautiful’. And they’ll hear a hypocrite, which is even worse.
No, I’m not going to change that post. I did put a disclaimer on it to come check out this post, but I need those images to stay the way they are. I want my kids to see the additional lessons I learned that didn’t shine through in that first post.
Here’s what I learned from you, your comments, and Jessica. It’ll be hard to take back what you saw and read, so I’m going to do something I wasn’t going to do. I’m going to share some NEW images with you and put NEW thoughts in your mind. Good thoughts. Loving thoughts. Because… Every Body is Beautiful. And to truly celebrate that, we must OWN it.
So, what do you think? Have I learned my lesson? Do you agree with Jessica?
I LOVE your new captions! Made me a little teary! 🙂 And that commenter was right. I was recently redoing my about us page on my blog, changing the wording a bit to show that I was the main author, and not “us” (my husband and I) anymore as I’ve taken it over. And it felt weird leaving what he wrote about me (cause he did my bio and I did his), since it now read that >I< was beautiful, smart, wonderful, and happy. I no problem telling the world that my husband was still handsome, intelligent, and strong, but saying those things about myself felt weird (even though I believe them about myself). I decided to just leave most of what my husband had wrote about me intact. Why do we beat ourselves up?
I both agree and disagree with Jessica. I do believe it’s a lesson to be learned and you she is right that we didn’t notice the flaws you did not until you mentioned them. I actually remember looking at a few photos and thinking “she looks stunning!” and then going back to see the “fat rolls” or “chin fat” I didn’t previously notice.
But in the same token, I think those things you saw about yourself in those photos also speak loudly to some of us. I am beautiful regardless of the way my body looks…chin fat or saggy tatas. God created me beautiful regardless. I do think I need to see past those objects that stand in my way and I need to not see them as obstacles to my beauty. So while you may have still seen those things, you also saw your beauty.
I’ve written all this and it doesn’t sound as eloquently written as it did in my head. Maybe someone else will touch on this too with better understanding.
She is totally correct. And great job on the new captions!
Jessica B says
Angela, I LOVE this!
I’m so honored that my comment meant so much to you. I was worried you might find it preachy (& very long) so I almost didn’t post. I realized what you wrote was still sticking with me several hours after reading it, so I decided to come back and share my thoughts.
I didn’t mean to imply that you were a hypocrite and I certainly wasn’t trying to teach you a lesson, but I am glad that it stuck with you and that you took something positive (and are giving back something positive) from it here.
I really loved the post – it was ballsy and brave -but just stood out to me that those little caption phrases seemed to overshadow and counteract all the good things you were trying to say…And I was very aware that my experience with looking at your photos was changed by your comments about them. I don’t know if ‘ironic’ is the right word, but it just killed me that I didn’t notice any of the things you mentioned until you pointed them out. And even if you hadn’t reference Dove’s awesome campaign, I believe that still would have come to mind and I probably would have directed you toward it!
This is so beautiful and special, and it truly brought a tear to my eye. It means a lot that I can be part of your story 🙂
I love that you listened to Jessica & felt convicted enough to write this post (even if that means you didn’t listen to your AMAZING friends … one whose name rhymes with “schmatalie”) 🙂 you ARE a beautiful, strong woman & I love, love, LOVE the second to last picture – work it Miss Sassy Pants!!! xo
Angela England says
PRETTY! I did a shoot like this recently and while the photos were for “hubby’s eyes only” it was a great experience to take my postpartum-times-four body and put it – quite literally – “out there” in a tasteful way. Scary but good. LOVE the new captions!