Hello friends and welcome to The Midlife. Today I wanted to talk to you about taking pictures. Well actually I want to talk to you about being in pictures but also, today’s topic has everything and nothing to do with photographs.
I wonder if you’ve ever had this experience. You see a picture of yourself from a few years ago and you think to yourself, “huh, you know, I look good there”. Now think back to when that picture was taken and ask yourself honestly, were you happy to be taking that picture or you had to? And when you saw it for the first time, what were your initial thoughts? I’m guessing they weren’t too kind.
I just had this experience when for my birthday back in January, my husband gave me a box of 28 Mixtiles. If you’re not familiar with this product, I took a picture for the cover of this episode so you can see it, but essentially, you upload a bunch of pictures and Mixtiles prints and frames them for you and then you create a photo wall.
The hubs did a great job selecting tons of cute memories and I absolutely love admiring the pictures on a daily basis. Even the ones of myself… and that’s a curious twist that lead me to this topic today.
Here’s my theory in a nutshell. Your older self reflects back on a picture of your younger self fondly for two reasons. One, probably because a certain wrinkle or crease had yet to materialize but also, and most importantly, with a little distance from the event, you have the ability to step back and admire the picture as a whole. You remember what you were doing and why that moment was worth memorializing.
When I look at that picture wall, I see the babies now trapped inside my man child-s and a mommy that loves them so much it’s a miracle I haven’t died from heart explosion. I see little league and family vacations and bringing new puppies home, one canine and one human. And also, I kindly laugh at the intermittent years where I thought “no really, this time it will be different and I’m gonna look good with bangs”.
So here’s my challenge to you today. Let’s skip the long, drawn out marination of time and start appreciating the way you look today.
There’s a big problem with pictures. They’re still. It catches you in one moment, one lighting, one angle and is fixed in time for you to examine pixel by pixel. Rarely does a photo catch you as you truly are, as you believe yourself to be and as you know yourself.
We talk often around here at The Midlife about how hard we are on ourselves. Photographs are like the perfect evidence for us to prove to ourselves that our flaws are visible. You do know that nobody else sees what you see, right? For a very good reason. They are not looking for it.
You know that thing you do where you stare into the mirror examining every detail. Aren’t you just sitting for a live picture? But that’s not how you are in real life. You are constantly in motion. You are smiling and concentrating, conversing and gesticulating. You are not posed and ready for inspection.
And yet, do you avoid being in pictures as often as possible? Do you think subconsciously that if you don’t memorialize the moment in time you don’t have to see what the camera sees and therefore you can hang on to whatever vision it is that you have for yourself?
But here’s why you need to be in the picture. All the pictures.
You should want to be part of the moment. I mean, we can get morbid about this if you need to. One day you’ll be dead. Don’t you want your kids to know that you were present for all those vacations, milestones and general tomfoolery?
You’ll never be younger than you are today so give your older self something to marvel back at.
But also, go ahead and marvel at yourself today. You are exactly what you are supposed to be right now. Don’t waste the opportunity to feel good in your skin NOW. Learn from how you feel when you reflect back on pictures of yourself from years gone by. There’s no need to wait to appreciate yourself.
Do you have some legitimate complaints? Ok, well do something about them. But be in the pictures while you’re a work in progress so you can document your journey and success.
And can you stop comparing yourself to others? Especially J Lo. That’s not a typical 51. Recognize that some people are only spending their time and attention on their facade. Hopefully that’s not you. Unless you have all the time and money in the world like J Lo does, your appearance isn’t priority #1.
I want you to see some freedom in your appearance not being the single expression of your beauty. I think that is a gift of aging. I often think of Helen Mirren in this vein. I find her to be wildly beautiful and sexy and she has lots more wrinkles and sags than Jane Fonda. I think it must be a lot of work and a shit ton of money for Jane to look the way she does. But Helen seems to be pretty cool with her morphing visage. Let’s be Helen.
Let’s get in touch with who we are at our core; our true dreams and desires in life. Let’s get in touch with our sensuality. That party is by no means over. Or at least it shouldn’t be. And let’s allow all that vibrancy and joy to be visible in our pictures.
Now I never shy away from talking about vanity because I don’t consider that to be a dirty word. It would be complete bullshit to not acknowledge that how we look on the outside has a significant impact on the way we feel on the inside. But as we age, may I volunteer a shift away from topical beauty to radiance and from pretty to healthy?
We are bombarded with offers and products, procedures and salves all promising age reversal and some manufactured standard of beauty. And we fall for it because it seems a lot easier to rub something on and wait instead of doing the true work. I can offer you this, if you fix a lot of what’s going on inside your body and your brain, you will be shocked to see how beautiful you find yourself daily, AND in pictures. Sure you need a good moisturizer at this age, but what’s the point if you’re drinking coffee, soda and alcohol instead of drinking tons of water. Kinda pointless.
And if you won’t take a picture with your husband on your 25th anniversary, let alone get naked with him, because you feel fat, why do you insist on eating the exact opposite of what you know you should? You know how I feel about diets. If you’re just finding The Midlife podcast, let me catch you up. Diets and deprivation are dumb. Your eating choices are most likely a manifestation of deep rooted unhappiness. That I can help with. Let’s do that hard work and watch the byproduct be self control and informed decision making which by all means can include hot fudge sundaes.
Nobody likes an efficient short cut more than I do so may I point out that healthy and radiance intersect at exercise. That regular exercising not only tightens up your ass but mainlines a huge dose of happiness to your brain. It would be an interesting experiment to take a picture of ourselves before a workout and then 30 minutes after to compare.
Have you ever not gotten in the picture with the excuse that you don’t look good because you don’t have your hair and makeup done? I’d like to offer my own daily beauty philosophy for your potential adoption. If your hair and skin are healthy, you are going to spend a whole hell of a lot less on time consuming get ready routines. You already know the recipe for this, sleep well, eat well, drink well, de-stress. Yeah I take extra care with the goop I put in my hair and add an extra serum or 15 to my skin. But that’s just maintenance.
Midlife is nothing if not the time to shed all the shit; all the pretense, all the smoke and mirrors. The best version of you is not some painted pony with all the right material adornments. The best version of you is your rock solid, confident, calm, focused and satisfied. That chick looks amazing in any picture.
Getting in the picture may be part of the challenge. This is a little out of left field but stick with me. Let’s be honest about student body government elections. The only reason someone runs for Historian is because they don’t believe they can win for President. So how about you stop being the family historian and grab a little of the limelight. How many family vacation albums do you have where it looks like you must have just flown in for one night… or not at all. Now to some extent this may be because you, like me, are thinking ahead about capturing all these special moments for your children or documenting the infrequent vacations you and your spouse get. And since your spouse happens to be standing there, it would be rude not to ask him to jump in the picture.
A quick aside; I like taking pictures of landscapes and monuments. Peopleless. On purpose. And it irritates my husband. So I have to sneak my artistic vision and then let him be in the picture which just leads to a lot of Griswold family vacation looking albums. The most ironic part of this little family dynamic is that when one of my cool photos unsullied by humans shows up in an album, he always takes credit for it. Totally infuriating.
So you may have to be proactive(for a change, ha!) and ask your spouse to take a picture of you and the kids or grandkids or monument.
The other reason I started thinking about how we show up in pictures when planning this week’s podcast episode is because I had a photo shoot a couple of weeks ago. It was a day I was dreading but something I felt I had to do.
Here’s a little inside info on me. The part I hate most about the reality that I’ve created for myself is that I have to publicly market myself and The Midlife. Having my picture plastered in your Facebook and instagram feeds is so contrary to me at my core. I don’t like having to put myself out there in what feels to me as really narcissistic. I would so much rather have a side door with a secret code word that lets you in to come hang out and work with me. Sadly that wouldn’t be a very effective way to accomplish my mission of helping as many women as possible navigate Midlife and come out stronger, happier and more fulfilled to play the second half.
But at least you know me a little. Either you’re a regular here listening to the podcast or you’ve come to a workshop or course and seeing me on the gram is just a gentle reminder that I’m here for you.
I practically break out in a cold sweat thinking about strangers looking at my public marketing. And this isn’t a men-oogling thing because I only target my stuff to women between 40 and 60. You can do that on the interwebs you know. I worry that you, new person being introduced to The Midlife, are going to think I’m a gigantic self absorbed asshole. Especially with the pictures I had before.
Which brings me back to the recent photo shoot. Many of the photos that you know me by were taken almost two years ago when I was really sick. It’s long and drawn out and probably a good episode one day on chronic illness, but long story short, I was trying to combat my issues by severely limiting my diet. Not only was I unsuccessful at curing my ailments but I dropped down about 15 pounds from where I am today. And not in the good, gee I wish I could lose 15 pounds kinda way. I didn’t have the extra weight to give up. And so when I see those pictures on my website, I see a corpse of myself. Not only that, but I don’t see the real me in my eyes and I wonder why the heck would you want to work with me if you can’t see her either.
So I scheduled an appointment to have some new pictures taken. Actually, I kinda scheduled it by accident because I was hemming and hawing as I wrote the message to the photographer about what I wanted and would she be the right person to accomplish it for me when I accidentally hit send. Welp, thank you universe! It was absolutely the right decision.
A couple of fun things happened that day. The first was I decided to leave my hair curly. This may sound trite but it was actually a very vulnerable thing for me to do. I straightened my hair for my old pictures because the person in those pictures was a persona. I think that harkens back to my professional days in banking and finance. I always straightened my hair for work because I thought that was a way to look more professional, translation “grown-up”.
Well here’s the thing, I wear my hair curly 99% of the time. Oh sure I may straighten it if I’m going to a party or out to dinner. Woo hoo we do that again! But when I show up for my Midlife Re•Imagined group or for my private clients, they get the real, raw, take me as I am “me”. Frizzy red hair and all. I decided it might lend some consistency if the people first coming into The Midlife community through the website meet me like that.
The other thing that really bothered me about the old pictures is that I didn’t see any of my spirit in them. I look so vapid. I wouldn’t want to work with me and I know how good I am. Why would you? So I trusted this new photographer and her semi woo-woo process to help me present the real version of me. And you know what, she did. No shitty air-brushing, no unnatural light. The new photos are of the friend you can imagine laying down the truth about Midlife here week after week.
I may have gotten around to updating the website by the time this episode drops. Go check out themidlife.co . Of course if you see a chick that would sell you tupperware, it didn’t happen.
We’ve spent the better part of our lives beating ourselves down. Let’s spend the rest of it championing ourselves and the other women around us and let’s live a life we want to document. And look damn good while we’re doing it.
If what I’m saying is making sense to you but you’d like the support of a community facing these challenges AND you’d like to have direct access to working with me, I encourage you to check out my course Midlife Re•Imagined, Design Your Next Best Chapter. You can start right away by going to the website themidlife.co or emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can even check out a 7 day free trial also available on the website.
And here’s a challenge for you, go to the private facebook group Muddling Through The Midlife and drop the last picture taken of you in the chat for this episode with the date taken. If it’s more than 6 months ago, I challenge you to come back by the end of the week and comment below your original post with a fresh photo.
Wife of one. Mother of three. Writer, podcaster, entrepreneur, adviser. Don’t make me choose. Co-founder, The Midlife.