Before and After

This post is going to be all about self-image. Yours. Mine. Women’s perceptions of themselves. I’m not being sexist here, it’s just that I have no information on how self-image affects men. So, sorry guys, I’d still love to hear your views.

Okay, I’d like to start this discussion happening with an amazing video clip sent to me by the lovely Sallyanne HartnellΒ [neighbour, friend and photographer extraordinaire!]

For those of you who are in a hurry, here is a quick summary of the video. A police sketch artist does a series of portraits. All of his subjects are women, and he cannot see any of them. He sketches the subjects’ descriptions of themselves. Next he brings in another group of people who have all interacted with the first lot of subjects. Each person in this second group then describes one of the women. And the artist sketches their descriptions. Finally, we see the before and after sketches. Without fail, the faces described by strangers are softer, prettier, kinder. And yet both sketches are clearly of the same people!

me BADΒ  Now, the reason Sallyanne sent me the link to that video was because we had had two, rather painful portrait sessions. Not her fault… mine, all mine.

I did try to relax in front of her camera. But I couldn’t [I am seriously camera phobic and always have been].

The photo on the left is not the worst one by a long shot – nobody gets to see those – but I still hate the expression on my face. Β I don’t know what expression I was trying to convey but it came out ugly, further reinforcing my camera phobia. And making me depressed for weeks. 😦

self protrait1And then, a few days ago I came in from the garden all sweaty and manky and decided to play around with a self-portrait taken in the bathroom mirror.

I have no skills as a photographer, and it shows. Nonetheless, in this photo I’m relaxed and smiling at the cat rubbing up against my legs.

You can’t see Buffa, but you can see me smiling, and beingΒ myself. I hope this is the face that other people see, not the sour, I-really-don’t-want-to-be-here face in the first photo.

Faces are built to be animated and full of life. That’s why we can never truly see ourselves the way other people see us. Unfortunately, in this modern world of ours, image is everything, and we women are hung up on the imperfections of our faces and bodies. We don’t see the warmth and friendliness of our faces, but other people do… and thatΒ is what they respond to. Not the big nose, or pimples, or double chin. They respond to the person looking out of those eyes.

I’m 60, and you’d think I would have had plenty of time to learn that lesson, and yet I let myself become depressed over a bloody photo! I can honestly say this has not been my finest hour, but if it makes someone, somewhere reassess themselves – and gain some self confidence – then it will have been worth it.

meeka chibi

meeka chibi

I am still going to use this chibi as my persona pic wherever I can, but now it will be because I really like the image, and it fits Meeka, rather than because I’m terrified of showing a sour, unhappy face to the world. πŸ˜€

Cheers from a much happier Meeks!

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About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

41 responses to “Before and After

  • metan

    In the first photo you look like you are talking to the dog, you are wearing a “what are you up to, you ratbag?” face. It is not a bad photo!
    I completely agree with you though, I also avoid getting my photo taken whenever possible. I don’t think I have ever seen a good photo of myself so I just make sure I am always the one with the camera.
    I don’t feel a need to be ‘pretty’ and am quite comfortable with how I look. I don’t wear fashionable clothes and never wear makeup. Nevertheless, I don’t like looking at myself in a photo!

    Like

  • littlemissobsessivesanatomy

    Love the message from the Ad..so true…
    and Meeka you look beautiful πŸ™‚ really love your picture…

    Like

    • acflory

      lol – Thank you LIttle. I always feel a little embarrassed revealing this kind of stuff about myself, but I was shocked at my own reactions so I had to ‘fess up. -hugs-

      Like

  • Christie Meierz

    I like both pics. πŸ™‚

    Like

  • pinkagendist

    I think you look lovely- and your look matches your kindness πŸ˜‰

    Like

    • acflory

      -blush- I’d rather look cool and a bit mysterious like you but Sallyanne wouldn’t let me wear my sunglasses. -hugs-

      Like

      • pinkagendist

        oooh- and regarding men’s body image: men have historically had an inclination to delusion. I think an anthropologist would say that for men it’s more about his sense of masculinity than actual body image. It’s about convincing other men that he’s an Alpha-Male. That’s what locker-room talk is all about. Just like male dogs.
        Do you know why male dogs lift their legs to pee? So it’s higher on the tree/wall. The next male dog that comes by thinks ‘oh, there’s a big dog who’s owns this territory, I better stay away’.

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        • acflory

          LMAO! I did /not/ know that about male dogs Pinky! And I’m still laughing. I can see that Alpha Male mentality though. Biologically speaking, it would have been a survival trait and a way of getting their particular genes passed on… back in caveman days. It’s interesting to see how that trait has evolved in the modern world with sporting competitions taking the place of more overt violence. Well, sometimes. Homo Sapiens is a strange species. πŸ˜€

          Like

  • Candy Korman

    I really like the photo you took of yourself.
    FYI.. the photo I’ve been using for all my author stuff was taking when I was laughing at the rain with a friend. I took a picture of him, too. He’s also laughing.

    We are most ourselves when we are not posing!

    Like

    • acflory

      Ah hah! So it was a candid camera one! Yes, I truly believe that too. I know eyes are meant to be the mirrors to the soul but I think a genuine smile/laugh is the wide open door.

      Like

  • anneb54

    There certainly pressure on us to look as though we have just walked off the catwalk. However, I will add another aspect to our reactions to photos.

    The way we see ourselves is in mirrors, and can only really see ourselves from the front. So it is difficult to adjust to our image caught from above, such as the photo you hate, or the side (I don’t like my profile — nose too pointy, chin too jutting) or 3/4 profile etc etc. But of course, everyone else sees us like that all the time.

    My mother hates many photos of herself, but I love them, because they often capture her as I see her — typical poses, loved facial expressions etc. They are the ones I treasure.

    (Another thought provoking post, Meeks!)

    Like

    • acflory

      lol Thanks Anne, and a very thought provoking comment as well. You’re so right about the mirror perspective. I am kind of glad I can’t see myself from behind. ‘Does my butt look big in this? and this? and this?’ lol

      Like

  • EllaDee

    Bloody cameras snap only a moment and yet their product lasts more than a lifetime. The 2 you use as example look fine to me – it’s only ourselves we critique so hard. Mine either look so good, I think that doesn’t look like me, or so wonky, I think oh dear God that’s me?
    Self-image has been on my mind as well but for different reasons. I have a 30 year school reunion coming up. It’s only been 10 years since the last and many of us see each other in between, in person and via Facebook. One good thing about it, we are all the same age but it’s somewhat of a confidence booster to look your best when amongst your peers, so I have been tending to hair, nails, wardrobe and lament my extra 10kgs and chin. Other than good times, memories, stories and possibly a slight hangover there will be damn photos that will live on long after the event, to be trotted out in 10 years time when instead of looking so old, we will look so young.

    Like

    • acflory

      -giggles- I never go to school reunions! However I have been getting together with a couple of girl friends from school and it’s a relief to see we’ve all aged pretty much the same.

      I wish you luck with those photos. Get some of the bubbly in you before the snap happy chappie comes around. And yes, it’s scary to think that what we hate now we will feel nostalgic about in years to come.

      Like

  • Jennifer

    I too and not photogenic, and have taken better selfies than those who have taken ‘outside’ pictures. I understand the first picture, as not everyone can relax totally wile someone has a camera in their face, the other is you on your terms, relaxed and comfortable. Makes all the difference I think. Both beautiful, and both a reflection of who you are. W are our own worst enemies, and as part of society we are as much to blame as the next person for these feeling.

    Like

    • acflory

      You know what really bugs me? I feel as if I’ve wasted so much time and emotional energy worrying about something that is really petty in the grand scheme of things. But still that 16 year old wallflower gets her knickers in a knot over it. Bah. lol

      Maybe I should rename this blog ‘Meeka’s Confessional’!

      Like

  • Laurie Boris

    I really like your relaxed picture and your lovely pixie face! I have an image in my head of how I look, but I’m usually disappointed when the pictures people take don’t match it. Maybe it is all those decades of conditioning.

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    • acflory

      I know exactly what you mean! Over the years the only pictures I’ve recognized as being ‘me’ were candid camera ones. I stopped wanting to have blond hair and blue eyes when I was about 7 but the conditioning goes deep and lasts a lifetime.

      Like

  • Jeri Walker-Bickett (@JeriWB)

    The Dove video points to so many things that are wrong with how women self-perceptions are shaped. I too hate having my photo taken. Just can’t ever seem to look natural because the awareness of the fakery of the process always makes me soooo self-conscious. There’s also a parody of the Dove video going around that uses men.

    Like

  • Honie Briggs

    I saw that video on another blog I follow. A college student’s blog – a self-aware young woman. It is amazing how differently we see ourselves. I think both photos of you are great!

    Like

  • jenniferscoullar

    What a self-fulfilling prophecy this is. Honestly, you look great in BOTH photos! Very youthful for sixty, I must say. Quite a pixie face. You just can’t see it. I’m the same I HATE my photos, always have. My children have very few pictures of their mother growing up. Such a shame ….

    Like

  • Ilil Arbel

    Great posting and you look beautiful in the picture. Actually, in both pictures, but the second is better because of the relaxed attitude. You are right about the way we feel about our images. I don’t think we ever learn enough to completely let it go.

    Like

    • acflory

      Hello you. πŸ™‚ How’s Mme Koska book 2 going?

      And no, I think the drive to ‘look perfect’ is too deeply ingrained to ever completely let go.

      Like

      • Ilil Arbel

        Hi, Andrea!!! I have been so intensely busy that life was like a Facebook page and I can’t keep up, but I did not mean to disappear. As for the looks, I had no idea what you looked like for so long, and yet when I saw the picture, it was so YOU. And you really are very pretty, not matter what you think. The issue with women’s self image is so sad. I don’t even want to tell you how I see myself, not just now, but always. πŸ™‚

        Like

        • acflory

          -hugs- No need to apologize. I know what an insanely busy life you lead. Just lovely to see you back. And thank you for those kind words. The reason I was ‘faceless’ for so long was because I literally didn’t have a picture that felt like me. I wasn’t trying to be anonymous. πŸ™‚

          I know what you’re saying but I’ve always loved that picture of you with your cat.

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  • lorddavidprosserDavid

    I really can’t understand why women have such a poor self image of themselves as the video suggests unless it’s down to modesty when describing themselves. There is character in faces so that part should be ignored unless there are facial disfigurements which might make someone turn away, and still I would hope that as the other people showed in their descriptions, others observe the inner softer side.
    Has the displaying of certain body images as perfect been responsible for so many women feeling they don’t measure up, or are we males responsible for the self doubt? I don’t know, though I can assure you that men have similar problems with self body image too and I can’t say whether theirs is more correct without hearing someone else give a description too. We should all remember that the cover is no indication of the book and how a person looks may well depend on how we make them feel.
    Andrea, may I suggest giving Sallyanne a ‘third time lucky’ chance to take a shot with you more relaxed knowing how things appear in the video. Everyone else who views you will have given a softer image that you yourself have in the past which should in turn alter your perception of yourself now. There’s nothing wrong with either of the two shots you have except maybe in one you’re self conscious and in the other a little distracted.
    Huge Hugs xxxx

    Like

    • acflory

      Thanks David. I was really hoping to get a man’s point of view on this. Would I be right in saying that guys are more focused on body image? i.e. fat/thin, short/tall, muscular/not muscular etc?

      As women we’re conditioned into seeing interesting male faces as attractive, rather than ‘pretty’ ones. And that, of course, is the exact reverse of what we are conditioned to look for in ourselves.

      Maybe the feminine vs the manly man image?

      I’ve already made a date with Sallyanne for my 80th! I’m bringing the bottle of champagne and intend to get nicely sozzled before she brings out the camera. πŸ˜€

      Like

  • Yvonne Hertzberger

    I am also camera shy and non-photogenic. I have never really liked a picture of me until the one I use for my gravatar was taken buy a lovely woman who just kept clicking while she put me at ease. I love that pic. It was taken two years ago and at 64 I am aging so that I think I no longer look like that. But the personality is there so it’s staying for a while.

    That smiling pic you took yourself is so much more attractive than the other one. I think that posed ones rarely capture the true person.

    Like

    • acflory

      If that pic was taken when you were 62, you have a lot of ageing to do before you even look 60! It is a great photo and you should keep it until you’re 80. Seriously. I intend to keep mine for the next 20 years. πŸ˜€

      Like

  • Carrie Rubin

    So glad to see you become more comfortable in your photographic skin. I think you look fabulous in both photos. Funny how we are always our own worst critics.

    Like

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