A couple of weeks ago, I went swimsuit shopping. Aside from the horrible dressing room lighting, I wasn’t worried. I planned to get a similar one to my old suit, which looked like a tank top and shorts.

But somehow all the similar suits bared some parts and squeezed others, till all I saw were the faults in my body.

Around this time, my family sent each other photos from a recent family reunion. One picture showed me from the back, sitting on a bench looking over my shoulder. My eye was drawn to the gap between my shirt and shorts, my width on the bench, the odd way my shirt bunched under my arm. I sighed.

I have two lovely adult daughters. In photos, my visually artistic daughter insists on multiple takes, planning each beautiful picture’s composition, pose and background. On the other hand, my high-spirited extrovert wants photos that are authentic and spontaneous. Often her sense of humor comes through in the faces she makes and the poses she strikes.

What do I want photos to say about me?

I have an early memory of being a small child sitting on my grandmother’s lap. I played with the flap of wrinkled skin at the back of her upper arm. I traced the veins on her hands and wiggled her wedding ring, loose on her finger below her larger knuckle. I remember these “faults” with the memory of a child. There was no judgement. These were simply facets of my beloved grandmother.

What I want in photos is to smile like a woman satisfied with herself and life. I want to love my body like a future grandchild. I appreciate my brain that still holds memory, my legs that still propel me forward, my hands that hold the ones I love and record these thoughts. I looked back at the photo. What I missed the first time was my smile. I looked relaxed and happy to be with people I love.

Before I left the store, I took one more suit to the changing room. This one was a one-piece with a skirt. Putting it on, it looked almost like a short sundress, and, miracle of miracles, I still had a waist. I smiled at my reflection. Sold!

(slightly edited)



27 thoughts on “Reflection

  1. Oh the horrors of dressing rooms!
    And of photographs of the self.
    I’m working on changing my attitude because, like yours, my eye notices the “imperfections” in my appearance instead of what is perfectly fine.
    Every time I look into a mirror, I say “I like what I see.”
    I hope it gets me to a place of acceptance, because I do know that when I look back at older photos of myself, which I thought ugly at the time, I now think “There was nothing wrong with me at all. What was I thinking!”
    And the older photos that at the time I thought good, I now think “Oy, why did I like this?”
    Eye of the beholder and all that.
    Glad you found a suit you liked.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I hate dressing rooms and photos for those very reasons! I see all my imperfections, all the wrong choices I make when I eat or stop moving so much. We could all take a page out of your book. Smile a bit more and forget what was and will be and just be thankful for us. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I also prefer natural and authentic photos as they are the true reflection of myself, but I do not find myself imperfect in any of photos. There is my bald head, a gift of my early 20s when I lost my all hairs. It is a genetical issue; now I look older than my real age, but nothing can be done. The embarrassment is that I am still in my 20s, just late twenties.

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  4. Love this! Why are we so critical of ourselves? I just moved to Spain from the U.S. and a lot of the ladies on the beach go topless. No one judges anyone and there are all different shapes, sizes and ages. It just strikes me as being so accepting of our bodies no matter what.
    I love this line “What I want in photos is to smile like a woman satisfied with herself and life.” I think I will strive for this too. Great post. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love how you took a couple relatable things – trying on clothing (any clothing, sometimes), the way we see ourselves in photos, the way we’re seen by those who love us – and wove them together into a unified whole. In fact, you did that so well that the rhetorical questions you added felt a little over the top in this piece, as though we were being led forcibly to the answers you were about to show us with more kindness and subtlety. It’s the gentleness and details that make this piece, from the smile in the photo to your grandmother’s knuckles. In that context, too, it’s a little dissonant to focus on “lovely” daughters, and to end on the way the swimsuit you chose made your body look, in a piece that’s ultimately not about that but about learning to see ourselves without those judgments. (I may have a soft spot for this subject; there’s an essay in my archives on the same thing. Except with a few more boobs.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the feedback. Truthfully I wrote this longhand on vacation, edited it in the plane back, and typed it up to submit right after I got back in time for the deadline. I felt iffy on a couple of the points you made. This really is a mindset I’m still working on, so I was trying to show my thought process. Any chance you’d point me to your post so I could read it?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yep, same theme. I loved reading this because you come to the same conclusion from such a different experience. (Partly generational, maybe?) I was actually thinking of your previous comment on my closet post when I purposely left out detailed criticisms of my body. Haha!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I like that you are able to see what is unique about others in their pictures and allow yourself to see your photos the same way. The relaxed smile you missed the first time, etc. Like, that smile is probably what everyone who knows you sees first. It’s easy to look at ourselves the way strangers might see us, rather than how the people who love us see us. The gaze of love (hopefully maybe someday kinda sorta self-love) makes a big difference.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Well, this was timely and highly relatable! I’ve been trawling through old photographs of myself recently, and bemoaning the ravages of age and weight gain. I especially loved the way you highlighted the counterpoints of how we see ourselves, and how others see us (or how we saw others when we were children). That was such a potent point. The gentle acceptance of your reflection was such a high note to end on.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love this post! I recently went out and bought some new clothes, and struggled with that belly area. And the hips. I beat myself up for awhile, but I did get some new clothes that were very flattering and comfortable. I could breathe! Yay!

    We do tend to be way too hard on ourselves. I want to look happy and confident in pictures too 🙂
    P.S.Great to meet you, glad I found your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pictures can be so tricky. We all love to see them, but instead of remembering the memory, we often criticize our look instead. Thank you for sharing this beautiful piece.

    Liked by 1 person

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