Why do digital images have such a strong effect on our self image?

“April, tilt your chin a little.”

“Tommy, put your shoulders back.”

“Alyssa, just stop looking so awkward!”

Have you heard these kind of tips before?  Then perhaps you have someone close to you in your life who is a photographer as well!  All these quotes come from my Mother, who has been a professional photographer since the week I moved out of the house eleven years ago and enabled her to make an office out of my old bedroom.

The theme of this post is photographs. In an age where seeing a picture of someone you know on sites like facebook, instagram, and the ever increasingly popular snapchat; it is nearly impossible to avoid having at least a couple horrible pictures of yourself floating around on the internet somewhere.

As children of a photographer, my siblings and I know the ways to pose for a camera.  We know how to slightly turn our chins to the side when we smile.  We know how to hold our hands our hips to reduce the fluff our arms show when squished against each other.  We basically know how to make ourselves appear thinner than we really are.

On Saturday I went to a party with a theme called “Damn Sexy”.   The idea was to come dressed in an outfit that you felt the sexiest in.   I expected the party to have an abundance of sexy lingerie and scantily dressed people but unfortunately, most people were wearing dresses and suits for the most part.  Which I didn’t mind either, I’m just fine with being around a bunch of men in suits!  Yum!

I spent the evening before the party with two of my girl friends getting ready at their house.  I had on a really hot black dress that I had got for an adult prom event months earlier and the most extreme heels I have ever been brave enough to wear.  When getting ready, I felt pretty hot in my outfit and was feeling confident about myself and eager to show off how cute I looked.  But when the time came to take a few pictures of ourselves and my friend Jennifer snapped a shot of me in the kitchen,  as soon as I saw the photo I immediately lost any confidence I had in myself that night.  In my eyes, I saw that my body looked like an over-stuffed and lumpy sausage. I put on my (awesome) sheep sweater over my dress and left for the party, feeling lame.

Upon arrival, as soon I walked in to the party I was greeted with looks of approval as my friends checked out my amazing shoes and complimented me on my new red hair.  I remained with my sweater on though as I chatted with my group of friends outside in  the garage,sticking to my very likely story that I was too cold to take off my sweater. Twenty minutes must have passed and someone in my circle pointed out how cute my sweater was when my friend Jennifer chimed in saying “Oh, you should see the cute DRESS she has underneath.”

Of course my friends wouldn’t let me rock the sheep sweater anymore so I took it off and was showered with compliments of how hot I looked and that I should have taken the sweater off long ago.  I felt much better and decided I should go and try to grab another picture to confirm with my own eyes that I was indeed not as horrible looking as I thought an hour before.  In the dark lighting of their bathroom, I quickly snapped a shot of my dress, shoes, and sausage body in their mirror. I couldn’t tell immediately on my small camera screen but what I could tell,  I definitely didn’t look as bad as I thought.  I walked back out of the bathroom and didn’t think again about whether or not I looked too fat in my dress.

April's sexy dress photo!

April’s sexy dress photo!

Now that I look back on it, I’m pretty ashamed of myself for so many reasons.  I should’ve been able to rock my dress without having to worry about how fat I looked.  I shouldn’t have gotten so upset at myself over that first initial photograph.  I shouldn’t have had to take a photo of myself in a bathroom to confirm to myself that the last photo surely must have just been a horrible angle and that I did indeed look alright.

Oy, but oh well. The silver lining in the whole experience is that it’s motivating me more to stick with my weight loss plan.  I’m still not deeply into a routine but I’m slowly getting there.  After Christmas while I’m spending the week down in LA taking care of Alyssa’s kitty-niece Lucia I hope to spend more time exercising and planning meals.

Here I am being brave in my dress and between  two very nicely dressed men <3

Here I am being brave in my dress and between two very nicely dressed men <3

The moral of the story is that as judgmental as society may seem, no one can possibly be more judgmental of yourself than our own minds.

Please keep that in mind next time you’re worried about how you look, I promise I will try too.  😉

Happy holidays,




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6 thoughts on “Why do digital images have such a strong effect on our self image?

  1. I hate what our society does to people’s self-images. I was going to say women’s, but realized that it affects all Americans. While it is always good to better one’s self, don’t do so to meet anybody else’s expectations. You’re beautiful no matter what, so don’t trip. And by the way, the red hair is pretty bangin’.

  2. I thought about this recently! It made me think that before photographs (or really, before INSTANT digital pictures) it must have been easier to have a good sense of confidence. Pictures can LIE or distort how we look, and then I never know how I really look and “should” feel. You looked AMAZING though my dear and I’d like to borrow that HAWT dress!

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