“Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.” ~Kahlil Gibran
Does a loved one have a favorite photo of you? A photo by their bedside or on their screensaver that reminds them of a special time and place and memory?
Can I also hazard a guess that this isn’t your favorite photo of yourself? I bet you look at yourself critically and dislike how your face looks, or maybe your body is not cast in its most flattering light. I was reminded of this recently, and it made me think of how I view photos of myself in a whole new way.
My husband and I met in beautiful Byron Bay a long, long time ago. Since we lived in different cities, and we were both young, wild (in the hair department, at least), and free, we would often meet up and spend our holidays there.
This was always a wonderful time, as my love and I reconnected and spent many happy days hiking, surfing, swimming, and discovering the things we enjoyed about each other.
I look back on these days at Byron as some of the most fun and carefree of my life. In my mind there are few better feelings than being young and in love, walking down a beautiful beach at sunset with nowhere to be and nothing to do.
Wow, I was good at practicing mindfulness without even knowing what it was!
Now, this was an era well before the age of selfies and sticks that take photos of both sides of your body. In fact, we didn’t even have digital cameras back then. (Someone pass me a stick of the walking variety—I’m so ancient!)
Therefore, there are only a few photos in existence from this time, and those I do have are all stuck in photo albums sitting at the top of my cupboard gathering dust.
However, there is one photo of me from that time that my husband has always loved. I am sitting on the beach against the rocks, and I’m not more than twenty-two. I am in my favorite purple Mambo swimsuit, with hubby’s trusty old Malibu surfboard right next to me.
I am sure if I asked him, he’d say that this photo invokes memories of some of the happiest days of his life. What’s better than being at one of your favorite spots in the whole world, enjoying the freedom of surfing the waves with your beloved, then happily sitting on the beach under the glorious Australian sun?
It will come as no surprise to you that I have never really liked this photo (hello, inner mean girl). I’ve always felt like I had a silly look on my face and my hair (which is crazy enough, at the best of times) was looking particularly wild and windswept.
However, there is no doubt that it invokes great memories, and over the ensuing twenty or more years, my hubby every now and then looks at me with love in his eyes and says, “Hey, my beautiful Mambo girl. ”
You probably just read that and thought, “Aw, how sweet.” But me, the object of such affection and love, would typically roll my eyes and sarcastically say something along the lines of “Yeah, yeah, whatever,” while feeling nothing like that young, carefree girl relaxing on the beach.
You see, I felt that somewhere along the way of getting older and becoming a mother, with the many responsibilities that entails, I had somehow lost the essence of that young girl sitting there, full of love and hope for the future.
However, I can honestly say that as a woman who is now on the other side of forty, with a newly renewed sense of self-belief and self-love (and who still has crazy hair but maybe not those long slender legs) I can look at myself a bit differently. This is what I would say to that young girl:
Hey, you beautiful Mambo girl. In this photo you are young and carefree and in love, and guess what? That nature-loving, long-haired surfie boy taking this photo will go on to be your husband and the amazing father of your three wonderful children, and you won’t believe what else. He still sees you exactly the same way all these years later. Can you believe it?
I can believe it now.
The next time you look at a photo that someone else loves of you, I encourage you to remove your self-judgment and look at it with eyes of love and acceptance. You might be amazed by what you see.