Regular visitors to this blog may notice that it has gotten a facelift. Literally. Yep, that’s me in the corner. What’s probably a little less obvious is that this picture represents a big step for me. If you’ve visited my profile page in the past, you may have been under the impression that Christy is a large piece of driftwood with fabulous typing skills.
There were several reasons for my photographic anonymity. When I began this blog, I was under the quaint illusion (delusion) that I could somehow maintain a web presence separate from my private life. Back then it was easy – my only Facebook friends were related to me, married to me, or had known me for decades. Fast forward a few years: like most of us, I have ‘friends’ I’ve never met but who know the names, ages, and faces of my children; I’ve published personal essays in print and on the Web; I maintain a website, two blogs, and exist on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. So why the hangup over a head-shot?
I don’t like being photographed. Even though I’m a horrible photographer, I usually manage to be the person behind the camera – or in another room entirely. It’s a strange thing, this photo-phobia. I’m conscientious about my appearance, almost to the point of vanity. I like clothes that flatter (some might say show off) my figure. I like make-up. 4” heels are my friends. I’m no shrinking violet. Unless a camera is near.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” --Marianne Williamson
I was first introduced to this quote by a dear friend who knows all too well my struggles with accepting my “light.” In fact, it speaks well of this friend that I haven’t been strangled for my inconsistencies over the years. This battleground of false modesty extends, for me at least, far beyond physical appearance. It reaches into career, art, relationships, and parenting. Why is it so difficult to accept our gifts as well as our limitations with grace?
We model what we see. It doesn’t matter how many people tell us as children that we are bright, funny, cute, pretty, etc. When we hear our mothers brush aside 10 hours in the kitchen with “Oh, it’s nothing much. I overcooked the roast a bit,” or we watch our grandmother duck aside with an “Oh, no, not me,” during holiday photos, a lesson carves more deeply into our psyches than all of the compliments or years of straight A’s. Good people are modest. Nice girls hide from cameras. Taking pride in one’s accomplishments is bragging, and bragging is rude.
Photographs are hard. They show our imperfections and our glory. They are static, revealing. There we are: without filter – forever. I think this explains why so many of us are comfortable being photographed in Halloween costumes or ridiculous poses. We can legitimately say, “I was just goofing around. That’s not really me.”
Being authentically oneself is the hardest thing there is. Accepting your own flaws is easy. Accepting your strengths gracefully is much harder. I don’t know about you, but I struggle with this every day. Just this week, I deflected a compliment from an editor with a fake demurral. She had pointed out a particular skill that is indeed mine, but rather than owning it with a “Thank you,” the self-deprecation monster took over.
Yet, every “failure” in my life has arisen (directly or indirectly) from under-valuing myself. This must stop. I call bullshit. No one is going to believe in my worth unless I do. And, if I really care about others, then it’s my duty to accept my worth. My kids deserve a mother with the guts to present herself honestly.
We’ve got to ditch this message that false-modesty is somehow endearing. Hiding from ourselves annoys others and reinforces the endless roll-playing game of human interaction. How bad is it really to let others see that we know who we are? What about you? Are you ready for your close-up?