I also realized this makes me a bit of a hypocrite.
You see, I've always been a pretty strong advocate for body positivity. I taught my children that looks are not what's important, but what's inside matters a whole lot. Not blood, organs, and guts, mind you, but who we are as human beings. And while always holding that position and sharing it with others, I still carefully attempted to control the image I presented to the world.
Curious to see if I was onto something, I scrolled through my Facebook and Twitter profile pictures. Only a few of the shots were candids, and those were images I'd carefully selected because I didn't think I looked too bad in them. The rest were thoughtfully curated selfies or professional portraits that showed me at what I considered my absolute best available in the moment I chose them.
For years, I refused to share images of myself because I was unhappy with my weight and appearance. I spent most of my adult life obese, but the images I shared seldom reflected that. And when others shared candid photos of me, I always winced a little when I looked at them. Part of me wanted to delete them. The other part wanted to write a caption with a disclaimer noting, "On the inside, I'm nothing like I look in this photo," or perhaps, "Warning! Objects in photo may appear larger than they actually are!"
It's easy to pay lip service to loving what's on the inside and not giving much credence to physical appearance but often harder in practice. And I know I truly believe this to be so: Who we are as compassionate and loving humans is far more important than how we look, period. But secretly, I think I've always believed that to be true for everyone else, but not for me. I've had the hidden fear that if people really paid attention to how I looked, they would reject me regardless of how amazing my technicolor insides were. So, even though people saw me in everyday life looking how I looked for better or for worse, when they saw online photos of me, I was damn well going to make sure they saw me with my best foot forward on the off chance that made them love me a little bit more.
What wasted time. What wasted effort.
Lately, I've been cultivating flow and authenticity in my life. But it's hard to enter flow when we have dialogues cluttering our minds that include negative self-talk about how we look. It's difficult to live in the moment when the voice in our head natters on about our faults. And it's nearly impossible to be our most authentic selves when we allow that voice to convince us that we must control how others see us because we are somehow not worthy if we don't appear perfect on the outside.
And so this morning, fresh from my shower engaged in one of my favorite activities (cooking), I entered a flow state where I was my most authentic self. I felt present, happy, and in the moment. I danced around my kitchen, humming to myself and enjoying the aroma of bacon (because hello - BACON!). In that moment, I didn't care how I looked - I cared how I felt. After I stepped out of that flow, I basked in the glow of authenticity. And then, wanting to capture that moment of being who I truly was, I snapped another selfie. I wasn't wearing makeup. My hair was a mess. But I was peaceful and content, and I had no need to control anyone's perception of who I was.
Next, I started to think about how many of us are caught up in presenting an image to the world that may have very little to do with who we are on the inside. We share that in selfies we think make us look pretty good, in pithy but amusing posts on social media, in the stories we tell others about ourselves, and by acting in ways we feel are socially acceptable, regardless of what we truly long to do (I can't tell you how many times I want to start dancing in the grocery store but am stopped because I don't want to freak out the people around me and be labeled a weirdo). We seldom share truly authentic moments of ourselves because to do so feels risky. Being our true selves feels frightening. Sharing less than perfect images feels scary. Owning up to our own insecurities, hypocricies, and vulnerabilities feels downright terrifying. Yet, it is only when we stop curating the images we share with the world and are our most authentic selves that we can step into the flow and fully engage in life.
And so, I present to you my moment this morning in my kitchen when I was feeling grounded, joyful, and at peace. I wasn't wearing makeup. My hair was a mess. But in that moment, I was beautiful, regardless of how I look in the photo. Ladies and gentlemen, I offer you the real me. She's a pretty cool chick who looks forward to meeting the authentic you.