I am quite fascinated by the number of pictures that people take of themselves. I don’t mean the ones where you gather all your girlfriends or all your teammates or the whole crew who has gone out together. I’m not even talking about the kind of solo shots people take when they go on vacation or to some other memorable place. I specifically mean the photos people take of themselves by themselves when I assume no one else is there. Just close up shot after close up shot. See me? I’m cute. Not even “these are my new glasses” or “I just got my hair cut.” Just plain old self-portraits, shared out with the world to see.
My wonder about this is whether it stems from innate narcissism within us or from a need for others to affirm us, or maybe both? Don’t we all not-so-secretly post the “good” pictures of ourselves because we kind of hope that other people will say we look lovely in that photo?
When I look at pictures of any kind where I am in it, I am immediately judging myself. How do I look? Do I still look relatively young compared to my actual age? How’s my hair? Does that outfit make me look good? I sit there and I notice all of the external imperfections, and sometimes I think about how I can prevent that in the next photo taken. I’m not a model and I won’t pretend to be, but surely there are tricks to trying to improve what the camera captures, right? It’s a silly little self-torture game that I play, and I know I’m not the only one who does it. I think most of us spend more than enough time scrutinizing our physical selves, especially as women. Not that we shouldn’t take care of ourselves and put effort toward making our outward styles reflect our inner awesome-ness… but I do look at photos of myself and want them to look good.
Which brings me to today: Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday — better known as the day before Lent. In the New Testament of the Bible, Christ spends 40 days in the desert preparing for His final death and resurrection, and it is not an easy time. He fasts and meditates and spends time examining his inner character. Regardless of our respective faith practices, I think that we are called to similar times of self-reflection, when we take the time to look at all of the parts of our inner selves and make plans to improve the parts that need work. It’s relatively easy to look at a picture and recognize the flaws on the outside, even if we are the only ones who notice them. It’s much more difficult to turn the magnifying glass on our internal selves and be honest about the areas of our character or our lives where we need to spend some more time. For me as a Catholic — and particularly as an adult Catholic who can better appreciate Lent as part of the liturgical year — Lent is a built-in time of every calendar year when I know I will pay a little more attention than usual to strengthening my character, to thinking about my faith practice. In the past decade or so, I can honestly say that March and the Lenten season in general has often been a trying time for me for a variety of reasons (Husband moving to AK before me in March ’11, most recently), but it has also given me a regular opportunity to work on my relationship with and understanding of myself. It is usually hard work and most often it can be a lonely journey, and yet I am always grateful for what I learned afterward.
So alongside my closest friends, who are experiencing their own trials, respectively, and looking toward self-renewal, I am also getting ready for my annual close-up, just not the kind that shows up in a photograph.