This is a topic I am incredibly passionate about, yet one I find difficult to put into words. Let me provide some context here…
Often, when I am photographing clients, passing comments or off-handed remarks will come up such as:
“Let me know if I need to suck in”
“When I laugh, my eyes squint a lot and I have horrible double chins”
“I don’t like X about me, but I know you can fix/photoshop it later”
“Oh no, I look awful in that!”
We all have these inner critics, and particularly for womxn — femmes, cis & trans — these critics tend to be loud and constantly with us. Our brains are built with a bias towards negativity, so it seemingly makes sense that this would apply to how we view ourselves.
The antidote to this, that is typically shoved down our throats, is the idea of “think positive.” On a surface level, it kind of makes sense: replace the negative with the positive. Or overdose on the positive so the negative no longer exists.
There is a problem with this approach though.
It’s called toxic positivty. Have you ever been told:
“look on the bright side”
“focus on the positive”
“positive vibes only”
When you heard those things, did your negativity suddenly go away? Did your whole outlook and mindset suddenly shift? My guess is, probably not.
Now, I’m not a psychologist or a therapist, so it is no where near my territory to offer suggestions or advice on how to overcome your own personal inner critic. I can only speak from my experience and it is this:
Kindness and Acceptance.
I don’t have to like certain features that I have or like the fact that, yes, I do have double chins and squint a lot when I laugh, but I don’t have to be cruel to myself about it.
When these feelings come up for me, I first try to recognise and become aware of them. I stop the thought process. I don’t try to replace that thought with a positive one, but I do try an inject a bit of kindness and accept the fact that when I laugh, I have double chins. It’s just how it is and how I look. And that’s not good or bad, it just is.
Now, I get it. Having your picture taken can be intimidating, scary, and nerve-wracking. Feelings can bubble to the surface that make you uncomfortable and self-conscious. But when we work together and I’m photographing you, I am also there to support you and guide you through the experience.
I will never tell you to suck in.
I can’t change your laugh.
I will never photoshop you or alter how your body looks.
I will give you space to move, wear, and do whatever makes you feel comfortable and confident.
I will ask you to refrain from negative self talk on our photoshoot.