It’s a special day with your family when you meet me at the park. As you and your kids begin to play and I begin to point my lens, I see you tug at your short sleeves and unroll the hem of your top. Your shoulders are stiff and your smile is forced. I ask what’s wrong, and you suddenly remember, “I don’t like my picture taken.” I remind you that these family photos will become keepsakes for your kids someday. I remind you that your kids love you, not your look. I remind you to relax and try to lean into it. As you do, something beautiful happens. You and your kids have fun, and it shows in your photos.
This is a common problem for mothers, and preteen and teenage girls, especially during an outdoor family photo session. A recent magazine survey found that 97% of women will be cruel to their bodies today. These “I hate my body” moments with negative self talk add up and wreak havoc on our self worth. Why do we hate our bodies? What makes us feel badly about how we look? And what makes us self conscious about photos?
The most visible problem is how media misrepresents women. Media relentlessly hammers into our minds untrue messages that flawless beauty is ever-present, ever-possible. Mothers spend their entire lives becoming desensitized to unrealistic standards of beauty. These increasingly rigid standards of beauty have become harder to attain. In fact less than 5% of women are able to achieve ideals of unhealthy thinness.
Another problem is stress. As all mothers know, stress is a common aftershock of childbirth. It’s present throughout childrearing. It can lead to more negativity of any kind, including negative self talk. It’s easier to take it out on ourselves, rather than finding our bliss or finding a babysitter so that we can go on a hike or just sit down with a book and a coffee. Stress definitely makes moms more self conscious about photos.
Lastly, what we listen to influences us, whether we consciously let it influence us or not. If our own grandmothers and mothers were anything like us, they hated their bodies out loud and in front of us many times. Instead of rejecting such negativity, we make it our go-to strategy for dealing with hard times and soft bodies. When we’re overtly self conscious about photos, it influences our daughters. Imagine what it says to them.
How do we stop being so self-conscious about photos with our family? How do we respect our bodies and stop negative self talk to create better photos?
Nichole Wood—Barcalow, Ph.D., a Tulsa, OK psychologist, and Ann Kearney-Cooke, Ph.D., a Cincinnati, OH psychologist share a few good ideas in a recent Glamour Magazine article on this very topic (I realize linking to Glamour Magazine is quite ironic, but they have two great ideas.). Kearney-Cooke recommends rewiring you brain by regularly writing down things that make you feel good about your body. Remember your strengths. Wood—Barcalow encourages you to ask yourself, is this about my body?
Once you say “Stop!” to negative self talk, your family photoshoot has a new purpose: have fun together. As you play, you tend to forget you’re self conscious about photos.
Imagine what your new effortless smile will look like to your kids, decades from now.