“Please don’t take my picture while I am running, Mom.” says my daughter at her track meet. “Why?” I ask. “Because I don’t look good when I am running.” She retorts. Um, ok, I kind of get that…but I took pictures anyway. I am a mom and proud of my daughter and I must take pictures at these events.
It was kind of funny coming from her though…queen of selfies…goddess of random group pictures! The selfies and other pics got out of control and would flood our i-phone photostream. This is not unexpected for a young teen girl these days and we sat her down and explained about taking proper pictures and the less is more attitude of taking pictures of ones self. I wanted her to make sure she wasn’t posting ALL these shots and wondered if she was looking for people to tell her she was pretty when she posted them. At one point I asked her not to take those selfies at all. I didn’t like them- it made me uncomfortable. I didn’t want her to come across as a needy teenage girl.
Then I got wondering—how would I have been if we had had cell phones with cameras built in to them when I was young. I can’t imagine it. Typically I despised pictures of myself… I still do and am usually behind the camera not in front. I have an old yearbook where I colored the picture of myself out in black marker – I must have looked really bad that year! My childhood pictures are of a plump little girl whose mom always told her she was beautiful but the neighborhood kids reminded she was fat daily. Even without the taunts I would have known that I was chunky. I didn’t do anything about it until the end of high school where I decided to diet for college. My body changed but my mind never did. For years I just saw a fat girl..one not good enough. I recall taking a selfie as a teen. My boyfriend was away at college and I made my friend use my small kodak camera to shoot a few pictures of me (is it still a selfie
then!?). I sent the film away to be developed and back in the mail I got a few sorry looking pictures of me in a cowboy hat, t-shirt and shorts trying to look fetching for my boyfriend. I am sure I sent him one or two despite how bad I thought I looked. Then later in life in my 20’s I did the same thing again…trying to impress yet another boyfriend who never really appreciated me for who I was…he was always focussed on looks and always made sure I knew who he thought was hot – I did not make that cut.
It would be years before I ever could look at a photo of myself and not feel I looked hideous in it. Often those pictures I liked were ones from years before – pictures at the time they were taken I hated but seeing them years later I thought I looked ok. It’s taken many more years to like myself for who I am inside and not just outside and I am a work in progress – and I am still pretty camera shy- or vain..or insecure. Here I am at age 50 and I still scrutinize pictures taken of me especially because the wrinkles are coming faster than any cream I buy can stop them.
So is it really a bad thing to let our kids take selfies and umteen photos with their friends? My initial reaction to my daughter was to just quit it and don’t take those selfie shots at all – I felt she didn’t need to put herself out there looking for likes and comments that could bring her up or down. But what did she think I was telling her? Was I sending the wrong message? Then I realized that maybe I was projecting myself on to her. She isn’t the same young insecure girl that I was. Maybe she wasn’t really needing validation or if she was -as many teen girls are- maybe it wasn’t going to crush her if she didn’t get tons of likes or if (horror) someone decided say something unkind in her comments. I liked that she and her friends are comfortable in sharing their photos. It is such a main stream thing to do today… even if its a bit overwhelming to me. I decided as long as she stayed in tasteful boundaries why not let her enjoy taking and sharing some pictures. I think these pictures of her friends and her selfies show a freedom of self that I never felt I had.
What I see in her pictures is a beautiful girl inside and out. I am not sure that she doesn’t scrutinize herself – obviously she does because she was fearful of pictures taken of her while she was running. Though I think her comfort with herself is leaps ahead of me. Her love of taking iPhone pictures has grown to a love of photography. I gave her my Canon and she has been off taking pictures of her friends and of our farm and many other things . She has a great eye and a creative flare. I hope she wants to take her talent further but that is up to her.
Sometimes I am so quick to throw my adult experience and opinions onto my kids as if I always know whats best (and I really don’t know much!) – but I think there is much we can learn from them. Each generation brings a new strength and though kids still have their dramas and problems I see a greater sense of self and less of a need to conform to a certain image. So I am going to take a page from the younger generation and try to break through some of my bonds and embrace my whole self and not shy away from showing the real me inside and out. We never really stop growing up.