Looking past my flaws to find a clearer picture

I do not take selfies.

Cute pic of me and my kid? Love it. Date with my hubby? Of course. Girls’ night out? Sure. But you better believe you’re not going to tag a photo of me and see it show up on my social media with my approval.

And posting a photo of myself, alone? No way.

The last time I had photos taken of me alone was for my high school senior portrait. That was the age of the black drape in the studio, not the on-location photo shoots kids take today for multi-picture graduation announcements.

I love those announcements. I adore photos my friends and family post on Facebook and Instagram. A couple of my friends have done some modeling, and they are just natural beauties behind the camera. If I was ever under interrogation, a threat of a day in front of a camera would be an effective form of torture to get me to spill all my secrets.

In my professional life, I have supervised countless photo shoots, putting the subjects at ease, assuring them they looked great and the reviewing the pictures afterward and knowing I had told the truth. I admire people who post pictures of their bellies after baby, their make-up free faces, and themselves at their most glamorous. I’m inspired by Whitney Thore’s NoBody Shame campaign, and I’m a big fan of Dove’s Real Beauty ads.

But I have never quite been able to get there myself.

So when many people I trust told me I needed a better headshot on my website, Linked In, and this blog, the idea of having my picture taken pretty much made me feel like this:

katherine 2015-28

Fortunately, I have cousin who is a talented photographer who graciously agreed to help. I told her I wanted to spend a total of 5 minutes in front of the camera and the rest of the time catching up.

But Sara’s a pro – and she loves me – so she took me to a picturesque park on a beautiful fall day and spent a long time shooting in a lot of pretty places.

When she sent me a group of 35 shots to review, ( 35!!) I initially cringed. Oh my God, I am fat. Is that a gray hair? I should have touched up lipstick. My eyebrows are too thick. Can you see those wrinkles? And oh my God, I’m fat.

All I saw were the flaws. Sara told me she loved the pictures, and that she saw in them the person she admired: “kind, strong, dedicated, loving, funny, and faithful.”

“I hope you see that person too,” she wrote.

I wish I did too.

Why is it we are so quick to compliment others and criticize ourselves? “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all,” we tell our kids. But we call ourselves ugly, disgusting, fat, without a thought. And we believe it.

It’s taken me weeks to be brave enough to post these photos. After much agonizing (Glasses, or no glasses? Smiling or serious? Far away or close up?) I did choose one for Linked In, but I added it to my profile with the “notify your network” button turned off. I looked at this post dozens of times before hitting “publish.”

It’s not that Sara didn’t do a beautiful job. She did, and she was a great coach.

“Is that a real smile?” she asked a few times.

It wasn’t. I don’t like to smile too big in pictures because I think it  makes my face look even chubbier.

But when she caught me with a genuine smile, I have to admit I kind of liked how I looked, which I’d say is happy:

katherine 2015-14

Plus, thanks for the windblown hair, Sara.

As our feet scrunched through piles of crisp, colorful leaves at the end of our morning together, Sara had an idea: recreating photos we have all taken of our kids playing in autumn’s bounty. I grabbed piles of crunchy leaves and threw them in the air with wild abandon while her shutter clicked. People walking by gave me odd looks, but we were laughing so much I didn’t care.

katherine 2015-34

All photos by Sara Montgomery.

It’s not the most flattering picture, but when I look at it,  I see laughter and joy. I have a wonderful memory of a special time spent with the cousin I love and admire, who helped me see myself through a different lens, imperfections and all.

Hm. I guess I just posted some selfies.










17 thoughts on “Looking past my flaws to find a clearer picture

  1. Mary Ann Solmonson

    Katherine, when I look at you I don’t see the flaws. I too, like Sara, see a kind, genuine, happy, beautiful woman, whom I love!!!! I have been blessed to be a part of your life since I held you at your baptism. Grandpa Halvorson poured the water over your head, baptizing you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. You are a child of God! I watched you grow up through grade school and high school in Anchorage. You were one of the first people who held Sara , the day she was born. I was a part of your life in College. I was there when you were married to Brian and when Hawke was born.
    You are part of me and part of my family. We love who we see, when we look at you, a beautiful child of God! Love you lots, Mary Ann and AL

    Liked by 1 person


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