Have you ever seen a picture of yourself that your friend thinks look great but all you see are the flaws? Or vice versa, when you see a picture of your friend and think she looks beautiful but she hates the way she looks? Our sense of self and self-perception become warped as teenagers and that carries into adulthood, compounded by life experiences, middle age, or whatever other reasons there may be.

In my post about why I think all of our daughters are beautiful, I talk about how hard it is for teenage girls to see how beautiful they are. I think this holds true for us as adults as well. This flawed self perception and misalignment with reality comes to the fore when we see our pictures. We can’t get past our feelings about ourselves, our insecurities and that is all we see.

When you pose for a picture, what do you do? You put on your ‘picture face,’ your ‘camera smile’ and hold still. What is going through your mind while you’re posing? For me, I’m thinking… “I hope I don’t have a double chin.” “I hope my smile isn’t too gummy.” “I hope my hair isn’t sticking up.” “I hate how I look in pictures.” The thoughts are endless and nit picky. You are completely self-aware and self-conscious. Do you think that picture is a reflection of who you really are and represents you?

This flawed self perception and misalignment with reality comes to the fore when we see our pictures. We can't get past our feelings about ourselves, our insecurities and that is all we see.

During the reveal of a portrait experience (when you see your images for the first time), the most common reaction is, “it’s me but it doesn’t match up with my perception of me.” Most women are surprised to see they look more confident, more put together, more youthful, more BEAUTIFUL than they ever thought themselves to be. The gray hairs don’t make them look as old as they thought. Their body shape is much more flattering than they anticipated. They can’t believe that the woman they see is really them.

How is it that the portraits could be so different than their self perception? Aside from the makeup, hair, lighting, etc., what is it? A true portrait doesn’t lie. It captures who you are. Because the portrait session is so highly directed, there is one brief second in between the posing and direction when you shed all those thoughts and you are just you. The ‘face’ you put on disappears, the thoughts that are constantly swirling around your head stop, and you show who you are. Through your eyes, you show your confidence, your strength, your kindness, your passion, your vulnerability. There is a brief moment when you are connected to yourself and can feel who you really are. That is what makes a woman beautiful.

This reminds me of a poem by Langston Hughes:

In the dark,
Found light
Brighter than many ever see.

Within herself,
Found loveliness,
Through the soul’s own mastery.

And now the world receives
From her dower:
The message of the strength
Of inner power.

This inner light is the woman you truly are and the woman we’re meant to be. When you’re connected to that self, there is unimaginable strength and beauty. A common theme during the reveal is that a picture will remind someone of who she used to be at a different phase in life. It will remind her of a time when she was confident and knew who she was. That is when a woman is at her most beautiful.

A woman should come away from her portrait experience with a renewed sense of herself. She should feel inspired to take the first step towards figuring out what she wants out of life. She should look at her pictures when she feels like she’s not at her best and be reminded of her best self. We all get worn down by life. We just need to be reminded that the woman we all aspire to be is still in there and we can draw strength from her.