Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Who is that?

Have you ever stumbled across an old photo and not recognized yourself? Whether it's such an old picture or simply because it doesn't match the picture you have in your head?

That happened to me this week. I was rummaging around on my computer, trying to find a photo from a trip years ago. A friend recently lost her dog, and I remembered that I had taken pictures of him when we visited her. So I tried to find them. No luck, but in a folder randomly marked random, I found myself. 

None of these pictures were ancient - no childhood or high school, not even my twenties - but they were so different from the image I had of myself at that time that they might as well have been of another person entirely. 

The photo here is me with several other members of the University City Garden Club, taken just a few years after I moved to West Philly. So, approximately 2003, the year before I met my husband. I was 39. I remember thinking I looked older. I thought I was overweight. I had various other criticisms that I thought were valid. 

Looking at it now, I realize that I looked like a freaking 12 year old. Maybe 16. Okay, 20. My skin was good, my boobs were higher, and if there was a little softness around my middle, it was offset by everything else I had going for me at the time. None of which I saw. 

Between modern standards of beauty that we take on board when we're too young to know better, criticism - well-meaning or not - dealt out over years, and our natural tendency to be harder on ourselves than we would be on anyone else we cared about, I don't think there's a woman alive so at one point or another who hasn't had an entirely unrealistic view of herself. 

Generally we look way better than we think we do.

This somewhat out of body experience has made me take a look at myself now. Not necessarily in the mirror. (Those are still not my favorite things.) But maybe, at 60, I don't look like I'm 70. Maybe my skin isn't that bad or that wrinkled. Maybe I'm not as chunky as I think I am - and even if I am, my body still does everything I need it to do without much complaint, and in the long run that is what's most important. 

Have you ever had an experience like that, seeing yourself in an old photo and not seeing yourself at all?


Anonymous said...

Hi Karen, in my case when cleaning up my late sister's belongings she found a sketch book with drawings of my then new husband and I, about 55 years ago. Rather an attractive couple, I thought, and was staggered when everyone who saw them recognised both of us although they were not named or dated. Lovely niece had them framed for us and I even worked out when she did them, but I still have no sense of 'me'. I am hoping "I" will grow on "Me" as a recent visit from a fiend who didn't even know me that long ago picked it was me right away.
Regards, Jan

Summer Flies said...

Oh yes you do look like you are at least half of your age then. Yes I have had the same experience... you don't know how good you lookwhen you are younger.

Carol in Denver said...

A friend and I looked at old photos of our Girl Scout Troop. I said, "Why didn't we know we were so beautiful?" She agreed.