Letting Go of Photo Phobia (AKA, Being in Pictures)

Do you want to look through pictures years later and recall how you fully enjoyed the event/moment/day or do you want to remember how you tried to avoid being seen for pictures? Let's focus on being our true, authentic selves and enjoying the moment the pictures are being taken.

Hello gorgeous!

Do you ever struggle with photo phobia? Aka, that anxiety some of us feel when we’re about to have our photo taken? Or the intense desire to diet-down before a big event? I hope this post encourages you!

Scenario A:

Your best friend is getting married next week and you’re excited to be in her wedding and help celebrate her big day. However, you look in the mirror, and are not happy with what you see.

You begin to think negatively about your body and feel such anxiety surrounding the upcoming day. You decide that you are going to follow a crash diet for the next week in the hopes that you will feel better and not have anxiety when taking pictures next week.

As the week goes by, you begin to dread the wedding more and more – the thought of being in photos makes you cringe.

Not to mention, your diet is making you feel miserable.

Two nights before the wedding, you binge on the foods you’ve been trying to stay away from. The diet isn’t working that great anyway – you’re feeling defeated. You feel deprived.

After the binge, you make a mental promise to yourself to be very good the next day.

You get down on yourself for messing up your diet. You think: WHY?!?! do I always do that?! This is why I look this way. It’s my fault. I suck.

The wedding day comes and you feel worse than when you first started your diet. Mentally, you’re beating yourself up even more. I bet other people were able to stick to a diet before today. Why can’t I do this? [This is a total lie.]

You attend the wedding but casually hide behind people during the photos and do not fully enjoy the day. You avoid any photos that are not completely necessary. You feel uncomfortable and consumed by your own thoughts.

You leave your best friend’s big day feeling upset that you couldn’t fully celebrate. You feel out of control. You are determined once again to “be better.” To “lose the weight.” You MUST or you WON’T be happy (or at least that’s what you tell yourself).

You have “one last binge” and promise to start fresh again tomorrow.

The cycle continues. You are stuck. Defeated. You lose HOPE. You wonder, will this ever change?

Scenario B:

Your best friends wedding is right around the corner. You look in the mirror, you’re not 100% happy with what you see. You feel sad for a moment, but then you remember “all I am responsible for is taking good care of myself. From there, my body decides what to weight.”

You approach your best friend’s wedding with a peaceful and neutral mindset. Whenever a negative thought comes up, you lovingly turn it back down. You remind yourself that everything will be okay. You are excited to have fun and celebrate your friend. You remember this day is about HER. You take some pressure off yourself.

You affirm yourself that no one feels 100% perfect. You find comfort recognizing this truth and decide to just enjoy yourself, the best you can.

You eat how you normally would in the weeks leading up to the wedding; you don’t deprive yourself or try to eat super clean. You focus on eating intuitively: asking yourself what you want, enjoying it, and finding ways to fully feel your emotions.

You care for yourself so well. You feel loved.

Your friends wedding day is here. You have an amazing time and even photo bomb some pictures with your friends to show your silly side.

You aren’t concerned with how you appear in the pictures and don’t try to hide behind others.

Rather, you enjoy yourself exactly where you are and you see that living an authentic life NOW makes the most sense. There’s no sense in waiting. YOU are important TODAY. This is a memory you don’t want to miss.

You leave the wedding after a long night of fun feeling fulfilled and happy. Grateful that you love yourself wherever you’re at.

You continue to care for yourself well, as normal. You’re grateful for the way you treat yourself.

So, which scenario sounds more enjoyable?

Hopefully we can all agree that the second is the desired scenario. THAT’S where the gold is.

The “HOW”

So, HOW do you look forward to events, such as weddings, without anxiety or a negative sense of body image when you know you’ll be in photos?

It can be difficult, I totally get it. I still struggle with this at times. It’s hard not to judge ourselves.

One thing I know for sure, is that loving yourself more doesn’t mean you stop having negative thoughts.

Rather, it means when a negative thought comes up, you get better and better at turning that thought DOWN.

I definitely had my own fears about the photos in prep for my wedding. I mean, these pictures are “the ones” forever, right?

There are several key things that allowed me to surpass these fears and concerns and instead focus on my special day.

I am so happy that I did not let these fears consume my energy on my wedding day.

Knowing that we all feel a little stressed over pictures sometimes, I’d like to share how I’ve learned, in all scenarios to let go of the photo phobia as best I can.

Leading up to my big day, I kept reminding myself was that my wedding day was about being real.

I wanted to look back at my photos and know that Marco married the real me that day. I wanted to know that I didn’t force-change my appearance just for the wedding (had we married 6 years ago, I would’ve been all over the crash diets).

Trying to change, specifically for a wedding, by doing a “quick fix” didn’t feel authentic to me, although it’s pretty poplar (just do a Google search for quick wedding diets).

Something that really helped me in moments of confusion (should I be dieting?! Everyone else is!) was repeating the affirmation “who I am is okay,” and reminding myself that I don’t want/need to change for pictures.

In any scenario, while pictures are being taken, check in with your thoughts to see what comes up. Are you having negative body image thoughts? If so, what are you feeling? What is the true, underlying fear in having your picture taken?

A personal fear I had to overcome was this: from the time I went on my first diet and lost weight (see my story) to the time I let go of dieting, I held onto this deep, underlying fear that I’d let people down if I gained weight and/or wasn’t stick skinny anymore.

I worried that I’d lose love/likability if I’d gained any weight. So, any photo where I didn’t look super-thin made me feel really vulnerable (to this day, it still can – but I am so much better at quickly remembering my value and worth and turning this thought down).

Logically, you & I know this is not true – that I’d lose love or likability.

But, maybe you still understand. Have you ever been praised or looked up to for making a change in your life? It’s easy to worry that if you mess up or change back, you’ll lose love. For me, this was being a “successful dieter.”

Thankfully this is no longer my identity – it’s not a fun one to carry.

Another key factor that has allowed me to rid myself of anxiety around photos:

People are not as focused on you as you think they are. We are truly our own worst critics.  

Think about it, when looking at a photo of you and your friends, who is the one person you look at and analyze? Yourself! You are probably focusing on how you look in the picture, not your friends. Right?
However, letting go of this belief that people will be focused on you and your appearances is key to truly enjoying the moment.

If you’re really stuck on believing that people are going to pick apart your photos, why is this? Do you have the habit of picking certain people apart in photos? Be honest.

If so, this is very likely the reason that you believe people do the same to you. Change THIS habit and you will see your own belief change.

Remember, learning to love yourself means being the most authentic version of YOU. This means allowing a weight that your body is able to maintain effortlessly; not the skinniest version of yourself that you have to work endlessly to maintain.

While some of you may think that getting to your lowest weight will make you happy and remove photo-anxiety, in truth, you will probably feel less happy because you will constantly be trying to maintain that unnatural weight (it’s HARD!).

Trust me, losing more and more weight will not help you feel less anxious for photos, rather you will probably believe that you can look even skinnier (from experience, I can share that the pressure will only be HIGHER).

The way our bodies look is not everything. Who you are as a person is key. Our character is key. People love you for who you are, not what you look like.

Isn’t that such a freeing thought? It’s so true.

So focus on being your true, authentic self and enjoying the moment the pictures are being taken.

Do you want to look through pictures years later and recall how you fully enjoyed the event/moment/day or do you want to remember how you tried to avoid being seen for pictures?

I would love to hear from you. What did you take away from this post? What was helpful? How do YOU let go of photo-phobia?

Love, Paige
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