This originally appeared on TheManifestStation.net. Republished here with permission.
I could choose to see my imperfections, or I could choose to see how happy I look. I’m going with the latter.
Now, I’m not the cute blonde on the left but rather the more prominent, jean-jacket covered, cellulite charging, woman to the right.
And the first thing I thought of when I saw this picture was how HAPPY I look: I’m jubilant, radiant, fresh home from my first year of college and ready to celebrate with my hometown best. And I should’ve stopped there. It could have been enough to admire the photograph, to rejoice in the photographer’s ability to capture the joy and carefree art of two friends catching up after a year apart. It should have been.
But instead, I let my subconscious take over. I let that little voice in the back of my head tell myself that “I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t enough…or rather I was TOO much. I let the brainwashing, nerve damaging thoughts seep in and overwhelm my mind, allowing the thoughts to poison my spirit. My mentality went from You look HAPPY!! to Yeah, you look happy…but why? you’re fat. Followed by, don’t believe me? Just look at that lump of cellulite you call a leg take over the shot and deplete the image of any beauty there may have been.
And the smile faded.
The disgusting part? I let it. I let my stomach sink, my chin drop, my eyebrows furrow, and my spirit shrink. I let the negative thoughts brew until they reached a dangerous boiling pointing as I asked myself Why didn’t the photographer just edit that out?! and What should I do?! As I wondered if it would be best to try to edit the cellulite myself, crop the picture from the waist down, or just “hide” the photo from my timeline all together?
A lot of distress and worry over a photo. A photo that did nothing more than capture the image presented before itself. And that’s when I realized, when you look at this photo, you might see the sorrow of imperfection, the impression of one (or two) of many visits to the all-you-can-eat-University cafeteria as I did at first glance.
Or rather, you might see a young woman jubilant with friendship and conversation as I have now chosen to.
That’s the wonderful part! I decided that it is what I—independent, strong, and mighty me—decide to see, feel, and believe that counts.
Because I’m 19 and I’ve had enough. No more comparison and emotional affliction. No more distress caused by preconceived notions of body image. No more any of it.
So what did I do? I decided that I loved the picture. I decided that it was a wonderful snapshot of my friendship and that the image truly captured the essence of a rain kissed stroll—flaws and all. And most boldly, I decided to share it.
That’s right. I decided that I love this honest and flawed picture so much so that I am going to embrace it, celebrate it, and yes, share it. I decided I would fight my demon because I didn’t—and don’t—have the time or energy to let it wear and tear me down anymore. Because it’s not important. And more so, because I hope when you look at yourself, whether in reflection or spirit, you do the same.
Because we’re better than that.
And because it’s actually ok to look at a photo and say yes, “I like this picture of my cellulite.”
Photograph taken by Atiim Jones Photography
Victoria Erickson is studying Journalism, Art History, and Studio Arts at the University of Iowa. As a student journalist and becoming adult she is trying to the find the balance between learning and leading.