“Surprise, babe—you’re getting new headshots for your birthday! It’s already paid for and scheduled for next week.”
My husband’s gift announcement to me was all at once cheerful, sweet…and terrifying. Because headshots translate to photos, and photos mean being in front of the camera—my biggest nightmare.
The camera’s been my adversary, nemesis, and unforgiving foe since the days my mother used Blue Magic hair grease to smooth my tresses into multiple pigtails, braided and secured by colorful barrettes on the ends. The imperfect smile, accentuated by buck teeth. Brown skin often marred by acne-induced bouts with hyperpigmentation. Narrow face, goofy smile. That’s all I saw peering back at me every time I looked in the mirror; every imperfection seemed more heightened when captured in print. Even when people called me beautiful.
“Thanks, honey! I’m excited!” My response to my husband wasn’t a lie—at least it wasn’t a complete untruth. I desperately needed new pictures. My awkward tango with the camera had been going on far too long, especially when God was moving me in professional spaces where headshots would be required. I wasn’t being lazy about headshots when people requested them; the dissatisfaction with myself kept me from taking new ones since 2015. Thinking of the shoot catapulted me right back to school picture days when I always failed to master the right pose. Then I’d try hiding the horrendous results when the pictures arrived. They were awful!
I’m an author, editor, award-winning dancer, and choreographer who’s solidified my talents as part of an Emmy award-winning team. I’ve made numerous television appearances, graced the stage with countless gospel singing legends, and danced before thousands. I’ve been consistently dolled up for the public eye, yet secretly dying on the inside every time the public laid eyes on me. Isn’t that something? I was one of the self-esteem chasers who always seemed to fall short of quite catching the confidence I needed to win.
Growing older only made things worse. I’ve always had quite the baby face, but well into my 30’s I began looking even younger. God was preserving my skin and blessing me with a youthful glow that I fought desperately to dim. The anxiety and depression I wrestled left me with a limp, like Jacob in the Bible, which no one could see. By the time I crossed into my 40’s, I seemed to be getting even more youthful. Gracing stages I never anticipated my feet dancing on, granting interviews about my books and my purpose. Encouraging others, all while I was falling apart.
The compliments from others backfired, hitting my unbelief. I didn’t feel worthy of what God had given me. Finding the strength to rise up to the gifts, talents, and bar He set for me (coupled with darn-near impossible standards I established for myself) was more daunting every day. I was hiding behind the promise instead of moving in my purpose. The pictures I painted for everyone to see were the exact opposite of what I saw in my photos. Sometimes, no one knows the thousand words behind the pictures we post. Especially the negative ones we tell ourselves.
Could people see how depressed I was? Did my smile show my failures? Did my head tilt—just the right way—reveal the perfectionist who didn’t believe in herself? See, the photo shoot was more than snapping pictures in front of a camera. It was about stripping away the insecurities that kept me from fully realizing my dreams. I was a surface achiever with much more to do if I was going to fulfill God’s plans for me. I’d relaxed into a zone where I thought other creatives were “better” than me, so it was more comforting for me to support them rather than press on in my own power.
It took nearly 50 years for me to realize the hardest person for me to learn to love has been myself.
So, we go to the shoot. My perfect wardrobe makes me feel feminine, pretty, and powerful. The makeup I did myself is flawless. I’ve told myself every affirmation to help me pose with confidence, style and class. Only when the music comes on and the camera flashes, fear guts me again. What if the pictures come out awkward or unattractive? How can I tell the photographer it’s not her, it’s me? What if—
Your photos are ready. The notification flashed from the subject line like emergency lights on an ambulance coming to rescue me. I opened the attachments and burst into tears like I’d been wounded. Only, I was in recovery. I couldn’t believe how beautiful I looked. How my posture shifted from potential to powerful. I finally saw the woman so many others had seen. The many accolades, opportunities, triumphs, victories—now all of it made sense. I was worthy. Finally, worthy. Worthy of loving me.
Don’t hide behind the pictures, sis! Boldly walk in the grace God’s given you. Allow His love to restore and overwhelm you. Believe Him when He says you’re beautiful because you are. Take a few minutes each day to remind yourself of that. Tell yourself at least three things that make you worthy to love. Don’t train yourself to admire the picture, learn to love YOU. I finally have. And it’s not the picture, it’s my posture.Leave a Comment