On photos, or the lack thereof

NOTE: This got super-duper long, and I don’t expect anyone to read through to the bitter end. It was just important for me to put this out. 🙂 Also… this was a really vulnerable post to write, which I’m sure you’ll realize when (um, if) you read it.

Something that has become increasingly clear to me – whether others have noticed or not – is the fact that I share very few photos on my blog. If you engage with me on Instagram – and follow me, especially – you may have noticed that the same thing is true over there. Of the few photos I have shared, none are of me, as far as I know.

This has become glaringly obvious as I read multiple blogs that I love, in part, for the pictures, and as I connect with the same people on IG.

Even if you haven’t noticed, it’s been bugging me that the difference is so obvious, and so this post is my attempt to explain that. Before I even get into it, I do want to say that this was a very vulnerable post for me to write, as it touches not only on practical reasons why but also some highly personal ones.

But starting with the practical… there are 2 main reasons: 1) my desire to keep my work and personal lives as separate as possible, and 2) the fact that I live in, well, a not-very-scenic area of my town (and the immediate area around where I live is where I, of course, spend the most time). As I’ve mentioned on the blog, I work at a public (state) University. I’m easily Google-able if one knows my first and last name. I have always viewed my work life as being completely separate from my personal life. People at work only know as much about me as I want to share, of course, but that really isn’t a whole lot. I do share some things (e.g., where I live, if people ask, although I’m a bit vague about the exact location) but nothing that I consider very personal. I do have a couple of close(r) friends from work who know a bit more, but they are closed books when it comes to sharing with others, so I know that anything I do share will stay with them. That’s important to me, so I don’t plan to change it.

And re: where I live, well, it’s the truth! I live in what can’t really be classified as a true urban environment, or a true suburban environment. I think of it as “built-up suburbia”? And I think it’s a unique type of environment that occurs more frequently in towns – like this one – with highly transient populations (in this case, University students, staff, and faculty). I live in a boring apartment complex. My apartment “view” is of another building in the complex. I don’t have ready access to a true nature trail unless I drive to another location – the trail by my apartment goes along some very not-scenic train tracks. And my pictures would reflect that. I know that I can find beauty anywhere, but honestly, there is very little natural beauty (or even interesting neighborhoods, sadly) near me. So yeah, lack of supply of nice photos –> no photos for the blog. Or IG. (Note that I DO share photos when I happen to be in a lovely location that lends itself to beautiful photos… however, you know, COVID. So that hasn’t really happened recently…)

And that brings us to the personal reasons. Oof. This is harder to explain and the more I think about it the more discombobulated I get. So I’ll try to make this logical and understandable… The main reason I don’t post pictures of myself is I dislike – intensely – my physical appearance. Before you go down the road of body dysmorphia, or imposed societal expectations, know that the primary reason I feel this way is how different my appearance is from how I looked most of my life. If you compared a photo of me now to one from 12+ years ago, you would be hard-pressed to say it was the same person.

There are multiple reasons for this change, but the primary ones are medical, related to several acute issues I’ve had over the last decade+ as well as the (as yet undiagnosed) chronic condition with which I live. Some of the changes have resulted from behaviors I’ve changed over time, but most of those are also related to the acute and chronic medical issues.

So when I look in the mirror (which I try very hard not to do, to be honest), for a second, I don’t recognize myself. I don’t see “me” in pictures – I see someone else. And I don’t like how she looks – particularly when I think about why I look this way. It’s been a long (medical) road for a decade+ and I’m always, always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I never know when an acute event will occur, with additional ramifications for my health AND my appearance. I never know if new symptoms (often affecting my appearance in some way) are just temporary, or related to my chronic condition. The unknown is one of my least favorite things, but I try to accept it because I don’t really have a choice.

The physical manifestations of my whatever-it-is also make me look (I hate to put it this way) not normal. Different. Unusual. They are things I can’t control, no matter how hard I try, and because they are physical manifestations, many of them are visible to others. And of course they show up in pictures, too. So I not only don’t recognize myself in pictures, I’m also confronted with external evidence of the medical issues every time I look at one.

That is why there are no pictures of me on the blog or on IG. Oh, and there is one other completely stupid reason. I cannot take a selfie. I literally have never, ever been able to take a reasonably decent selfie. I end up being all forehead. I know this is related to phone angles and how I hold the phone and the lighting and etc. etc. etc. but I’ve never been able to figure out the right combo!

Wow. This got long. Lots to unpack here. Let me first say that while I dislike how I look now, I do NOT dislike myself. I love who I have become over time. I love my stubbornness, my insistence on creating my own unique path, and of finally embracing my differences and weirdness.

I have no idea how to end this post. If you read this far, well, you have greater fortitude than I would have had in the same situation! While this was a hard post to write, I felt it was a necessary one, and so, in my quest to have Courage this year, decided that it was time. As I work towards at least accepting – if not loving – my body and face, I find comfort (as always) in some of Mary Oliver’s words (from one of my favorites, Wild Geese):

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting — over and over announcing your place in the family of things.


OK, I’ve had a few questions circling in my head for a week or so now, and think that you all might be able to help me. Any insights/answers/suggestions to the following would be much appreciated…

  1. Can you wear black and brown together? I’m dead serious – I have no idea. I’ve alluded to the fact that I have, quite literally, no fashion sense. My clothing is one of the least interesting things about me. I grew up somehow thinking that one cannot wear black and brown together. But I’ve done it once or twice recently (note: not when I am in public, this is usually when I am working from home) and it seems like… it is okay? Thoughts from the more fashion-conscious out there?
  2. Earbuds/airpods/wireless headphone recommendations? Do you have some you love? Why? I would like to get some that work with both my phone (iPhone 10XR) and work computer (Dell laptop). I’m having a lot of difficulty with my voice recently (long story) and so having earbuds/wireless headphones that will help pick up my voice while not tethering me to the computer would be nice. And for the phone/apps, too, of course. Right now I do a lot with the phone on speaker and that drives me bonkers.
  3. Has anyone ever come across a recipe for a *savory* muffin/granola bar that they like? Long story on this one but I am looking for something non-sweet, portable, that I could add protein to in some way (e.g., flax meal, hemp hearts). A baked good seems the best option but I’m not finding much out there.
  4. This is a vague request but… I’m always seeking inspiration/guidance from books. I’ve been trying to find my next “inspirational” read but I’m having difficulty landing on one that speaks to me. To provide some context, in the past I have really enjoyed Brene Brown’s books (and do have her newest one on my TBR, so that could be my next read, I suppose). I also enjoyed a few from Martha Beck (of Oprah show ‘fame’). My other favorite source of inspiration is books of poetry – primarily Mary Oliver and David Whyte, right now. So, my request/question to you is, what is your favorite/most treasured book for inspiration/guidance/helping you see beyond the borders of your life? I’ll note that while I am not a religious person, I am not averse to reading books with a religious orientation. Is there one that you recommend over and over? Or, a particular author?

I always figure that the people we know are the ones we should ask when we have these types of, well, completely random questions. After all, the people you affiliate with likely share some characteristics with you, so it’s likely that any information/insight they provide will work for you, as well. So, thank you in advance for sharing your wisdom (particularly on the black and brown together thing; I’m doing it again today and wondering if I am committing the world’s biggest fashion faux pas and don’t know it…).

I’ll be back later this week with some thoughts on courage, and having the courage to show up as myself. Let’s just say that conference last week was good – I saw so many people I know in such a short time, and it was lovely to see them in 3-D – but it also brought up some really interesting thoughts and issues for me. Ones that, handily enough, align with my word of the year, and my intentions for the year. Isn’t it nice when life works like that?