Monday, February 2, 2015

Looking Through The Lens, You Get A Different Picture

"it took me too long to realize
that i don't take good pictures
cuz i have the kind of beauty that moves"

-from Ani Difranco's song "Evolve"

That lyric took on a different form for me over the weekend. And not in a good way. I've never liked how I looked in pictures - but who does? Occasionally, a picture will be taken and I'll think I look kinda cute. And those are nice days and all is well. But most of the time I find myself hunched over the image, picking apart every little bit:
  • My teeth are crooked.
  • My mouth is too small.
  • My chin appears quadrupled.
  • My hair is flat.
  • My eye looks lazy.
And I know others do it, too. I've seen it happen. People taking selfies alone or with others, and then everyone hunches over their phones, combing through all of the shots trying to find the best one that everyone can agree on.

It's awful.

Why do we do this?

I think about how I view pictures on social media. Someone posts a picture and I scroll through and think "oh, cute!", like it, and move along. I don't stare at these people and pick them apart. I can only assume others view these images the same way.

We are our own worst enemies.

But it's so hard to see yourself, isn't it?

That Ani Difranco lyric used to empower me. I could say it to myself in a reassuring way when a picture from a show showed up on Facebook that I found unflattering. But on Saturday we started filming the video for our upcoming Kickstarter campaign. This scene is just of me, talking to the camera about the new album and why we are asking for help. I had been dreading it. Still pictures are bad enough, but video is so much worse. But I knew I had to do it. So I made my hair look nice, wore black, wrapped a scarf around my neck to hide the blotchy red neck that inevitably appears when I get nervous, and sat down to film. Colleen and Laura - my friends and backing singers - were doing the filming, We had a nice camera. I knew they wouldn't steer me wrong and make me look stupid. But still, watching the initial playback, I cringed. I couldn't even look at myself. Why does my mouth do that when I talk? Why does my neck disappear? Why is my hair so flat? This is not how I looked moments ago when I looked in the mirror. Why is this happening?

It felt awful.

So they backed the camera up and we did again. And it was slightly better, but still the thought of putting this on the internet for everyone to see fills me with such anxiety. Not because I'm embarrassed to ask for help, but I'm embarrassed about how I look on video. I kept thinking to myself:  I don't even have the kind of beauty that moves, Ani.

That's a silly thought to have and this is all something I've had to learn to come to grips with since I started playing music. It's RIDICULOUS how much image and how one looks comes into playing music - an audio experience. But it has so much to do with it. You've gotta have good pictures that make you look like someone people want to listen does that even make sense??? But it does. And every show I have, people take pictures. And I want them to, because they are important to have. I've asked for video to be taken so we can share it on the website...but then I get them and I cringe. Ugh. Well, people are going to see this and just turn it off because who wants to look at me? It has nothing to with how we sound in the video and everything to do with how I look.

It's become such a learning experience for me. Every picture I see posted of myself performing...I just have to learn to be okay with it. To be okay with myself. This is how I look. And that's okay. Because if people take the time to take the picture and post it online with a nice comment about the music, then they obviously don't care what I look like and why does it matter as long as they like the music? And it's not that I think I'm an all together terrible looking person. It's not an overall low self-esteem issue. It's just this fear of being judged. Because, although I know I'm not an ogre, I also know I'm not on the level of a pop star with a size 2 figure, perfectly straight teeth, and a gorgeous head of hair. And I know that shouldn't matter. But it does.

Or maybe I just think it does.

I wish I could be one of those uber-cool lady singers that just goes up on stage in whatever she put on in the morning, no make-up, not caring. I really hope to be that. When I'm up on stage, I don't think about it. I have fun. I feel beautiful and empowered. And I don't feel that people are looking at me and thinking I don't belong up there because I don't have a certain look. Maybe it's the thought that the music is speaking for itself. But in a still image, it's all image - so what else is there?

But thanks to being forced to look at myself more often - to see myself through other people's eyes in images and videos that I have no say over - I have learned to come to terms with a lot of my imperfections. It is just who I am and there is nothing I can do about it except get over those things that bother me and enjoy myself. I guess switching to seeing myself on video just talking directly to the camera was a little jarring.

This has not been a post fishing for compliments. That's not what this is about. I've just been realizing that I have to be comfortable and okay with myself if I want to succeed. That I can't fret over every picture. That I have to know that some will be bad and some will be good and they are all okay. That I just need to be myself.

"lately i've been glaring into mirrors picking myself apart
you'd think at my age i'd thought of something better to do
than making insecurity into a full time job
making insecurity into an art
and i fear my life will be over
and i will have never lived in unfettered
Always glaring into mirrors
mad, i don't look better"
- from Ani Difranco's song "Present/Infant"

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