Image via Unsplash

The holiday season calls for celebration and spending time with family and friends. Gatherings of these sort are the typical opportunity to take photos together to commemorate and mark the time spent together! However, if you’re struggling with body image you may find it particularly difficult to be a part of these photos. 

You may be in recovery from an eating disorder and have a hard time recognizing your “recovered” body in photos. Photos may prompt you to grieve a “smaller” or “younger” body. You may be having a tough time with seeing photos and resisting the urge to pick out every “flaw” that seems so glaringly obvious. Regardless of what you see when looking at a picture, it’s likely not always simply what’s there to the naked eye. 

If you’re struggling with being a part of photos this holiday season, these reminders may be a helpful resource: 

  1. Photos Are Meant To Mark Memories

From a purely objective standpoint, the fact that we even have the ability to capture a moment in time, via a photo, is pretty incredible! Think of how in awe our early ancestors would be that we could take a photo – to capture that one gift, that afternoon with your best friend, a moment of bliss with a significant other – and use it to look back on fondly at any time. It can help to remember the purpose of a photo, and what we as a society were trying to achieve when inventing it – at its core it should be about trying to capture a memory (not pick apart your body). Try not to let body image rob you of being a part of memories with others – think about what it would be like if your great great grandkids have no photos to remember you by! 

  1. Remember Your Body Is an Instrument Not An Ornament

As sisters Lexie and Lindsay Kite state in their book, your body is an instrument NOT an ornament. Though a photo can seem to be solely focused on how you look your body serves a greater purpose in letting you be alive on this earth! You have arms to hug those around you, legs to take you places and eyes to see the photo in front of you. If you’re having a hard time with picking yourself apart with each photo, try reminding yourself that your arms, stomach, legs, neck, etc. serve vital purposes beyond what they look like in the photo. And that the most important things about you (how you show up for yourself and others) can’t be captured in a single photo! 

  1. Don’t Look at it Right Away

Typically after a photo everyone gathers around the camera to look at the recent shot, and if on a smartphone, start zooming in on themselves to check every angle. Resist the temptation to demand to look at a photo right after taking it. Doing so just invites you to over-analyze your appearance and takes you away from the moment you were trying to capture. Let it be. 

  1. You Can Always Opt Out! 

At the end of the day you can always politely decline to be a part of a photo, especially if you don’t feel up to it. No, thank you is a complete sentence. You can offer to take the photo or excuse yourself from the room while the picture-taking is going on. Your mental health and boundaries are more important than ensuring everyone is captured in a photo! 

Whether you’re front and center in the photo or behind the lens, I hope your holiday season is full of perspective, gratitude and peace!

By: Maddy Weingast, Assistant for Therapy for Eating Disorders and Body Image