I thought I’d choose a picture of me smiling and laughing. Having fun, being goofy. It’s how I first recognize myself. Other people know me this way. I am comfortable laughing (even when I shouldn’t be).
The lesson this week was about cultivating authenticity, requiring me to find a photo capturing my authentic self. A picture conveying a sense of who I am. I went in looking with no expectations, no plan, letting it be and believing I’d know it when I found it. Brene Brown defines authenticity as the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are suppose to be and embracing who we really are.
This process was challenging and revealing. The most recent photos were of my kids, there were very few of me alone. Of these photos, many were posed and prepared with the same smile. After spending some time, I realized it was difficult because I was looking for something specific–one of me laughing, having fun, and being carefree, a candid snapshot telling more of the story. There aren’t any recent photos of me this way.
Of all of them one stood out, kept pulling me back. I noticed my eyes first. They are quiet and relaxed. My hair is wet and I have little makeup on. My shoulders are soft and I’m slightly leaning forward; he must have snapped the photo before I was ready. In this picture of me I felt something when I looked at it. There is a quiet confidence in my expression, a sense of certainty and contentment.
I remembered we were on vacation in Mexico, just the two of us. We decided to start trying for a second child on this trip. This is not the photo I imagined selecting as it reflects an unfamiliar side of me. This is a perfect example of authenticity. While laughing and humor are most definitely a part of who I am much of the time and how most people know me, I also have an introspective, much more serious side. I chose this photo because I saw depth, the place in me where contemplation and decision happen.
The good old days of huddling around a picture album would encourage me to share and remember the experience. In the age of digital photography, I feel pictures have lost value. We print less of them and have more than we know what to do with.
This exercise encourages us to question how true we are living to who we are and more importantly who we want to be. It gives us an opportunity to consider how and with whom we are spending our time.
What do pictures of you tell about how you’re living your story?