a different lens

I cried – hard – when I recently got updated photos for my business. 

I always simultaneously look forward to and dread these sessions. It conjures up some feeling of junior high days when “Glamour Shots” were a thing and I was finally allowed to wear lipstick, huge earrings, and – in one fairly regrettable shot – a rhinestone and fringe covered denim jacket. Hair was teased, sparkles were present, and it’s one of my earliest experiences of seeing myself totally differently. At 40+ now, though, and a busy Mom, partner, and business owner, the thought of figuring out what I’m wearing, getting myself ready, and then steeling myself to see just how those extra 18 pounds look when captured on camera can make my tummy turn. 

Fortunately for me, I have an amazing photographer who actually knew me back in my Glamour Shots days. Thanks to social media, we reconnected a few years ago, and she was the first person I asked to do my original business photos when I first launched my company. She’s watched my professional style morph from Converse and matching blazers to tie-dye and ripped jeans. But most importantly – she’s watched me. Closely. Through not just the lens of her camera but through one of a genuine appreciation for who I am as a human being. 

So when I got my photos back, I took a deep breath, locked myself in my office, and opened the link she sent. You know the phrase “my mouth dropped open?” Well, turns out that’s a real thing, because that’s exactly what mine did. I’ve never in my life seen myself the way she captured me. It felt like a reconnection to my soul, and a grounding back into myself. There’s a lot more gray in my hair, the fine lines aren’t so fine any more, and yes, I’m not as small as I used to be. And yet- she managed to help me see myself in a way that, up until that point, I hadn’t been able to. And it had absolutely jack squat (read: NOTHING) to do with my physical appearance. 

She saw me through a different lens. That, in turn, helped me see myself differently. I have become accustomed to my reflection in the mirror – most days to the point it barely captures my attention at all. I mean, I see it every day! These photos unlocked a self view that moved well beyond the physical, though. It was like I could see some of my sparkliest parts a little clearer, and it made me reflect: when was the last time I saw myself this way? What lens was I usually using for self-perception? 

As I considered this, it wasn’t so much that I had a negative self perception, but more that it was incomplete. I had some recognition of my accomplishments, some acceptance of the physical changes, some reckoning with challenges I’d navigated, but I lacked the broader perspective where I gave myself FULL credit. Thinking back through what the last few years have held, heck, what my whole life has held, and what I’ve done with all of it (and in many cases in spite of it), I really deepened my appreciation of myself. That has shifted me into a fuller, more grounded sense of who I am and what I am capable of, and THAT has provided a much stronger foundation upon which I’m building my future. My new self view has opened up new ways of thinking and being I hadn’t even considered, and I feel like I’m just getting started with what might be possible from here. 

The idea of really letting ourselves embrace full credit not only for what we’ve done but for the conditions under which we’ve done it is a powerful practice. I have a feeling if you try it, you might just get a new lens through which to view yourself, too. Glamour Shots not required…but certainly recommended. 

Full credit for her photographic wizardry goes to Nonni Mulvanny – you can learn more about her HERE.

- Nicole



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