The dichotomy of “less” and “more”: Looking back at photos of yourself

Recently, because of all the extra time on my hands, I have been in the process of reviewing, cataloging, and

Recently, because of all the extra time on my hands, I have been in the process of reviewing, cataloging, and preparing mountains of 8mm, Super8, VHS celluloid strips and photo albums. All of this, digging through storage boxes, buying hard to find bulbs for a long extinct film reel viewer; taping white paper to wall to use as a viewing screen; trying to capture past moments on my smartphone…all in a monumental attempt of getting 60+years of family memories digitised.


This task has been filled with joy and melancholy as I see memories come to life, and images of people loved and lost. But I have also been aware of some odd, uncomfortable feelings. These feelings occur when I see pictures of myself as an adult – in my 20s pre-children stage, in my 30s early professional moments, in my 40s family stress time, my 50s, and now 60s – a time of reflection. This is the inner dialogue that occurs at these odd moments:

Wow, I looked good then! Wish I could have THAT body back! I was skiiinnnyyyy!!

A sad realisation

It is at this moment that the uncomfortable feelings come through. No, it is not because I mourn the days of having a hot body…it is because I remember how I felt at the exact moments those pictures were taken…I felt I was fat.

I remember the moment when I first became aware that someone was judging me solely on my weight. A girlfriend was telling me that a mutual acquaintance…lets call her “mean gal”…said that I had put on a lot of weight (duh, just gave birth!). Now all you Judge Judy fans may commence with shouting derisively  “Don’t tell me what someone said, that is hearsay and inadmissible, tell me what happened!” This is what happened…

Mimi and son

I was out to lunch with a girlfriend in a rare moment when I had secured an available and qualified babysitter to watch after my recently-discharged-from-the-preemie-nursery son. It was nice to get a few moments away from the stress and constancy that is caring for an infant – and even more so, a very small one. I do not recall why the subject came up – maybe we were discussing the fact that I was finding it hard to lose the “baby weight” (6 weeks post birth – the pressure we put on ourselves is unbelievable!), but that one inadmissible comment, even though attributed to someone I did not much trust or respect, has stayed with me my entire adult life. From that moment I began a lifetime of feeling ‘less than’ because I was being perceived as ‘more than’.

Mimi circa 1982

Recently, in a conversation with my sister, reference was made to a formal picture I had taken as a present for my husband, early on in our marriage. This picture depicts a woman in her early 30s with glow-in-the-dark platinum blond hair (unfortunate), who is skinny as a rail. By all accounts, it is a beautiful picture of me. However, every time I look at it, I remember what I thought the time I first saw it, “Take THAT, mean gal!” This one beautiful (platinum-hair mistake aside) picture of me has always reminded me that I was less.

But less what? Less attractive? Less worthy? Less human? Was I less of a nurse, less of a mother, or less of a wife? I look back at these pictures now and quiet sadness envelopes me. Why do we, as women, do this to ourselves?

I cannot believe that this has only occurred with me. In fact, I believe that other women have experienced, and can vividly remember, a moment when an unsolicited, and sometimes unintentional judgment ensued. And this moment can lead to a life of yo-yo weights and constant feelings of being valued less.

Checking out the check-out lane

It is no wonder that women judge themselves harshly. Subtle and contradicting messages abound.

Embark with me on an imaginary trip to the grocery store. As you are there, look at the magazine rack strategically placed at the grocery checkout.

There are typically three predominant styles of covers – one that depict a beautiful woman, often with a measuring tape around her waist next to a headline like LOSE 110 POUNDS JUST BY WALKING 10 MINUTES A DAY. Did you find one? Now look at what other headlines included on that cover…something to the tune of CHECK OUT THESE WONDERFUL DECADENT CHOCOLATE RECIPES JUST IN TIME FOR VALENTINE’S DAY. Do you see any problem with this? Weigh LESS…Eat MORE!

The second style is the one that depicts the beautiful six layer chocolate cake with mounds of peanut butter cups and snicker minis adorning the top. Okay, do you see one like that? Now check the headlines – I bet you find a reference to a new diet plan. Eat MORE…Weigh LESS.

The third style is typical of the entertainment industry rags. These often show celebrities showing off their 3 month-old babies while wearing body clinging jumpsuits.

What’s wrong honey, why can’t you look like Selena Celebrity, I mean our baby is already 9 months old

Well, gee HON, could it be that I do not have a personal trainer and chef; nor can I afford the expensive SPANX that is obviously ironing out every bump or roll; and note that she is being pictured looking over her shoulder while holding her obviously photo-shopped enhanced-blue-eyed baby so we do not see the breast milk stains on the bodice of her designer outfit! THAT’S WHY, HON!”

Side note: To my loving husband and all the other men out there who are thinking – “I never said that!” You are right, you never did. We, your women, believe you said that…without REALLY saying it, because that is what we are thinking/saying to ourselves when we read about Selena Celebrity.  And if WE are thinking it…then by association, YOU must be too. It is just one more moment when women feel “less than”.

I’m talking to the woman in the mirror

It saddens me that I have spent so much time hating pictures of me, finding fault in every pose.  My son knows that he is not allowed to keep photographs that I disapprove of.  He shows me every digital picture so that I can nix or approve.  I’ve laughed it off as “I don’t look good in 2D, I am much better 3 dimensional.”  I’ve begged to have a second or third go at the passport picture.  One exasperated passport clerk said, “I don’t know what is wrong, it looks just like you.” Then in my absolute horror I cried “You mean I really look like that?”

Now, in my sixties, I am kinder to the woman in the mirror. I see a woman that I like. A woman with her own style of beauty; incorporating the facial lines from the frowns and smiles that life has afforded, while embracing the abdominal folds from years of enjoying holiday meals, time with family, and dinners with husband.

Holman Christmas 2014 - 163 - Version 2

I hope to instill this new-found inward-directed kindness in my daughter, daughter-in-law, and my grandgirls. My wish is that they, too, do not go through life judging themselves so see the minimal flaws less and the inner beauty more. I hope that they see themselves honestly, as the beautiful goddesses that they are.

Holman Christmas 2014 - 111

Experts say that some people with psychological disorders look in the mirror and see something ugly. I now look in the mirror and say “Oooh, I look fabulous!”  Well…more or less.

I would enjoy your take on all of this. Please share your stories of self-discovery of embracing your inner goddess.


Originally published here


  1. IKL – In my first pregnancy my daughter Jade I gained weight a lot, and I was fat for many years. But now I could lose weight 22 pounds on a diet that site here WWW 3BESTDIETS COM

  2. I have always valued myself no matter what my weight, I was raised in a family of unconditional love. My 2 oldest daughters have always worried about their weight. I remember my eldest daughter saying I am so fat. To which l replied what size are you. She said a 10, so is said how can you be fat. My middle daughter always watched her weight and if she puts on any takes it off straight away. My youngest carried more weight than her older sisters it never bothered her. She is now the lightest she has even been at 28.

  3. This is so sad. A life spent trying to fulfill other peoples and society’s expectations.

    • I agree, its also very sad we put so much credence in another’s comments, especially comments from people we hardly know and whose opinion doesn’t even matter.

    • The truth Debbie is I find most white Australians are really not bothered about physical looks. Everyone in their eyes is beautiful! And I like their attitude like that. I am more endeared to them than my own blood sake.

  4. Interesting you should say this. When I see pictures of me as a younger woman, its like I am seeing them with new eyes.
    Whilst I hated myself in photographs, now I look at those same pictures and think,’Wow! Did I look like that?’

    • Can so identify with your comment Philomena…I have read we form an opinion of ourselves through the eyes of the people who love us, but I think those people who purported to love some of us were way too busy with their own problems to be glowing about how we were 🌸

  5. I hate having my photo taken. I am not attractive and I take a horrid photo. Even when I look at photos of me as a child or a teenager or a younger women I don’t see anything attractive.

    • Ruth, I am looking at your photo and you are beautiful. I see the love and joy of life and the wisdom gained from a life well lived.

    • There will always be folk who are prettier thinner taller smarter whatever, it’s luck of the draw. Just reading your posts give me encouragement to better myself Ruth.

    • Ruth, I can’t see you, but I can see a beautiful person, by reading your comments, that’s enough for me.

    • Aah just looked at your profile photo, I see a beautiful lady, brave enough to have pink hair. Lol

  6. It is how we were raised. Hard to shake. I am still trying and can relate to this. Mum put me in a girdle at 10 to go to the city. She wore lipstick and nail polish until a month before she died at 90. A different world.

  7. I am 65 with 2 adult children when I was 39 and 40 years old. I love photos for souvenirs, because I missed a lot of my childhood memories. I made it a point that my children’s life are recorded through photography. There were many times in my life that I was very hard to myself. The only occasion I’m kinder with me is when I look at my own photos. It’s relieving, it’s refreshing though the memory associated with most of the photos were those of past hurt being alone raising two kids. I’ve been on my own for over 20 years … this is how I look in my 65… taken during my holiday in the south coast.

  8. i love photos and fortunately have lots from all through my life but i know what you mean about looking at your young self and thinking how good you looked back then and yes then remembering that at the time of the pic thinking how fat i was-and then wishing i was that fat now.

    • Hi Iris, I watched this TV Oprah Show and this Queer Guy told his audience that we women should look ourselves in the mirror and must love that person we see there. I followed his advice. 😀❤️💐

  9. We are our worse critics. I have learnt (took me long time) that we see our selves not as good as everyone else does. Photo might not be a nice one of you so what move on forget about it, every one else has.

  10. Even though many of us have digital cameras & memory cards, I still print out the photos particularly of overseas trips. I have dozens of albums & find it much easier to remember the occasion/event as you’re able to note in the album where the places are. Much more fun that sitting at a computer screen. I try to remember the fun rather than how I looked at that time.

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