Are You Hiding From Your Reflection?

Earlier this year I went on a trip to Cuba with my sister and a few close friends. (I wrote more about what I learned there in another blog post.)

I had been anticipating the trip for a long time, and was particularly excited about taking some colorful, exciting pictures to use on my website and social media. After all, I had been trying to get myself to Cuba for over a decade, starting when I first started learning about Cuban culture and history my freshman year in college.

Halfway through the trip we were having an amazing time, but I was feeling discouraged because I didn’t have hardly any of the photos that I had imagined.

“Not for nothing, Mandy, but you make faces every time the camera is pointed at you,” my friend said when I was complaining about it one morning.

What a wake-up call.

I realized in that moment that making faces—something that I have had fun doing since my middle school days of inventing the “face club” for ugly face-making with my sister and friends—had shifted somewhere down the line from being something fun and playful to a way for me to hide.

I became so uncomfortable with the way that I looked that for years I have made funny and weird faces in so many pictures so as not to feel disappointed or upset for not looking pretty enough.

My faces were a mask. It was a way of not having to face myself. Of not having to feel the discomfort of not liking the way I look.

What it all boils down to is the feeling of not being enough: not attractive enough, not stylish enough, not interesting enough.

So I had to ask myself: What would it take for me to feel like I am enough?

When I dug down deeper past my immediate responses of having longer hair or fewer forehead wrinkles or more money, I realized that at my core, my intuition and my highest self knows that I am enough.

Right now and back then. Just as I am, forehead wrinkles and all.

With that awareness comes a responsibility to myself to take action and make a change. I have spent many mornings journaling about feeling enough; I have spent many afternoons in front of the mirror staring into my eyes and telling myself that I am enough. And I have paused when I feel the urge to make silly faces to ask myself: am I doing this from a place of fun and play or from a place of fear and low self-worth?

In the months since my lightbulb moment in Cuba, I have found myself on quite a few occasions in front of the camera feeling super uncomfortable. But instead of self-sabotaging or even sucking in my belly or insisting on being photographed from a specific angle, I reminded myself that every inch of my body tells a story and makes up part of who I am. And it is enough.

So from the beach vacation bathing suit pic that mom insists on every year that I used to lose my shit over to my recent photo shoot for my website, I accept who I am, I appreciate and cherish my body, and I know that some photos are more flattering than others.

But I have nothing to hide.