You’re So Vain (You Probably Think This Blog is About You)
I hate getting my picture taken.
This wasn’t always the case. You could flip through old family photo albums and find me mugging for the camera—freckles and all. Somewhere around the era of junior high I became very conscious of being photographed.
If I saw someone holding a camera I ducked, put my hands in front of my face, or screamed and ran away. (Yes, I realize this is a bit dramatic, but it was junior high after all.) Except my timidness has carried through to my adult years, and I still find myself scrutinizing any and all photos of myself.
I know I’m not alone in this.
Over the years, I have had friends complain they looked too fat in a picture or request I don’t share any photos on Facebook. One friend of mine, a thin and fit woman mentioned she worried her gut looked too big in a photo of herself. I looked at her incredulously telling her most women would kill to have her “gut.” Don’t we all want to be thinner, more muscular, taller or shorter? Maybe we hate our hair or our ears, or maybe we don’t like our feet. What could possibly be the root of all this insecurity?
You’re So Vain.
When most people think of vanity, they think of someone who is conceited or thinks only of himself. For lack of a better phrase, I’ll call it the “all-about-me” syndrome.
You know the type: the girl who spends over an hour doing her hair or the guy who constantly flexes his muscles in front of any reflective surface. Yet aren’t most of us a little vain? Why else would we worry so much about all of our physical imperfections? Why do we look at ourselves through this distorted lens and focus on things that truly are unimportant? Where does all of this angst come from?
Behind the veil of vanity lies something darker and even more troublesome: fear.
The fear of not measuring up to other people’s standards (or our own) fuels insecurity. Anxiety over aging, as foreboding as it can seem, might drive us to buy into expensive surgical procedures, or anti-aging cremes. Worries produced by comparing ourselves to friends, or even celebrities can sometimes pressure us to crash diet, prompting eating disorders or intense physical workouts which, if the body isn’t prepared for can cause sustaining injuries. The irony is, all of these behaviors stemming from fear and insecurity counteract the personal fulfillment that we are actually seeking.
So how can we get past all the self obsession? How do you break the cycle of fretting over your looks, comparing yourself to others or obsessing about your interactions?
A few years back I remember losing sleep over some gossip that was going around at work. There were rumors flying everywhere about people being fired or positions being eliminated. I paced the floors at night and talked to people that were close to me worrying about all the “speculation.” Finally, I resorted to calling a friend of mine that is a medium in hopes to get some answers about what might happen. She said something that kind of stung, but has stayed with me still.
“Dana, it’s not all about you. You need to let it go.”
I had created a whole scenario in my head that probably was much worse than reality. I let my mind wander into the path of self-obsession and the results were torturous.
So how do you let it go? Think about it: when are you the happiest? In these moments are probably times when you are out with friends or family, or completely engrossed in something where thoughts of yourself have the least importance. These are times when you are giving of yourself, not for recognition, but out of goodwill.
The remedy for insecurity is compassion—not only for others but yourself.
When you are open to connecting with those around you and making this world better, you worry less about your hair or you feet. Because when you realize that there is so much more than they way we look or the size we wear those thoughts lose their grasp on us. We step above the gossip, the comparisons, and especially the fear. We take one more step towards that magical place of enlightenment.
I’m starting to get over my fear of the camera; there is still a small place in me that wants to turn away and hide.
Then I let it go and smile because it’s not about me.
*previously published on elephant journal
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