How we see ourselves

It’s impossible to really see ourselves as others see us, impossible in terms of character and personality, and perhaps even more so in terms of appearance. I guess if you’re in the public eye and pictures of you are everywhere and you see images – still and moving of yourself from every angle you might be better at it. However, even if you’re the most photographed person in the world, do you still look at those pictures and think they make your eyes look too close together, or your shoulders too wide, or your posture not as it really is? Do you think to yourself that actually you look different in some subtle or not so subtle way?

Like a lot – or most people, I don’t really like what the camera shows me, and in my mind I look very different. I guess I feel awkward in front of the camera, and maybe that’s because like everyone who’s ever had their picture taken, there are unfortunate moments when I look cross-eyed/drunk (even when I’m not)/half-witted/half-asleep/as if I’m about to dribble… and surely the photographic process inflates size? I can’t possibly be really as stout as that!

It came as quite a shock to me, not too long ago, to realise that I’m not average height at all, but I’m actually short – how can I be? I’ve always been if not tallish, then of medium height… except I’m not. My husband says it’s because I come from the Fens… I know that in most photos my nose is very read, and my eyes bunch up and my cheeks bunch out and I have a nervous grin…

So when occasionally you come across a photo which not only looks a bit like how you think you look, but makes you look quite nice and not drunk/mad/comatose/anxious, it really is a nice feeling.

I unexpectedly came across my writing friends in Waterstones bookshop, and sat down with them for our usually chat. I didn’t realise a snapper was out, and a couple of photos eventually appeared… and I quite liked them! However as we admired ourselves, we began to notice funny things in the photo…

I’m having a perfectly friendly conversation with my friend, but she looks as if she thinks I might snatch away the sleeping baby at any moment! Am I making a secret gang sign? And if so what does it mean? And is the baby making a signal back to me? Who is Whistler’s mother behind my shoulder, and is she spying on us, and if she’s not Whistler’s mother, who is she? Why is the table on the slope, am I leaning so heavily on my end I’ve pushed it through the floor? And is the book advert on the table some reference to us? And what about the white shape above us? An innocent lamp – or  a monitoring device, or an alien departing, or an apparition… so many questions… but at least I look roughly how I think I look…


  1. andrewbeechroad

    You will always be a giant to me Lo, striding across the college bar, armed with a glass of cider topped with cherryaide in one hand and your latest short story for Jacky in the other …… leaving the essay on the Metaphysical poets and their relationship with positive images of Elizabethan and Jacobin women unwritten. And I would always trust you with our three lads, although I would have to draw the line at leaving Hector the Goldfish with you for a weekend ……….. following that class in the art of cooking small fish in the style of Neapolitan street food.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Zeno The Stoic

    To be honest I have no idea who I am. Leaving aside my unremarkable physical characteristics I find my character and behavior fluid and variable. Perhaps I am an up and down sort of bloke. So, I don’t think it is just our physical characteristics which others see differently from our image of ourselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. david lewis

    I think your incredulous look came from hearing your friend telling you that she never would have thought she would have had another baby at her age.


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