Building Self-Esteem Using a Different Set of Eyes
A friend of mine told me last week that while I can’t save the world, I can help save it. As amazing as it would be to be Wonder Woman, I know that I can’t. (Not to mention that I don’t have super strength, bracelets that repel bullets, and I’m not a fictional character in the DC Universe…as much as I’d like to be.) But what I can do is use my camera.
I have been given a gift: a photographer’s eye.
To have a photographer’s eye means to be able to look at someone or something in nature and see something different. Photographers take everyday scenes that others overlook and turn them into scenes that force us to stop and pay attention. Photographers turn people that we just see as ordinary and bring out something unique about them that makes us take a second (or third or fourth) look at them. For the person in the portrait, this also gives photographers an opportunity to make them look at themselves with a different set of eyes.
As a portrait photographer, this is the opportunity that I have been given. Part of the world-saving business is getting people to see their value. Everyone needs to know their value, especially our women and girls. I’m sickened by how much I see and hear about women and girls being mistreated and told that they are ugly and then those women and girls believe it.
It’s everywhere. I can’t scroll through Facebook or Instagram without seeing friends, family, acquaintances, co-workers, and students that I mentor devaluing themselves in some way. It’s a testament to how many women and young girls think of themselves as less than — how many women and young girls compare themselves to each other, to the women they see in magazines, on TV, and in movies. I see all of this and it physically and emotionally drains me.
As a teen I used to think in this mindset. I got to a point where I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. I would get rejected by guys and immediately think that something was wrong with me because I only saw my value in what the opposite sex thought of me. I was constantly told by my mother that I was a beautiful person and ignored this because she was my parent — what good mother would tell their child that they’re ugly? I didn’t believe it for myself and there wasn’t anyone there who wasn’t anyone related to me that could encourage me.
I have always been a person of faith — a believer in Christ. It took one night of feeling really low (backed by several years of depression and low self-image) that completely changed my life — where I was given the idea that if the one who created me thought that I was beautiful, why couldn’t I see myself this way? It wasn’t long after the lowest point in my life that I developed a love for photography. Mark Twain said that there are two important days in your life — the day that you’re born and the day you find out why. I’m not sure of the exact day, but I know what I’m meant for. I am someone who encourages. I cannot go a day without encouraging someone. Because of this, there’s a specific motivation that I have behind shooting photos — it’s to empower.
As soon as I hear of a woman or young girl talking negatively about herself, I immediately want to do something about it. It’s this defiant impulse. I want to be the person that you always hear building females up instead of tearing them down. I want to be the person who you get a little annoyed with because I always have something positive to say especially when it comes to your unique look. If I can get you to look at yourself with a different set of eyes, then I feel as though I’ve made a breakthrough and it’s a great start to the shift in your self-perception.
I know that I can’t save the world, but this photographer can (and will) use her eyes to be part of the world-saving business.
If you’ve managed to get to the end of this article, firstly, I’d like to say thank you for reading this far. Secondly, I know that I can’t see your face, but that doesn’t matter; you are a beautiful person and your value is worth more than you can ever imagine.