License to Love Myself

theworstfilteredMy new driver’s license came in the mail yesterday. The picture is terrible. I can’t stand to even show you the full measure of it, can only bear to post this modified version. I expected it to be bad, but was shocked by just how bad. I wasn’t smiling because I was afraid I’d do that weird blank stare I sometimes do when I smile for a picture, or that I’d do that thing where I squint one eye so much smaller than the other, or that other thing where I tuck in my chin so that it completely disappears. In trying to avoid all those things I just look annoyed. It looks more like a mugshot. They tell you to look down because the light of the camera is so bright they don’t want you looking directly into it, and move your hair away from your face because they are using “facial recognition software” (um, wait, where did I agree to that?!), which made made me do the thing where my chin disappears anyway. One side of my collar is also flipped weird. The capture makes me look heavy and sloppy and mean.

Change, if it is to be long lasting, must occur on the unseen levels first. With understanding, inquiry, openness. ~Geneen Roth

You try to feel good about your body, okay about who you are, accepting and gentle and kind, and then your new driver’s license comes in the mail and the picture they took of you is so bad, and you have to live with it for the next five years, no Retake Day like for school pictures. But I’m not worried. My prediction is that in five years when I get a new license and a new picture, I’ll finally be in my authentic body. I’m not saying that I will necessarily look any different, but rather that my true self will be embodied in a way it just isn’t right now. This body is so tired, swollen with the expectations and judgments and criticisms it’s carried, puffed up by things that don’t belong to it, burdened by all the ways it’s been hurt, holding the weight of all the stuff I haven’t been able to release. This body is not free … yet. And still, I am free to love it, utterly and completely.

I made a list a while back of the 25 reasons I carry extra weight. At some point, I’ll dig it out and share it with you. What I can say for now is a lot of it has to do with protecting myself, having a physical barrier between myself and the world. So some of it is a choice, but some of it isn’t — cultural expectations, social norms, the way my metabolism has been ruined by years of starving myself to meet them, genetics, hormones, an autoimmune disorder, other mysterious imbalances, the food I eat, how I move, my environment, injury. My body and the way it works is a puzzle, a mystery. I’m only now giving myself permission to figure it out for myself, to know and understand what it needs, enjoys, and how to heal it, keep it healthy and happy and strong. It’s been interfered with, bullied, abused for so long. I’m not going to let that happen anymore.


17 thoughts on “License to Love Myself

  1. Mary

    First I laughed reading this, not at you but with you. I hate, hate, hate my driver’s license picture too. They told me I couldn’t smile so I didn’t, and I have no chin at all and my lips are thin to the point of non-existent. And then after the laughter came the crying, not only for you and the way you are feeling, but for all of us, especially women, for the cultural expectations we have taken on, for the belief that we need to protect ourselves from the world, and for so much more. And maybe perhaps most especially I’m crying for me, because I’m 65 years old and I don’t know how to rid myself of these feelings that keep me down and hopeless. But when you write your truth and acknowledge that it doesn’t always have to be this way for you, I have that tiny glimmer of hope that it doesn’t always have to be the same for me either. Thank you, my darling Jill.

  2. Joy

    There is so much here that I can relate to – starting with a license photo that neither looks nor energetically feels like me. But, like you, I have it for five years – no retakes. The timing is interesting because I am learning to love my body – to celebrate and honor it as a sacred container.

    And, this *It’s been interfered with, bullied, abused for so long. I’m not going to let that happen anymore.* is what I am currently processing in my life as well. I love your writing because so much of what you share inspires me – this article, though, speaks straight to my heart as affirmation and encouragement – thank you!

  3. Rosann

    Yup – I think licence photos fall under the same category as passport photos; no matter how nice or good you look and feel on the day they’re taken, the end result turns out to be an alien version of yourself. What happens?? Maybe it’s the paper used – haha. They definitely don’t capture the heart, light and beauty of who you/we are, which is there, always, for those who choose to look and see. ❤

  4. Lori

    We always perceive ourselves worse than we are. I think the pic is beautiful. Your hair looks lovely as the lighting brings out highlights. There is a depth of mystery in your eyes. The lack off a smile just lets us know it was a real day and you weren’t faking. I, too, hate to look at myself in pictures. I am trying to take it a little easier on myself these days.

  5. Alane

    my driver’s license picture looks like a mug shot! i remember when those pictures were a source of pride…. not anymore… they want to distinguish you from a terrorist, i guess by using that facial recognition technology you mentioned.

    1. jillsalahub Post author

      You might appreciate this: I was trying to explain to someone about trying to find my “athletic” body, and instead “authentic” came out, but I realized THAT was actually what I really meant, really wanted. ❤

  6. Rita

    It’s really too bad you couldn’t just give them the photo of you at the top of the right column on this page. I am sure that one reveals your best you–you look rested, happy, healthy, well. I find photos and our own perceptions of what we are, especially over time, to be unreliable. I look at photos of myself from the past, and in many of them I can see no sign of the troubled young woman I was. I remember being never wholly satisfied with how I looked back then, and I look at them now and I feel so sad for that person who couldn’t see how lovely she was, both inside and out, despite the troubles she was carrying. I’m not exactly sure of what I’m trying to say here, maybe just: Is it possible that you are further along in your journey to health than this one photo might lead you to believe?

    1. jillsalahub Post author

      That picture on the top was also taken by someone who loves me, knows me, was trying to capture the actual me, and I was totally relaxed while she was taking it, so I think that makes a real difference (and yet, I confess I picked at that one too when I first saw it). And I know exactly what you mean about looking back at old photos, a younger you. If I could talk to her, the one thing I’d tell her is to not be so hard on herself, that she didn’t have to try so hard (although, I could still tell myself that, and do). Of course, I wouldn’t have listened. And yes, I could be further along than I realize, absolutely Rita. I’m notorious for not giving myself credit. not seeing everything that’s working or how far I’ve come. ❤


I'd love to hear what you think, kind and gentle reader.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s