Photo Therapy… If only it was that easy

I’ve seen the idea encouraged a lot via body positive blogs and FB pages: Photo Therapy. The idea that we can work through the worst trigger of all, seeing those aspects of our own body which we have been trained to disdain. I love the idea… and yet, I am dragging my feet.

I had the notion over a month ago of have professional “boudoir” shots taken, as they are called, and there’s even a guy in my area who is seeking opportunities with what he calls BBW models.

(I don’t really go in for the term BBW… but the why is a blog in and of itself).

Logically speaking, I know exactly how photo therapy can work. Having gone through my BA in creative writing at a university that is heavily attached to critically engaging art forms via social theory, often in the Marxist vein, and psycho analysis, via Freud. Because of this, I probably know more than others about objectivity and subjectivity in art, and what auto-biographies, in this case, a photographic portrait, can mean in social and psychological terms. When it comes to self-perception, we are stuck using mirrors. However, there are vastly different kinds of mirrors. There’s that which is composed of a polished, reflective surface… and then there are the mental mirrors, our perception of our “self” derived from our social interactions and psychological states of being.

I understand this, and also understand that external stimulus always seems to be far more harmful than helpful. Mostly because this stimulus is garnered through both people we know and people we don’t know. We perceive ourselves through the way we are treated by family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and finally strangers, some of who could potentially be friends or romantic interests. Not everyone is subjectable to others in a severe and total way because not everyone is as emotionally susceptible to the words or actions of others. But we’re all like this, even if its only to a small extent (take the character of Dexter on TV… guy’s a serial killer and yet even HE still cares what others think about him). It’s a part of being human, that trust we show each other that allows us to be both positively influence, and negatively manipulated.

Because of this, our social interactions become a “subjective mirror,” one in which we don’t see ourselves so much as we see how others see that “self.” Photo therapy, on the other hand, is a way to form an “objective mirror”, one which is detached from social interactions and internal psychological states, and is thus able to show our physical selves in a detailed and REAL way, without any distortions. Which, I guess, defines the biggest way in which I slightly disagree with the woman who wrote the linked-to blog. Not that she’s wrong, just that I am left to wonder if it is a good idea to seek out a professional photographer. After all, in the hands of a professional, a camera can be turned into an objective tool, one that distorts our looks and thus, in turn, can distort our perceptions.

Professionals literally ARE invested in manipulating our images for their personal gain. True, this manipulation is intended to make the client look “good” as a means to an end, which is continued business with the client and future referrals to other clients, but that is still manipulation of the models self. Amateurs, because they lack technical knowledge of how to use cameras to tweak reality, can better photograph you or other models in a way that is utterly reveals your natural looks and beauty.

At the same time, I can see the writers point. There is something to be said in favor for such a positively-focused distortion: It would help break the ice, so to speak, in the wall of our negative self-perceptions. By tweaking a model to make her beautiful, that model is forced to view herself as beautiful, and in doing so, the internally skewed perception that model has of herself can begin to shift. I’ve had “glamour” shots done before, and I have to admit, he made me look beautiful. They were all head and shoulders, and I was left to question why that was.

And I guess that is the bottom line as to why I am dragging my feet, because my mind tells me that he didn’t want to photograph my body because it wasn’t worth photographing. I’m fat, and fat will never be beautiful.

I’ve already been down that road with HIM, the ex I have discussed in a previous post. This may be TMI, but HE was first man who ever saw me fully and completely naked. And his reaction was to show obvious disgust toward my body. That was the bottom line of my “first time”… He felt he was doing me a favor when he pushed his lips against mine, taking me by surprise, and starting us both down the path toward pity six. But when he actually SAW me, he didn’t like it at all. I could tell, but I told myself that I was wrong. That I misunderstood what the look was about. That obviously he wouldn’t be doing what he was doing unless he wanted me. He couldn’t just be “going through the motion.”

But that’s exactly what he was doing, so I’d “get over myself.”

From that moment forward, I was an object of his scorn and his abuse. What he had supposed would be some life-salvaging experience for me became a degrading, drunken one-night-stand that he openly and obviously regretted engaging me in, because he found me ugly, and couldn’t bring himself to have sex with THIS, my fat body, ever again. He didn’t have to literally say it, I could hear it under his words when he told me there would be no friends with benefits thing, he was done. I was not worth having a relationship with, even in the shallowest of fashions. He felt no “chemistry” for me, and because he didn’t feel chemistry for me, he could never truly love me. The love I felt for him must not be romantic because the love he felt for me was purely platonic. If he was to date me or do anything else with me, he would end up hating me, disdaining me, and he wasn’t going to put himself through that. And because he felt that way, I HAD to feel that same way. He could not perceive my love for him, couldn’t feel it, so it didn’t exist.

If I felt deeply violated, and sort of semi-forced into something that I didn’t want to do, that was my problem. What happened between us, he insisted, was my fault as much as his.

Ironically, when I first met him and started falling for him, the whole reason why he seemed to be attracted to me in the first place, by his own admission, was because I was so confident. I was a woman who knew that I was worthy of being loved and adored and I’d chosen him because I felt he was worthy of it too. I’d worked hard to get to that place. I’d lost weight and had stove to recognize that not every friend I would make would end up using me and dumping me. I’d worked hard to define myself as something other than fat, the pathetic loser that the guys I had crushes on in my 20s felt they could justifiably scorn because they were better than me. I was inches away from full self-acceptance, and HE took it from me in a drunken one-night-stand. I still struggle with talking about it, because what comes to mind is the R word. But what comes to the mind of those friends I first told about it is “slut”. I should have known better. It was my fault. I got what I deserved.

Because of what HE did, I can understand what I look like through the eyes of regular, non-BBW-fetishistizing guys. I look fat, ugly and disgusting.

So yeah, photo therapy? It’s going to be a loooooong time before I can do that. I may never be able to. I can’t even get comfortably naked in full light around my boyfriend. I’d rather wear some sort of lingerie than how him just how ugly I am and deal with the feeling that he must inherently be less-than-enthused over my body. He says he accepts me and finds me beautiful just as I am, but I don’t exactly feel that or see it in him when it gets down to the nitty-gritty.

So, I make excuses, say it is too expensive or don’t have the time. But really, I am terrified to see some photographer gag at my body. I am terrified the camera is going to show me as what I am, disgusting.

I think having photographs taken can be empowering and liberating. But only if you can MAKE them powering and liberating. For me and for many others, I suspect, there is a massive chasm between thinking such a thing and acting on that thought.

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