Caught in Black and White

Last night, a friend of mine sent me a folder of photos from a portrait shoot we did last week. I needed a new headshot for LinkedIn and asked my good friend, who happens to be a great photographer, to take them for me. Normally I hate being on the other side of the camera, but my previous LinkedIn photo was taken back in 2016 and I looked quite a bit different then. I let myself have fun during the shoot; I focused on my friend and allowed my weirdness to take over.

When I saw the photos last night, I cringed. Not because the photos themselves were bad—they were beautiful, in fact—but because I immediately saw the flaws in myself. I couldn’t even look at them longer than a few seconds because I didn’t see myself as a whole, I saw myself as small pieces to be picked apart.

I immediately began judging myself for judging myself. All I kept thinking was that I had made so much progress in the realm of body positivity, yet had failed epically in a crucial opportunity for self-love. Suddenly, I saw this small struggle as the demise of my capability to love myself. Yikes!

Not long after, I was able to pull away from the situation and look at it from a different angle. Not even a week ago, my therapist and I discussed my penchant for All or Nothing thinking. This mindset, also known as Black and White thinking, falls under the “Cognitive Distortion” category, and can trap you into feeling like things are either staunchly one way or the other, without anything existing in between. Examples include, but are not limited to, “If I don’t finish this task by tonight, I am a failure,” “I tried something new and made a mistake, so I will never be good at it,” and “I’m feeling frustrated with the people I work with, but they did a task correctly today, so everything is fine.” Double yikes!

Aha, but this is when dialectics come into play!

Thinking dialectically means acknowledging two things being true at the same time. For people who struggle with mental illness and/or eating disorders, this can be difficult. It’s easy to think that if you relapse it hurtles you backwards in your recovery, or even worse, it negates any and all of your progress. Let me set things straight: hiccups in recovery do not erase the progress you’ve made.

I’ll say it again, just to drive it home…You can struggle and be making progress. These two things can (and will) exist at the same time.

Last night, I experienced struggle. I looked at my 2-D face on the screen and couldn’t see the amazing qualities I’ve been discovering about myself lately. Picking apart my looks is my default mode right now. But I know now that it won’t always be. I am learning and growing and coming into my power. And part of that growth and stepping into who I was always meant to be means that I will stumble now and again.

I can stumble and be strong.

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