There’s a photo of me in 5th grade sporting braces and a perm reminiscent of a poodle fresh from a blow dry. It’s 1980-something, a time when bigger meant better and this included the Linda Richmond-esque bifocal glasses with gold-hued stickers of my initials in one of the lenses’ corners.
For decades, I hated that skinny girl at the start of puberty. The one who begged her mom for a training brawe both know wasn’t necessary.
Yet over time, I started to look back at that photo and saw a completely different image staring back at me.
Snapshots Can Change
Hindsight offers the ability to see through the past with a different lens.
Think of any experience in your life — good or bad or somewhere in between.
How we remember an experience affects our perception.
For years, I looked at the photos of me in 5th grade and saw a mess of big hair, huge glasses, and boobs that made Houston look mountainous.
Now, on the cusp of fifty, I am able to see the tween I was less myopically. I’m able to zoom the mental camera out see the terrain of that time and place:
There I am, holding a baby in my 11 year-old arms. How cool is that? The neighbor, a mom of a 5 year old little girl and now a mom again, is trusting me with her kids. I get to babysit both of them regularly after school, and I’m so good at taking care of them.
I move closer to my 5th grade self and speak directly to her:
You’re not skinny — you are thin. And it’s the 80’s — of course your hair is big!
Be kinder to yourself; no one has this thing called Life figured out. Don’t be in such a rush to grow up and get those boobs. Everything has its season and there’ll be plenty of time for boobs. Just revel in the stories you make up with your neighbor’s daughter each day after school. Trust me, all of these creative games you are playing with her will be something you’ll miss in adulthood.
The Illusion of Snapshots
Author and therapist, Lori Gottlieb (Maybe You Should Talk to Someone) writes about remains of our snapshots:
“People don’t always remember events or conversations clearly, but they do remember with great accuracy how an experience made them feel.”
We’ve all had that moment when we speak with someone from our past and they recall an event one way and we another. Since our perception dictates our reality, this makes sense — both people are correct.
We can look at the same snapshot — the same moment in time and see it differently because of the lens we respectively look through.
Perhaps the real illusion is believing there’s only one snapshot, one angle to view a memory.
We not only have the power to alter the filter of our past snapshots; we possess the ability to transform the mental photos on their way.
Instinctively, we do this with young children: seeing the wonder of who they will grow up to be while still wearing diapers.
One of the reasons parents possess so much power in those formative years is their ability — whether realized or not — to affect a child’s inner snapshots.
The great news: we can transform our inner snapshots at anytime to what we want to see.
I’m not talking denial or sweeping things under the figurative carpet. I’m referring to our ability to look at ourselves with compassion and unconditional love, embracing the fractured parts of ourselves to let in the light.
Imagine how the snapshots of your future will develop if looked at through the mental lens of self-compassion and willing vulnerability?
Talk about a Kodak moment!