Self-Portrait Tuesday: Thoughts on Identity

There’s another creative endeavor I recently found called Self-Portrait Tuesday. Each month has a theme, and each week participants explore the theme using portraits they took of themselves. The theme for November is exploration of identity. Below is a photo I took as I played at modeling a scarf I made last night. This photo was the best of the bunch.

As I looked at the photo, I was uncomfortable with what I saw. And the thing is, it’s all superficial and I know better. I mean, I was trained to be a psychotherapist, I did years of my own therapy, I understand my value is not based in externals. What kind of example am I?

But we are all our own critics, I suppose. When I look at this photo, I see a woman whose skin is beginning to show less resilience and freshness. I see the double chin forming, the face rounding out. I’m not in the best of shape and am significantly over what is considered a healthy weight. This became the case in 1999/2000, and I’ve not met with success in reducing it significantly or maintaining loss. Motivation is a factor, but so is age. My metabolism simply doesn’t burn as strongly. I am aging. We all are, but there comes a point when what’s inside, how one feels, begins to contradict what one sees in the mirror. This is the beginning of mortality consciousness on a new level.

Continuing to look at the photo, I see a slightly shy gaze peering back. The eyes are kind, inquisitive, and perhaps a tad mischievous. In childhood, you would have found a photo of me next to the word “hyper-sensitive” in the dictionary. I probably would have appeared next to “shy” and “crybaby” too. Later you’d find me next to “introvert” and probably still would. I’m not a commanding presence. I don’t seize attention, never felt comfortable flirting or showing off my body or using my sexuality overtly. For years I was guarded against in-person relationships with men. One of my most intimate relationships was conducted over ten years in letters to a man I never laid eyes on. I am a discovery that only those with open eyes find. I don’t look like much on the outside, but there’s a mother-lode of interesting goodness inside.

That’s why Internet publishing such as blogging is one of my favorite hobbies. This type of writing has connected me to others of similar interests, yet whose dispositions toward introversion would have meant we never met. And I get to “display my wares” to an audience of kindred spirits. As I look at the woman in this photo, I am curious as to what awaits in her future. At mid-life I am getting a little long in the tooth to become a mother, but we shall see. I’m also getting to an age where it will be harder to convince employers to hire me, something that increases sharply when one hits 50 and up. (Read Ronni Bennett’s blog if you are dubious.) And yet I have reached an age where my willingness to explore is less hindered by fear. I feel more accepting of my flaws and mistakes. I don’t feel a need to apologize for my existence anymore. I am full of experiences and have something to say to the world, some measure of aliveness to offer. People drop in, take what they want or need, and go on their way. I like this — my virtual personal café. And really, what more can a person ask for than a venue to offer her talents to the world? We are all seeking meaning and significance; we’d like to be remembered forever, but obscurity is the destiny of all but a few. Right now, right here, though, I’m making an impact. I hope it’s a good one; I strive for that.

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10 Comments on “Self-Portrait Tuesday: Thoughts on Identity”

  1. Fran Pullara Says:

    You look absolutely gorgeous to me, Kathryn, and I do see the mischieviousness. And your teeth aren’t long at all–you’ve got some baby-making years left in you if that’s what life brings. I think all of us who are our own worst critics find fault with our photos. Because I do archival work these days, I have comparison photos of so many people over the years–including me. When I was feeling like I was dogfood at 50, I was actually beautiful. So, I guess to some people I am probably still beautiful. But it’s about the inside, isn’t it? I love Ronni’s blog.

  2. kat Says:

    i always thought “long in the tooth” was a funny expression. heh.

    i agree with fran, you look gorgeous, and that scarf offsets your hair and eyes so nicely! i also appreciate how although you know all the reasons why not to look down on yourself, even if you do you don’t beat yourself up for it. and you can also see all the wonderful things that make you such a rich person.

    like you (an introvert…shocker i know!) i’ve enjoyed blogging as a means to meet kindred spirits such as yourself. aren’t we lucky buggers to live in the age of blogging? 🙂

  3. Rebekah Says:

    You are beautiful, and I fully appreciate all you said. As I’ve gotten older, I have found that it is easier to reflect the inside on the outside – since I’m not worried about proving so much externally. I think our generation is writing a new script for women passing through middle age and beyond, and it is a good one.

  4. Shirl Says:

    Absolutely lovely!

  5. Naturally Nice Says:

    Oh Kathryn, I am so glad we meet! I am learning everyday something from you. My gran brought me up and she was the most beautiful person on earth. It was her wisdom, her love, her sound judgement and her willingness to guide me and equip me for the big wide world that made her radiant.

    My other grandfather on the other hand, was considered wise by his peers and spend much time discussing with them, but not so much time with us grandchildren. I do have memories from him, but it was my “plain” grandmother that shaped my character.

    When my grandfather died I was at my early teens and thought “what value wisdom has if you don’t share it with those who need it”. It is the young ones that need wisdom most of all. So I would say, go on writing, we younger gals appreciate your wisdom. And whatever the future holds, share you councels of love with a girl or a boy, kind of adopt them. They will remember you forever.

  6. Naturally Nice Says:

    me again.

    You knit a scarf in an evening? Boy, I will never enter a knit-along with you! You are a bionic knitter!

  7. Jackie Says:

    Have you ever looked at our mother’s pictures when they were our age? Do you remember how old we thought they were then? I think our generation will be gifted with creating a new definition of old age. I am approaching 50 and still do not consider myself middle age – especially when I think about my parents entering middle age in their 30’s! I sure don’t feel 50…well maybe some morings I do untill I get moving. But I hear you, age does give us a perspective that youth does not.

    “we’d like to be remembered forever, but obscurity is the destiny of all but a few” This may be true, but for the lives you (we, all of us) touch you WILL be remembered forever! The number of people who remember you does not equal the impact of your effect on a persons life specifically and humanity in general. Remember the ripple in the water from just one rock thrown in – it eventually casues ripples across the whole lake. Your writing always inspires me. jackie

  8. cicada Says:

    Quit saying unkind things about yourself. You wouldn’t say those things to or about anyone else, so why say them to you? *poke* Give yourself some lovingkindness, my dear.

  9. Ronni Bennett Says:

    “And yet I have reached an age where my willingness to explore is less hindered by fear. I feel more accepting of my flaws and mistakes. I don’t feel a need to apologize for my existence anymore. I am full of experiences and have something to say to the world, some measure of aliveness to offer.”

    Yes! Among the many advantages of advancing age. It DOES just get better in so many ways.

  10. William Sackinger Says:

    Your physical appearance is just fine. Remember that physical appearances can be tailored to project anything, and thus, they are really an un-useful indicator of the brain and personality of the person inside. Your writings, on the other hand, give a widening multitude of persons a variety of insights and understandings, adding to the value of their own life and of the values of those around them. Not only do you beneficially touch those who read what you write, but also, you indirectly touch all of those with whom they come into contact. Spiritual leaders of the ages have wished for the words, and the communication tools, that you command and use so effectively!

    As your family genealogist cousin, I have in my computer several thousands of photographs, and I have none of women in their forties whom you resemble. This is unusual, but, again, you are unusual. Thank you for being YOU!

    Persevere in your quest for conception..I was borne to a mother of age 44, and with today’s fertility knowledge and treatments, conception at age 50 is reasonable.

    All the best

    Bill