What do you think, when you see this photo?
For me, this photo evokes beauty and lushness and spaciousness. Those rich colors, that empty water and sky.
When I think about being there, I assume that all of that sun and ocean and majestic natural beauty would make me feel calm and joyful and juicy.
And yet, I was there when this photo was taken, and I wasn’t feeling any of those things. Here’s what I actually felt:
- Exhausted. This was our last day of vacation and I was pooped. And I felt guilty about feeling so exhausted. Why do you get tired so easily, Katie? Why can’t you just have FUN?
- Dirty. My body felt salty and sandy and grimy because we’d spent a lot of days at the beach, and even though I showered each day, some sand always seemed to remain. (I think this was definitely influenced by being tired, too).
- Anxious. We were on a small boat, and my very sweet husband (then boyfriend) kept leaning over the edge with my phone, to get the best angles for photos. I was afraid he’d drop my phone overboard!
At our AirBnb that evening, I looked at the incredible photos Gil had taken and could see what beauty and majesty and juiciness the photos evoke. And I definitely wanted that!
But did I want to be back on that boat, feeling the things I had felt? Nope.
It made me realize: We don’t always want to be where those photos are. We want to feel what those photos evoke.
When we’re in a self-aware mood, most of us know that comparing ourselves to other people’s social media pictures isn’t fair. We’re seeing their peak moments, and everyone has anxious or sad or not-cute days that they don’t post on Instagram.
But for me, this realization about the vacation picture took it a step further. It forced me to really ask the question:
Do I really want what this picture is showing? E.g., a gorgeous beach or a fabulous breakfast or a romantic photoshoot?
Do I want what this photo evokes in me? E.g., adventure or freedom or pleasure or love or beauty?
I love vacations and delicious meals and spending time with my husband as much as the next girl. But, honestly, those things don’t always give me that peak feeling that a picture can evoke.
We can spend time with our significant other and feel grumpy or unattractive.
We can have a delicious meal and be worrying about a work deadline.
And, as I mentioned, we can be on vacation and feel tired and grimy and anxious.
On the other hand, totally mundane and un-sexy things can sometimes evoke those feelings that those pictures represent.
Remember how I said that I didn’t feel beauty and spaciousness and joy when that photo of the beach was taken? Well, you know when I did feel that way? Last Friday, when I took the afternoon off, bought myself sushi at Whole Foods, and read a romance novel for two hours.
Heck, I felt so downright joyful that day, I literally skipped in the parking lot of Whole Foods. (And an older man gave me a strange look.)
There’s no glamorous photo to capture that day. I’m pretty sure it was overcast and I was wearing old leggings and my hair wasn’t cute. There was nothing good to capture. But I felt far more of the feelings the picture evokes for me than I felt on the actual day it was taken.
Here’s a fun question for your Sunday: What’s a photo that captures how you want to feel today? Do you need to do that thing (e.g., go on vacation, have a photoshoot in the park while wearing full makeup), or is there something else that would be just as effective?