Self-Portrait Project

This year I am snapping a picture of myself before, during or after each run, usually with my iPhone. I’m calling this my Self-Portrait Project and I briefly mentioned that I would be doing this in my Happy New Year! post. But I thought I would take a moment to further explain the reasoning behind this.

I am a firm believer that the fact that people are all different is what truly makes us beautiful. Uniqueness is what makes people interesting. But for some reason, that kindness never extends to myself. Somehow I fail to see any of the beauty that I see in others in me. Looking at myself in a photograph, I’m very quick to belittle and rip my appearance to shreds. Race/running photos are particularly bad… a moment when I’m doing something I enjoy and am keeping my body physically active and fit, those are the times when I am the most self-critical.

And I’m not alone in this…

The sad truth is that the world has evolved to a point where it is socially acceptable and commonplace to make mean statements about yourself. People on other blogs do it, people on Facebook do it, people on Twitter do it, and people in real life do it… self-deprecating remarks are abundant.

There is also an epidemic of “Thanksbuts” in every day life. This is my own term for the practice of trying to minimize a compliment with some addendum…
“Your hair looks great!”
“Thanks, but I just got it styled so it will never look this good again.”
“That’s a great outfit!”
“Oh… but it’s just something I scrounged from the back of my closet. It’s old and I should really replace it.”

All around I see the negative language, the “fat talk“, the mean comments. Bubble butt, thunder thighs, muffin top, flabby abs, bat wings… the list is long.

I’m fortunate that I have a group of women that I meet with every single week on Monday evenings… we’ve all been through treatment for eating disorders and we remind each other that this really isn’t the right way to behave. Usually when the urge to beat yourself up is the strongest, that’s the time when you are under stress or duress and need to take care of yourself the most.

ALL women, everyday and everywhere, need to be kinder to themselves.

So I’m taking pictures of myself to start being more comfortable with who Jill is… and to stop berating myself. Yes, there may be moments when the pictures are less-flattering than other days. But I’m learning to be more accepting of myself. (I’m also learning that I need more variety in my running wardrobe… many shirts are pretty much the same color!)

Already I’ve started to feel better about my appearance. I am pretty self-conscious about my teeth, knowing that they’ve moved because I never wore my retainer after getting braces off… yet I had a wonderful comment from a friend and she told me that my smile looked so much more natural in the pictures where I actually show my teeth. And I’ve started to realize that is true!

St. Patty's Day Run

Even if you don’t take pictures of yourself, please stop and think before you say disparaging things about yourself. If you wouldn’t be so rude as to say that to someone else, then treat yourself with that same respect. 🙂

*I mention women specifically in this post, since they seem to fall victim to this practice more than men.


  1. Amen! Another wonderful post. I also just wanted to say that I love reading your blog. I don’t know if you do this, but I follow a bunch of blogs in my reader. Some I’ll ignore in there for awhile, while other blogs are ones that I want to read right away. Yours is one of those! Thanks for writing such a great blog.

  2. Excellent post. I am super critical on myself too.

    A couple times I’ve caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror through the eyes of somebody else. Like for a split second, I almost don’t realize it’s me. Not sure if it was the angle or a distraction … but it was nice. For that second, no criticism, just a pretty girl in the mirror.

    You’ve got a lovely smile and I don’t see anything wrong with your teeth 🙂

  3. That’s a great idea, hope it helps you feel more comfortable with yourself. And you are right, we don’t look at ourselves the way others do, we find it too easy to find flaws that others don’t see.

    Your idea reminded me of someone’s project, this dude took a picture of himself everyday for 6 years, and then made a video with it, its really cool check it out:

  4. I’ve fully enjoyed your toothy smiles this past week. Imperfect teeth have character and frankly, those freakishly bleached cappers scare the living daylights out of me. ;o)

    All that said, I’m the queen of hating every photo of myself and I regularly have to bite my tongue to not follow up compliments with negative statements. Instead of getting over myself, I take the easy route and just hide behind my camera. Maybe I should do a self-portrait project and learn to love my image?!

  5. This is really what I needed to read today. I haven’t checked your blog in forever and thought I’d stop by. You have such an eloquent way of phrasing things and I agree 100% with everything you said. I have always had such a hard time comparing myself to everyone else’s best. With all the things going on in my life this last year..I find myself constantly saying “if only…” I’m grateful to your reminder that we need to focus on the positive, beautiful things that make us who we are. I liked your comment on FB the other day about the reverse golden rule.

    Coincidentally, I find that I compare myself to you frequently and have always felt that I fall short. If only I had cute hair, if only I could go wherever I wanted whenever I wanted, if only I knew computers as well, if only I could run to the end of my block without passing out!! (see..there I go on my “if only’s)… and btw, I think you’re as beautiful as the day I met ya (which I don’t remember, but it was a LONG time ago! 13 years at least). My brother is lucky to have you.

    Thanks again! Love ya!

  6. This post is so inspirational. I used to love my body during my first years of college, and that confidence really showed in pictures. I gained weight, lost some of that confidence, and even though I’ve lost weight, I haven’t really regained it–I still say things in my head like, “Well my body fat percentage is really great, BUT… ”

    And a friend of mine who has made great progress losing weight and is getting fit again tends to do the same, ESPECIALLY about race pictures! As a running shoe guy once told me, “Who really looks that great when running anyway?” As women, we need to be proud of what our bodies can do.

    Good luck to you with the Self Portrait Project.

  7. i need to work on this too… but like you said, so does everyone else! had to lol about your braces/retainer comment… i, uh, did the same. i don’t even know where mine are, but they wouldn’t fit anyway. i’m sure my parents appreciate their “investment”.

  8. Awesome idea Jill.

    My mom used to tell me that it was rude to not just say “thank you” when someone gave you a compliment…to say otherwise was the equivalent of an insult to the person .

    That always sorta stuck with me (as most mom-wisdom does) and I try to say “thank you” when a compliment comes my way, but you’re right, we’re socialized to do otherwise, and sometimes I don’t. It’s good to get a reminder.

    BTW…I think your smile is awesome.

  9. This is a great post, Jill. I love your self-portraits and it was great to read more about the thinking behind them. I am terrible at talking to myself in the same supportive, kind way I would talk to others and this post was another great reminder of the fact that this is something I *really* need to work on.

  10. Thank you for this, Jill. My standard reply when someone says, “You’re funny,” has been, “Yeah, but looks aren’t everything.” My BF tends to pull a Jethro NCIS “Tony slap” on me when I do that. He’s right, of course. I need to stop that. I love your photo project. I’m thinking I need to do that too. Thank you for being so open and candid in your blog. You’re an inspiration.

  11. You’re brilliant, and very, very beautiful. You have a lot of guts to take a picture of yourself every time you go out running. I agree with your friend about your teeth, too… they look totally natural, and I smile every time I see you. 🙂 smooches, my dear!

  12. I’ve had this post marked for a while now. Just wanted to say that I think this is such a fantastic thing that you’re doing. It seems like a fantastic way to become more at peace with who you are, and knowing your own beauty. Go for it, and I hope to cheer you along the whole way!

  13. I love it. It’s so funny. I’ve found myself re-taking sweaty pictures of myself. Really? I’m sweaty! There’s a REASON for that! During my trip to Florida, I had my hubby take pics of me after my runs. He kept showing them to me to get my approval. I said, “I don’t care! I just ran! 3 miles! On vacation! That’s huge. I don’t care how I look!” And the thing is? It was honest and true! I am such a work in progress, but I’ll take it! Great idea – and I LOVE your post on favorite runs. I aspire to travel to do mine in this new phase of my life!

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