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Why Anxiety Makes It Hard for Me to Be in Pictures


When I was a child, I loved getting my photo taken. No matter where I was, I was prepared to offer a camera a smile. My mother used to take photos of me all the time, and I would always happily oblige. I would even act like a total goof sometimes, sticking my tongue out or crossing my eyes right before the flash went off.

I looked ridiculous, but back then I did not care. How I looked wasn’t even slightly important to me. I would wear outfits that didn’t match, and I would let my hair go in every direction it wanted. My appearance did not affect my happiness.

Unfortunately, my view on looks changed.

As I grew up, I became more and more concerned about my body. I was hyper-aware of every pimple, freckle and blemish that showed up on my skin. If my hair simply didn’t curl the one way I wanted it to, I would put it up. To avoid showing my incredibly skinny arms, I threw on hoodies to hide them away. I did my best to shield every imperfection I saw in myself because oh god, did I care.

That was when I started jumping out of the frame, avoiding pictures at every cost.

The people around me did not seem to understand. When a smartphone came out of a friend’s pocket, I stepped out, I ducked, or I offered to take the shot myself. Even when my friends and family pleaded with me to join them, I stayed away. When they posted their memories on social media, they had to tag me if they wanted to recognize that I was there. With every new story came a new rush of shame.

Of course, the shame never outweighed the anxiety that came with being photographed.

When I saw an image of myself, my brain instantly went into overdrive. It critiqued every little and visible piece of me until I felt nothing but hatred toward myself. If I commented on how I looked, my friends would brush it off, as if “oh, your hair looks fine!” or “it is just a photo!” actually changed anything.

It became an even bigger issue when I began attending TV show conventions.

At these events, they offer photo opportunities with the cast members who attended. I would never hesitate to buy tickets way in advance, even though when the day arrived, I would feel nothing but fear. My anxiety seeped into my experience, and in a desperate effort to try and salvage the short moments I got with these celebrities, I began not showing my face.

I have done it so many times that the actor I usually get photos with knows me because of it. And, again, the shame never outweighed the anxiety. It will always be the lesser of two evils.

contributor with jared padalecki from tv show supernatural where contributor is hiding her face in his shoulder

Of course, like people commented about how I was absent from nearly every event photo, they did not fail to question why my face was not present in the pictures I was paying for.

I have been called many things for avoiding photographs, but the one that sticks with me most is “dramatic.” Because I go out of my way to keep myself comfortable, I am considered too much. Even though I try not to make it a big deal, I am still somehow causing others issues.

Keeping my head down around cameras has nothing to do with wanting attention. In fact, that is exactly what I do not want. Staying out of the frame keeps my anxiety about my self-image down, and that is all I am looking for. I understand if you want me in your photo, I do, but is it really worth putting me through that type of pain?

Maybe one day, I can be how I was when I was a kid. Maybe I will go back to being OK with grinning and being entirely ignorant in front of a lens, but for now, it just increases my stress levels. You do not have to like it, but all I ask is that you respect it. I will not make it a big deal if you do not.

After all, it’s just a photo, right?

Image via contributor