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Picture Perfect Does Not Exist

As I previously alluded to in my last post, a couple of months ago I was a bridesmaid in my sister-in-law Allie’s wedding in Ontario. I remember when she called me Christmas Day 2021 and told me that she was engaged to her now husband Stephen. I was so excited for her and at the same time a swell of sadness creeped in there too. So many emotions can come to the forefront of our minds with any big announcements or changes. This one for me was a bittersweet joy and one that I was and am incredibly grateful for.

For anyone who does not know, my youngest brother Jared, who passed away 4 years ago, was married to the beautiful bride Allie. She was married to my baby brother for almost 10 years and in that time became a part of my family and a friend. This lovely woman had not only been Jared’s wife, but she was also his advocate, his partner, and a valuable part of our family. (And still is)

The moment she told me she was getting married and the dates, I quickly booked my airfare, hotels and transportation. I was so excited to see her and her family again and of course to meet her fiancé and take part in the celebration they were planning. I will expand upon my adventures in Ontario soon but wanted to speak a bit about my earlier experiences with weddings.

In early April she reached out to ask me if I would be one of her bridesmaids and to be honest, I was a bit hesitant. I have lost track of the number of times I have been a bridesmaid in the past 2 decades (I am positive it is above 10 times) and there is one thing I have never felt confident with in the past, and that is having my picture taken. I know many people have different things that make them cringe and for me, I have never felt extremely comfortable in front of a camera. I much prefer to be the one taking pictures and capturing important moments.

I feel like I am presently so much better in the areas concerning self-esteem and having a healthy view of all the good qualities I bring to any relationship or situation, including my physical appearance, but sometimes old habits or experiences creep back in and make me doubt myself. Being asked to be part of someone's important and memorable day is always an honor but is also my personal Achilles heel that has in the past brought on bouts of self-doubt.

The first time I was a bridesmaid I had just turned 19 yrs. old and was involved in the wedding party for one of my oldest and dearest friends. I was at a point in my life where I had little to no self-worth and honestly thought I was not very attractive. I had dated a bit, but not had a boyfriend. I was living on my own but had no real-life direction and my social life was work, school, church and home. All my friends were in my eyes gorgeous and talented and far more worthy of male attention than I was. I would sabotage myself with horrible self-talk and I was not what I considered beautiful on the outside. But this was for my friend, and this would be my first experience as a bridesmaid. Yay!

The day of the wedding for my good friend took place on a beautiful, crisp fall day. The dresses were lovely, the bride was gorgeous, and I was determined to smile and prayed to God I did not ruin any of her wedding photos with my less than stellar looks. Sadly, I could not for the life of me see myself as pretty in comparison to the other ladies in the wedding party. I know, sad.

The wedding took place out of town in the morning, and we all rushed backed to Calgary to meet up for the formal pictures at a lovely spot a few hours later. I had run home to fix my make-up and hair and made my way to the botanical gardens we were to take pictures at. When I got there, the photographer and his assistant (his wife) were setting up and quickly arranged the wedding party in various formations for the pictures. At this point I felt confident that I looked well enough to not ruin the photos and was enjoying myself a bit.

Then came the time for the wedding couple to have some photos taken with their parents and the rest of the wedding party could relax for a few minutes. I went and sat down on a stump a few yards away near where the photographer had set all their equipment and relaxed. A couple minutes later the photographer and his wife came over to switch lenses and I overheard them speaking. “These pictures would be so much better if those two fatties on end weren’t in them. They can’t blame me if they are ruined.”

Yeah, I was one of the so called “fattys” standing on the end with one of the groomsmen who was a bit overweight. They were talking about me. My worst nightmare had come true. In hindsight I should have at once stood up and ripped this guy and his wife new buttholes, but instead I didn’t say anything. Not for the rest of the photos. Not during the reception and dance that followed. I didn’t want to ruin my friend's day and honestly, I felt like deep down maybe they were right. Maybe I really was ruining the pictures by being in them.

I share this story with you all, not to elicit some sort of comforting response or platitude, but to show how far I have come. How far we all can keep progressing to achieve a state of love for ourselves and for others. And it never ends. The things that used to trip me up in my twenties don’t necessarily mean that I allow them to do so years later. There are a lot of people out there who will not see you for all you are. They will judge or criticize from behind their keyboards or be so blatant as to say it to your face.

What we need to ask ourselves is “Why should their opinion matter to me? Why should I allow them any space in my head for negative thoughts or feelings.” Who I am is never going to be defined by their views because no one knows all of me. No one knows all my thoughts and desires. My joys and my triumphs. No one gets to take away my peace.

It took me a long time to sort through that experience, among many others, but I did. I did eventually realize that my friend loved me. She asked me to be a part of her and her husband's incredibly special day. That is a gift. She didn’t see me as some fatty who would ruin her photos and embarrass her in some way. She wanted those who loved and supported her to be beside her when she took this step forward. I did eventually tell her what had happened, and she was mortified and livid at the unprofessionalism and hurt it caused.

The truth is, we teach people the way to treat us. I had a therapist point that out to me many years ago and it has stuck with me. I am not responsible for what other do, say or think, but I am in control of what I do, say and think. I could have told that photographer and his wife off. I could have made a scene and made sure everyone knew how unprofessional and horrible they were. But at that time in my life my inner dialogue was so bad that I lacked the knowledge and gumption to disagree with their unfair and cruel assessment of me. I allowed them to get to me when I should have made it clear that they had a job to do. That they knew nothing of me, of my life and their commentary was unnecessary and unwarranted.

I am happy to say that I didn’t hesitate in saying yes to being in my sister-in-law's wedding party and that I had a wonderful time, which I will write about soon. I am so glad that eventually somewhere along the way I started to see myself the way I should. As someone worth love, respect, kindness and who is no longer afraid to be seen, in a picture or otherwise.

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