364 Days–The Nearly Full Circle

In the beginning of this project I didn’t post every self-portrait I took. Only the best of my attempts made the weekly cut. If you’ve been around since mid-summer you probably noticed I started to include the outtakes and extras along with the winning photos in my posts. This was partially due to my exodus from Instagram (most of the outtakes did make it onto in Instagram because the images were blessedly small) and partially because around mid-summer the inclusion of the rejects became an important aspect of the project. Halfway through this epic journey I realized that ownership of the rejects was symbolic of the self-love and self-acceptance theme upon which the entire project hinges.

Loving up the ugly stuff is a poignant lesson I learn and re-learn every time I undertake this business of reintegrating all the unsavory parts of myself I’ve tried to shun, isolate, ignore, and deny. Preaching wellness takes on the distinct stink of bullshit every time we try to pretend we love ourselves as really are without fully acknowledging who we really are–all of it; even the stuff about ourselves we’ve previously rejected. It just doesn’t work. We have to welcome back in those rejected aspects of ourselves before we have can transform them into anything healthy and productive. If we don’t, wholeness isn’t possible. Taking self-portraits—more specifically, deleting self-portraits—every day for a year will drive home that message relentlessly if not efficiently, I learned.

Luckily I didn’t trash all of the rejects from the beginning of the year. Some did get thrown out—I was ruthless in January. I didn’t save a single “bad” shot in January. From February through mid-summer I gradually eased up and saved many of the portraits I took but didn’t include in my posts. For example, one month I took 46 photos but only posted 30 of them. I deemed the rejects:

  • not good enough (there’s the whole point of the project, my friends)
  • too grainy, too dark, too bright, too blurry, too crooked, too whatever
  • too redundant/too similar to shots I’d already posted
  • too boring, uninteresting, dumb idea, looked silly or lame
  • something looked fat, wrinkled, bulgy, blotchy, old, unflattering
  • any other reason you or I might cringe and delete in panic lest anyone see us looking like that and think we really look like that

That bill has come due. It’s December now and I’ve gotten good at this self-portrait gig (by comparison to my proficiency when I started). Instead of using my skills for a stellar big finish I am paying my bill. These last two weeks will show you stuff I tried to hide. Some of them you might remember if we were Insta-connected at the beginning of the year. Some might seem familiar because they look a lot like images you’ve already seen (how ’bout another hair flower?). Some of them might be the raw originals to images I edited heavily to make them “good enough” to post. (Sigh.) After twelve months I realize they all should have been good enough. I should have taken ONE photo per day and posted that ONE. That would have been the most honest thing to do. Lesson learned.

The captions in the slideshows tell the truth–the reasons I didn’t post them.

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This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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The task is then to look at each of these rejects and rewrite the dialogue I inflicted upon myself. To gaze at the images with kinder eyes and a forgiving heart. To value these images as much as the ones I found dazzling or genius. Because all of these aspects are Me; the lazy, redundant, whiskery, revealing, trying too hard, many times failed Me with bad ideas. I don’t get to delete those parts of Me and call myself whole and well. None of us get that luxury though we convince ourselves it is possible. None of it was stupid because all of it was necessary to learning and growth.

364 days learning to love and treasure the parts of me I didn’t consider worthy of public view. Exposed. Included. Honored. It’s not a bad way to spend a year. Stop by on New Year’s Eve to see the complete collection–all of me, together, whole at last.

— Mara Haddie

(i had a dream)


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