We’ve all had less-than-flattering photos taken, whether at a wedding, a friend’s birthday party, or on a family vacation. When we look back at these snapshots, they should trigger happy memories. But for most of us, the sad fact is, poor lighting or a "bad" angle can rob us of the joy we felt in the moment.
One blogger is drawing attention to this familiar issue, and putting her foot down. Dorothy Beal, creator of the blog Mile Posts, is a run coach and 32-time marathoner. Her photo has been snapped by professional photographers on courses countless times, and as anyone who’s ever had a picture taken in the middle of a workout can imagine, mid-race photos aren't always pretty.
Over the weekend Beal posted two of her pics from a recent half marathon on Instagram. On the right, she looks happy and strong. On the left, she looks tired and sweaty. When Beal first saw the photo on the left, she forgot all her positive memories from that race in an instant.
“I was left questioning if there was a part of my body that didn't have cellulite,” she wrote in the caption. But Beal was determined not to let one unflattering image bring her down, or change her memory of what had been a fun and celebratory day.
“A race photo is ONE SINGLE moment in time and I let one of them steal joy from me,” Beal said. “Most times we don't look great while we run, but that's not why we run anyways, we run to FEEL like I look in the photo on the right - HAPPY.”
Still, it took time for Beal to work up the courage to share both images. "I've had both of those pictures stitched together waiting to post for months now," she explained in an email to Health. "But every time I went to post them there was this little voice of self-doubt that told me not to for fear of judgment."
The response she has received so far (including nearly three thousand likes) has been overwhelmingly positive. Many people have commented that they can relate, and several runners have said that they too have let race photos make them feel insecure. They all appreciate Beal's simple message: “Don't let a photo steal joy - you are worth so much more than one split second - moment in time.”
About a year ago, Beal created an Instagram account to promote body positivity called ihavearunnersbody. But as she points out, self-acceptance is often easier said than done. "I'll be the first to admit that while it's easy to preach it, it's very hard to really, truly at your core believe it and love yourself no matter what you look like," she says.
Posting her side-by-side photos for the world to see actually took take the power away from them, she says. "I'm not going to say I don't look like the woman on the left. I do. But I also look like the girl on the right! I'm a strong woman running 13.1 miles. I think when we share our vulnerable side it allows others to do the same," Beal explains.
"The next time someone sees a photo they dislike, I hope they remember my post and say 'Yep, happens to everyone,'" she says. "The only thing a race photo should tell you is that you are out there kicking butt doing an activity that improves your life in so many ways!"