The “Power” of a Photo

I was feeling all kinds of awesome today … until the official 15K race photos came out this evening.


To be honest, I’m struggling with my mixed reaction to the images.

I want to love them and be proud of them because I know what an achievement it is to run a race you’ve never run before, and to finish it with 100% gusto. I know I ought to feel nothing but pride. But I’m always honest here, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I am struggling with my visceral reaction to the pics.

Especially this one.


On the one hand, I see my giant smile as I’m crossing the finish line: the grin of awe,  victory and elation all rolled into one, and it brings tears to my eyes … I was so freaking happy! I didn’t care what I looked like when I was running yesterday; I was just proud of my body for carrying me so far and crossed that line with immense pride. Upon first glance at the photo, I think, “I should frame this — it’s such a cool moment in time!”

But then I feel a dark, ugly sense of shame flaming across my cheeks. I look beyond my smile and remember a time when I was 30 pounds lighter and two sizes smaller — when this was my “before” body. That “after” body is long gone, probably never to be seen again. Now all I can focus on in the photo is my impossible-to-miss thick (but strong!) thighs. My flabby, un-toned arms. The wiggle, the jiggle, the mommy belly which will probably never be flat again. My face, red and hot and my body covered in rain and sweat — I looked my absolute “ugliest.”

I don’t say any of this to be harsh to myself; I say it because that’s genuinely what was going through my brain tonight, however awful it may be.

And then just as quickly, I got angry at myself for feeling any shame at all: four months ago you couldn’t run more than three miles, and look what you just did! STFU, Melissa! Rationally, I know my physical appearance doesn’t in any way, shape or form take away from the fact that I ran the race, and ran it well (coming in 200th of 400 women in my age bracket, woot woot!).

So why is it so hard to reconcile how I feel with how I wish I felt? I think the internal battle exists because I genuinely felt strong and lean running, and the images show otherwise.  It’s almost a form of reverse body dysmorphia; the pics depict a reality that isn’t front and center in my mind anymore. Since training began, I’ve felt really good about myself. Not to mention, I am finally losing weight again and have been feeling healthy. So why let a photo upset me?! Why give it any power at all?!

Ultimately, a photo doesn’t tell the whole story. It highlights a singular moment in time; it doesn’t harness the emotions I felt or the positive energy I was radiating.

The way I felt yesterday was incredible — and that’s what I want to remember.



4 thoughts on “The “Power” of a Photo

  1. I wanted you to know that I feel exactly the same way when I look at most of my race photos–I’ve run Boston twice and I cringe at my race photos–didn’t buy any of them–when I should be proud of my running achievements!
    I’m heavier than I want to be, especially right now, but when I’m running, I forget all that and feel strong and light–and then the photos remind me that yeah, that extra weight is there (10# since Trump and other life drama).

    1. Thank you–another marathon-running friend just said the exact same thing in an email — it’s reassuring but I am still disappointed at what I see — even though I know all we should feel is pride!

      Yes–Trump weight is real!!! I have 8 Trump pounds left to lose 😉

      Keep on keeping on!

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