Fat Rolls and Photos, a.k.a. Learning to Positively Judge My Image

When Catalyst Con announced that photos from the event were up on their website, I got very excited. I spoke three times and there was a professional photographer there, giving me high hopes for a new profile photo or something I could use in promotional material.

What I found was this:



It was 6 a.m. and I woke up way too early for my own good. I was tired and feeling a bit under the weather, meaning I lacked any kind of energy to fight the good fight.

So here is what happened instead:

Fuck, I’m fat. No, but really, dammit I’m disgusting. Look at the way my chin rolls blend into my back fat. And what’s with all that blush I’m wearing? God, can I look more unflattering? Ugh, I need to work on my posture. Why am I sitting like a turtle retreating back into her shell?

It went on for awhile and was only exacerbated when I found this adorable picture of Mona Darling, my roommate at the conference and good friend.



It’s really hard rooming with someone so damn adorable. Seriously, the woman dresses like a 1950’s housewife every day. She even sleeps in curlers.

I tried to remember that I too can be adorable, but the sleepy grumpymeister took hold of my brain and refused to listen to anything positive I said about myself.

Noticing this horrible cycle and wishing to stop it in its tracks, I email Jenn Leyva from Fat, Smart and Pretty, my own personal body positive support group, and she said this:

You are stunning. You look so engaged and excited to be there. That top is adorable, but there’s too much beige in that picture. And I know the double chin and the rolls But that’s not really what strikes me in this picture. I see a spark in your eyes. I see you in a space where you look like you’re fully invested.

I didn’t hear the positive things she said about my eyes and their spark, instead I continually focused on the negative. This time, the beige. I began blaming the beige background for how fat I looked. Don’t they say beige adds 40 pounds?

Not too shockingly, that didn’t make me feel any better about this photo being shared around the Internet and seen by my professional colleagues and readers.

But then Jenn wrote me back and added this:

When I see really bad pictures of myself I focus on one little thing I like. For example, I really like your nose in this picture. It’s well defined and cute. Such a good shape and size. This is how I survive the patriarchy.

Such an obvious but brilliant way to try to build self-esteem. Don’t I always tell my friends and clients that the path to self-esteem is to take one thing they like about themselves and focus on it? Whether it be the back of your hand or the curve of your smile or the shape of your ear.

I guarantee other people all the time that they are gorgeous, stunning, amazing, lovable, unique, precious, delicious, sexy and attractive. They just need to find one thing they love and the rest will come into focus. Soon, I promise, they’ll be loving all of their wonderful selves.

Easier taught than learned.

So I looked at that photo again, this time with tenderness and love for myself (and a bit of caffeine). Here’s what I saw:



I can’t turn off the judgmental voice in my head all the time, but maybe if I can make that voice only judge the good things, scrutinize the hell out of the positive, maybe I can build a better foundation for self-esteem than the one my childhood gave me.



About Queerie Bradshaw

Lauren Marie Fleming is a writer, speaker and motivator known for her intimate, informative and often hilarious look at sex, relationships and body-image. Lauren runs the critically-acclaimed QueerieBradshaw.com blog, writes for major news sources including VICE, Nerve, Huffington Post and Curve, and is the author of her memoir Losing It: My Life as a Sex Blogger. In 2013, Lauren founded Frisky Feminist Press (FriskyFeminist.com) as a way to enhance conversations about sexuality through educational guides, online classes and entertaining publications. A law school graduate, Lauren has spoken all over the United States and is internationally recognized for her dynamic, engaging style. In everything she does, Lauren’s goal is to educate, remove stigmas and encourage people to achieve their desires.
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25 Responses to Fat Rolls and Photos, a.k.a. Learning to Positively Judge My Image

  1. elena kate says:

    I’m loving this. I think its something that people of all sizes struggle with, myself included. If its not my belly hanging out, its my nose being too big. Or comparing myself to someone else, which is truly the worst. Nice to have another article in my “surviving the patriarchy” stash.

  2. You’re adorable. I agree that you look fully engaged and happy to be there. That’s what I saw, but I have seen myself in conference photos and shuddered, so I understand. I think we judge ourselves far more harshly than others do.

    • I agree, we’re always our own worst critics and conference photos are rarely flattering. Everyone always seems to catch you at the moment you look like you’re going to vomit, laugh and have a seizure all at once. But I think you look stunning most of the times I see you.

  3. And good lipstick color! You look smart AND pretty.

  4. Saintchick says:

    When I saw your picture the first thing I thought was ‘WOW, look how happy she is” your happiness just radiates in this picture. I am the same about myself in the ripping apart of my appearance and pointing out all the flaws (aka “bertha” my belly)I have. I remind myself that I have beautiful curly hair, I like my butt and boobs and the rest just falls into place. I don’t always do a great job of my own body positive thinking But I am trying to. I sometimes just wonder when my own thoughts about my appearance/body confidence changed. How in pictures I do the same, not looking at the positive, but remarking how “Bertha” is the focus of the picture.
    How I let society’s idea of what “beautiful” needs to be shaped my own thinking. I love seeing women of all different body styles, it’s what makes us all different and completely beautiful.
    ok.. rant over…
    basically .. you look so very happy and beaming in that picture!!!

  5. ginabad says:

    I’m a total stranger, and honestly? I saw what you wrote in the 2nd photo FIRST, especially that smile and that engaged look. I see a powerful woman in her element – not many can say that for public speaking!

  6. Mona Darling says:

    I think no matter our weight, we know what we are most self conscious about and our eyes go directly there first. For my, it’s always my skin and my tummy. 🙁 This is a great exercise though! We should all find do it!

    And yes – you look like you are having a blast! And I think you were!

    -Signed, your horrible roommate. 😉

  7. I have to say I am so sorry I never told you you were beautiful. I just thought you knew. I thought all beautiful women just knew that. I remember when I first met you in San Diego, and I saw that open smile, the bright eyes, the dewy skin, the healthy hair, I just thought you woke up and walked around in your day knowing you were so pretty. I won’t assume that again. You are beautiful.

  8. Marta Rose says:

    I saw this photo on a link to this blog on Facebook, and had no idea what the post would be about, and my first and only real reaction was, she looks happy, like someone who is doing some things enjoys.

  9. Maria Powers says:

    One day a friend put my face onto a picture of an Italian model who was posed with Vin Diesel. She did it as part of a writing motivation week. I saw the picture the first time and was thrilled, “There I was being hugged by the beautiful and scrumptious Vin Diesel. Yum.” I continued to look at this photoshopped version of me. She was younger than I was, but still, I started to notice “little” things on this version of me. I had man hands and my boobies looked like ski jumps. Clearly, I could have worn a better bra. Finally, it struck me that I was doing this to a faked version of me. I was this critical of this body not because it was “mine” but because my face was attached to it. It was one of the biggest “Ah-ha” moments of my life. It would never matter how great my body was – this was the body of an Italian model, a woman paid for her looks – and I was still finding things wrong with it, but only because my face had been put onto it. I still occasionally am that critical of how a picture looks, but since then I’ve trained my eye to look at my body the way I would look at a stranger’s body. We are all far kinder to strangers than we are to ourselves.

    • I think you bring up a great point here. We’re never satisfied with our bodies. We’re sold the notion that there is something wrong with us, a $25 billion a year diet industry is based on it. I’m glad you were able to see yourself as wonderful. That is a great gift.

  10. jovers says:

    I see that too. You look like you are really in your element, invested, and happy doing what you love. I’m a little jealous actually. Also, yes, cute top.

  11. Mr Lady says:

    A) I saw your lipstick.
    B) I’d hit that shit.

  12. Liz Henry says:

    Poppin’ the cherry as a first timer here and I have to say you look so happy. The beige makes your happiness pop. That’s what I see.

  13. Too funny, because I’m reading the comments and I saw your lipstick, too (^like Mr Lady^), and your earrings.

    But I sit her with tears in my eyes because I. SO. KNOW. I so know. I can’t even tell you how much. When Julia shared this yesterday I wasn’t ready to read it, so I waited til this morning. And now – caffeine in hand – I can tell you that I know. I love what you did to the picture. I love the advice you were given. Thank you. For sharing this. For writing it. For posting it. It couldn’t have been the easiest of things, but damn I am glad you did.

  14. emmasant says:

    It’s funny because I saw your picture and thought, ‘She’s so cute! She’s less fat than I am. Why can’t I be her size?’ But then I realized that you looking super cute with that lipstick and those amazing earrings didn’t take away from how beautiful I can look. I may have more pronounced back fat (still makes me shudder), and love handles but that doesn’t mean I should hate myself more. I love your blog and I’m really glad I discovered it from Sexplanations! Your body positivity helps me build my own, even if I’m not a size 6… or 12.

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