I got up this morning, and did what I do pretty much every day – stumbled to the kitchen to put the kettle on, and while waiting for it to boil, check Facebook on my phone.
And to my annoyance, there was a notification from my sister that she’d tagged me in a photo, that wasn’t of me. Worse still, it was one of these Facebook fad things, where you do something, and then challenge people you know to do it too, and see how far it travels round the world…
My usual response to these things is to ignore them. I’m very averse to people trying to manipulate me into doing things I don’t want to do! But – this one was different.
This one got my attention.
This Facebook challenge was simple – post a selfie of yourself with no makeup (or for men – with makeup!) Then nominate others to do the same. And all the while – posting about the reason for it – to raise awareness of cancer and cancer charities.
A pretty worthy cause. But I was still feeling resistant. C’mon, everyone knows about cancer! I doubt I could find one person in five who hasn’t been touched by it somehow, whether personally or someone they know. How does a photo fad on Facebook help?
I continued with my day’s routine, chores and housework and such, and occasionally checking back in on Facebook. And a friend of mine posted a link to a blog that seemed to ask the very same questions that I did – how would posting a selfie help against cancer?
Reading that article cut right through my cynicism. Maybe there’s little point to it all. But maybe, possibly, some people were made to think about cancer and those who suffer from it, who wouldn’t otherwise have given it a thought. Maybe money was raised, through the simple act of putting up a photo (which I do daily anyway!) that otherwise would have been spent on a coffee! Maybe it would make a difference.
Here’s what you need to understand about me –
- I’m a cancer survivor. Ovarian cancer, aged 15, now 20 years in remission. I don’t usually let it define me or give myself a cancer-label. But it will always be there, as part of my history, a chapter in my story. I will always feel a pull at my core when cancer is the subject of discussion. But maybe because I am so determined to not letter my cancer history be my identity, I tend to stay away from it. I get a bit annoyed when it’s everywhere around me, or hearing the word come up. I think I’d really like to ignore that it exists at all .
- I’m also a carer – my mum is currently battling terminal bowel cancer. Personally I think watching someone you love suffer is a lot harder to do than go through it yourself.
Cancer is everywhere, it’s not a hidden disease, it’s well known. But that doesn’t mean that we’ve beaten it. Not yet. We don’t have the option of getting complacent just because it’s familiar.
So my cynicism has been met head on, and I’m actually sat there considering posting a photo. And you know what, it’s not an easy thing to do. I’ll be honest – I’m no great beauty, and definitely not camera-friendly – if I can, I avoid photos of me as much as possible. And right now, I’m feeling pretty low in the self-appreciation department; I’ve got a wedding to go to, (my sister-in-law), and despite continual effort have failed to lose the desired weight; I haven’t slept a decent night in about 2 months and my hair is in desperate need of attention. Even with a professional makeup job, I still think I’d be dodging the lens as much as possible.
Post a photo of me, without makeup, right now? Yeah, this is definitely a challenge, it isn’t just to my cynical assertion that such fads are pointless. It challenges something more raw – the self-preservation of my image. To post a photo of me right now, unattractive as I feel, is to open myself wide and vulnerable. It doesn’t matter that I know the media’s definition of beauty is a false concept; it doesn’t make a difference that I know my husband thinks I’m beautiful; it changes nothing that I could write blog posts for weeks about loving and valuing ourselves for what we are and not what we see in the mirror. At the end of the day, it is still downright scary.
But I want to do it. I want to prove, that my security is not in how I look, nor in how I perceive myself. I want to reject the world’s message that beauty has such a narrow definition that 90% of women don’t fall in its classification. I want to stand up and be brave, to say I am beautiful because I am God’s creation.
Here we go…
I check my reflection in the mirror and try to tame this mop of curls, but to be honest, curls will do what curls will do, and there’s no hope there. Ok, take a deep breath. Take a photo. Like I said, I don’t take many photos of me, so I’m very practised at this… take a few more, changing the angle, experimenting with smiles (why do I look so demented when I smile at the camera? Do I look like that all the time?!) Keep taking photos till there’s one that’s at least partially ok.
I’m actually feeling a little sick at the thought now. Will I really post this? Look at the bags under my eyes! Do I want people to see this?
I open up Photoshop, just to crop the photo (no one needs to see the shower screen in the background…) and while there I’m happy that I don’t feel the need to apply a few filters and airbrush away the shadows. If I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna do it right. This is me, as I am.
Gulp. The photo is uploaded, the comment typed, and all I have to do to hit ‘publish’ – and my hand is hovering over the button. There’s still time to back out. There’s still time to save my dignity. There’s still time…
The deed is done.
If you’re reading this, can I ask you, as you look on my naked face – take the time to pray for someone with cancer today. Pray for the doctors and medical researchers who are doing battle. Pray for healing. Pray for victory.
Can I ask you to give to a cancer charity at your next opportunity? Give a little, give a lot – just give. Cause every penny is worth it.
And can I ask you, to look in the mirror, and tell yourself that you are beautiful. Stand up proud and strong and defiant in a world that would call us to an impossible standard!