Self-Esteem: Keeping It “Real.”

A couple of days ago a friend told me that he had heard an interview with George Clooney in which Clooney complained that he missed shaking hands with his fans. Smart- phone in hand,  his fans  were busy taking a “selfie” standing next to him. Personal interaction was not the fans’ intent; rather, the photo was all about them.

This story (probably mangled in my third-person telling) really resonated with me. It seems that we are increasingly focused on ourselves. Have we always been so self-absorbed or is this phenomenon something new?

Gabriel Harrison daguerreotype 1854

Gabriel Harrison’s daguerreotype 1854

Reading The Writer’s Almanac for May 31, I read a birthday piece on Walt Whitman who had a strong (inflated?) sense of self. At one point, Whitman went to a phrenologist who claimed that Whitman’s head revealed “amativeness, self-esteem, individuality and animal will.” Whitman was thrilled: to his mind, the phrenologist had hit-the-nail-on-the-head.

When Leaves of Grass was published in 1855, Whitman wrote many of the reviews himself. In an 1881 British edition of Leaves of Grass, Whitman wanted an 1854 daguerreotype facing “Song of Myself.” He liked it because “it is natural, honest, easy.” He felt it had a spontaneous quality and captured the real Whitman.

Do we want REAL or have we been seduced by the advertising world. The term “authentic self” his gone out of fashion, but then again…

National Geographic is one of my favorite magazines, and its photography website is a valuable resource. If you read the magazine, you probably know about “Your Shot” photographic opportunities. The magazine sets the assignment and invites readers to submit a photo that best meets the assignment. Once such assignment was to take a self-portrait. See: <>. Scroll through the photos and read the commentary.

The website has posted 23 self-portraits. The photos are enhanced by the photographers’ self-reflection on why they took the photo they took, and National Geographic photographers tell what aspects of the photo made each worthy of publication. Several photos have to do with a woman’s physical identity. In one, for example, a larger, naked, older woman sits holding a large, glamour portrait of herself that was taken 30 years earlier. In another photo, you see only a woman’s mid-section and a tape measure pulled Scarlett O’Hara tight – constricting her waist.

I am so taken with the idea of the private and public images of ourselves. I am reminded of an exhibit some years ago at the National Portrait Gallery, London. The exhibit was self-portraits. The portrait that stayed with me was of a man and his dog. The man’s body was complete except his head which was missing.  The man wrote that when he was with his dog, strangers would stop to talk and pet the dog, but they never looked at him.

Personally, I wish my thin, Puritan lips were fuller. I wish my eyes were not so squinty. As for the wrinkles… there is no wishing them away – it is genetic on my mother’s side. Several summers ago, my grandchildren and I spent an idyllic afternoon face painting one another. When it was my turn, I told I told my granddaughter that I wanted fuller lips, bigger eyes and if she could do something about the wrinkles…

And here I am. My lips are fuller, my eyes are bigger and… the lavender dots certainly do distract one’s eye from the wrinkles. The moral is “love yourself and the body you are in.”


mom made up










About timeout2

I have lived 100 lives. I write essays, short stories, poetry, grocery lists and notes to myself. If I am ever lost, look for a paper trail, but be careful not to trip over any books that lie scattered here and there. I am a reader. I am a reader in awe of writers. When I don't live in Westcliffe, Colorado, I live in London where I am a long-time member of Word-for-Word - Crouch End.
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8 Responses to Self-Esteem: Keeping It “Real.”

  1. arthur m. solomon says:

    Love it!!!

  2. timeout2 says:

    Oh, Monica! You are so easy to please. All these years and the only time I’ve annoyed you is putting up a political sign endorsing a local candidate for sheriff. That’s a pretty good batting average. xo

  3. Margaret Karsten says:

    Doris, don’t change a thing. You are delightful and perfect as you truly are. I enjoyed so much being with you today. Was thinking this evening abouty Winter in Taos. I think you should just kebep the book and even maybe postpone reading until you actually get to see the Taos home. And…I really do want to downsize, as my present house has built in bookshelves, and the new one will not! Ulterior motive?? Will look for you at all events this week. Margaret

  4. timeout2 says:

    Bear Basin was fun yesterday – my foot seems not to have suffered at all. Oh happy day! I’m on the road to recovery. Looking forward to walking faster next year. See you there. Meanwhile, I have been to the ATM and have cash-on-hand. Thank you so much for the loan. Mark is a huge fan of “Born to Run,” and the drum will be a very personal Father’s Day present. I’ll have money on me at the Tuesday night movie and also at the Julia Wade concert. See you soon, and thanks for reading!

  5. Liz says:

    You are my gorgeous friend.

  6. timeout2 says:

    Dear Liz, “Gorgeous” is a reach. I’m working on my “inner beauty.” According to my calendar, I have you returning to Westcliffe today. And not a moment too soon. I have missed you.

  7. Just great Mum..xoxox

  8. timeout2 says:

    There is nothing like fan mail (or for that matter, even barbed comments) to make my day. Love you, Sarah.

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