It's Okay to Like Your Picture

By Emily Sannini on Tue, 01/29/2013 - 12:16

Social Media Intern and GLI Camper Emily Sannini blogs about giving yourself permission to be proud of who you are. What "picture" in your life do you like?

In 1st grade, I was standing outside of my classroom after we had just finished up a big art project, and I found myself getting sucked up into a ritual that will sound familiar to a lot of girls. Three female friends and I stood around in a circle holding our projects and criticizing them. “Oh my gosh, my picture is so ugly.” “Oh my gosh, no, Jenny, your picture is so pretty; mine is so ugly!” “Oh my gosh no!! Ali! Your picture is so pretty! Mine is so ugly!” and so on. I stayed silent, because I was satisfied with the picture I had drawn. But there is no way to participate in this ubiquitous girl conversation if you think your work is good. Not that it’s ground-breaking, not that it’s better than everybody else’s, but just that it’s any good at all.

So, like every first grader confused about social norms, I went home and asked my mom about it. I told her that it seemed like I wasn’t allowed to like my picture, because confidence in my work would appear conceited. Of course, my mom told me that it’s okay to like your picture! It’s okay to be proud of the work that you do; there is no secret girl law forbidding me from interrupting the classic self-deprecating conversation with a cheery “I like my picture! And I like yours too!”

When I went to Girls Leadership Institute summer camp the summer before my freshman year of high school, I’d never given this story a second thought. It’d always been at the back of my mind that I didn’t need to participate in these self-deprecating compliment loops that girls can get caught up in, but that was all. But when I was learning about expectations placed on girls to be both perfect and humble, the story took on a whole new meaning. “It’s okay to like your picture” is a mantra that says: “I give myself permission to be proud of who I am.”

My freshman year of high school was overwhelming, like it is for a lot of girls. I went in not really sure where I fit into things – I tried sports, debate team, dance, drama, art, and music, and when I wasn’t perfect, I decided I had failed at all of them. I didn’t want to own any of my activities as “my thing,” the thing that I was good at, because I didn’t feel good enough at any of them. This is where “It’s okay to like your picture” comes in.

Realizing my story from the first grade in context of owning what I was proud of shifted my focus away from what I wasn’t perfect at to what I was good at. Instead of beating myself up for not being a fast swimmer, I thought about how many creative ideas I had in my art classes. “It’s okay to like your picture” helped me to shift my focus from the negative to the positive. It allowed me to be proud of work, and say to others “this is what I like, and I’m good at it too!” And by being proud of my artwork, and realizing it was something I had the potential to excel at, I found my place in the art department and had an outlet to help me define and express myself.

This attitude is something that I still try into incorporate into my life every day. In moments of self-doubt and frustration, I shift my focus to the things that I am proud of myself for, and the aspects of myself that I like. It is a way to combat self-defeating thought patterns, and it motivates me to take on big projects and endeavors, because I believe that I can be successful.

At the end of the day, it’s a fun challenge to try and name the “pictures” in your life that you like. What are yours? Are you an artist? A musician? Great at math or writing? A good leader or maybe an exceptional juggler? Try to reflect on some of these things today, and when you’re hesitant to admit you’re amazing at something, remember, it’s okay to like your picture!

The girl's denigrating their own artwork phenomenon

Wow! Love this blog post and intend to read it to my 2nd grader. I have seen this phenomenon a lot in her classroom--the girls telling one another that "my picture is so bad, but yours is really nice." I've wanted some thoughtful way to help them collectively move past this behavior and to feel good about being proud of their work. It's comforting (and yet awful somehow) to know that it's not limited to our classroom. And I look forward to having my daughter participate in GLI activities and am excited for her to develop the understanding that it's OK to like your you have!

Love it!

Emily, I love this and it's great to know this has stayed with you all these years.Thanks for sharing your story.

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