Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy. I often have to remind myself of this: when I’m questioning whether I’m qualified enough to send in an application for a summer program, or if I’m debating on changing my outfit because I feel like it doesn’t flatter me, or when I’m debating whether or not to say something in class (out of the belief that what say could potentially be pointless). I have to remind myself that my biggest critic, is me, and no one else evaluates my actions as intricately as do—simply because they are too busy evaluating their own actions. Naturally, we all have these moments where we doubt ourselves.
During the Song of Myself Camp, we encouraged the campers to celebrate themselves and the surrounding universe through photographs and self-portraits. When we took a trip to the Eno River, I was paired up with Tiembra, a sweet, soft-spoken, and kind-hearted seventh grader. The students were given two main tasks: 1) Capture and use photos to represent a few lines of the Walt Whitman poem and 2) Take a close-up picture of themselves (something that Tiembra didn’t seem too ecstatic about).
The lines from the poem that Tiembra received were:
I believe in those wing’d purposed,
And acknowledge red, yellow, white, playing within me,
And consider green and violet and the tufted crown intentional,
And do not call the tortoise unworthy because she is not something else,
And the jay in the woods never studied the gamut, yet trills pretty well to me,
And the look of the bay mare shames silliness out of me.
We ventured around capturing literal and metaphorical pictures that represented these lines, even going so far as to create our own tortoise using leaves, rocks, and some old newspaper we found buried in the swampy rocks.
However, whenever we discussed taking pictures with either of us in it, Tiembra often mentioned how she hated having her picture taken, because she “looked weird” in photos. I told her how everyone feels that way sometimes, and how even I don’t like some pictures of myself, despite other people liking them. I made sure to remind her how we are often our own worst critic.
We continued to take pictures, and I was able to convince her to show her face in some of them. When it was time to take her self-portrait, she complained about how “close-up” the photo was, but kindly obliged when I reiterated how Katie asked for the picture to be close for the project that they were working on later.
We wrapped up our time at the River with a plethora of beautiful photos both from the Eno, and with Tiembra’s beautiful face in them.
Later in the week, when we began working on the student’s self-portraits, Tiembra cut out a big black circle, and plastered it on her face, transforming her entire face into the Nirvana symbol. Everyone around her tried to coerce her to take it off, as the glue had not dried yet, but Tiembra did not want to do so.
We told her how beautiful her picture of herself was and how no one would be able to identify her, however, none of these comments could change her mind.Eventually we gave up on trying, and allowed Tiembra to create her self-portrait in the manner that she pleased.
But, this is something that everyone must realize. We all have those moments, where we see pictures of us that we can’t stand. We all have those moments, where we don’t feel quite comfortable in our skin, regardless of how often people compliment us.
Why is this? Is it because we are not able to see ourselves, when we are laughing, smiling, or talking about something we are passionate about? Only others have the opportunity to see the glow from our skin, and the crease in our faces when we are excited. Only others have the ability to see us in these candid moments.
I remember my middle school self, always zipped up in a jacket, overly conscious about myself. And just as it happened for me, it will happen for Tiembra, where one of the lines of Song of Myself will resonate within her veins, and stretch through like the trees of the Eno River.