I grabbed them and designated each into one of five piles. Mine, my sister’s, my brother’s, my parent’s and a final “other” for photos that didn’t include any members of our family.
One particular photograph caught my attention. A little girl, around age six, hair messy from sleeping, she was still in her night gown. In her left arm she cradled a small white bunny rabbit, her right hand stroking the bunny’s side. It must have been Easter morning, the bunny, an Easter gift.
The look on her face simultaneously both haunting and charming, her expression encapsulated an aura of innocence and contentment with life. Unaware of her own radiance, the little girl seemed absorbed in thought, her deep blue eyes made even deeper by the contrast against her peaches and cream complexion.
I was completely taken in by the image captured decades ago, and after a moment, I recognized that my heart ached. I wanted to close my eyes and slip inside that photograph. To upend time and space, reach my hand through the thirty some-odd year-old paper and pull myself through it. To be there in that place so that, I realized, I could protect that little girl. Of course, by now you’ve guessed that the little girl in the photograph was me.
I’ve ruminated over this experience for some days now, struggling to articulate how I feel. What exactly did I wish I could protect my child self from? It finally hit me. I wished I could protect her from the negative thoughts she would have about herself as a result of undesirable experiences and destructive actions of others. To arm her against self-doubt because of anything anyone said or did to her. To show her a true reflection of the strong and capable woman she would one day become and tell her not to waste any time thinking anything but the best about herself and the importance of her contribution to the world.
And so, one night while sitting on my bed, staring at my little girl self in that old photograph, I told her those things. I really did. Not exactly out loud, but in my mind. I know it sounds strange and it’s okay if you think I’m totally weird, because I’ll own that. But as I was letting go of past negativity and embracing positive self-recognition, I realized that what I was really doing was agreeing to understand that the little girl staring back at me in the photograph, that sweet innocent little girl with big dreams and boundless energy, and a hunger for life, that little girl and everything her reflective expression embodied, is actually my true self. Talk about a sweet reunion.
I know it sounds crazy, but I dare you to try this. Find a photograph of yourself as a little child. One where you’re deeply engaged in the joy of some activity. Let that sweet image sink in and rush through you. Forget about anything but the delight and wonder you were clearly experiencing in that moment. Let your heart fall back into that place. Gaze upon the photograph until the present day you and your child self are once again reunited and savor the understanding that the radiance you emitted as a child is still a part of who you are now. Because you know what? It still is.
Let this experience change your inner voice, the way you talk to yourself about who you are and what you're capable of. And even if it feels a bit strange, just for a moment, tell your child self, the one in the photograph, that you won't listen to negativity, but you'll forge through life like a bulldozer of positivity, completely aware that your contribution to the world is unique and irreplaceable. Because honestly, it is.
Peace and blessings,