55 has always seemed like an important number to me. Perhaps it's because, when I was growing up, the highways were filled with 55 mph speed limit signs. Anyone else remember those years when the speed limit on interstate highways was 55 mph? Anyone else remember truckers with their CB radios who traveled in convoys, disregarding the speed limit laws? Anyone else love the country song "Convoy" by C.W. McCall? Or is that just me?
Anyway, 55 has always loomed large in my imagination, but I never really gave much thought to being 55 years old.
Until now. And here I am.
My husband snapped this photo of me so that I'd have a picture of myself right when I turned 55.
This past year has been a big one for me. When I turned 54, I was hoping that perhaps a book proposal I'd submitted might find favor with a publisher. Before the end of last year, I was offered a contract with InterVarsity Press, and I turned in the manuscript for Mythical Me: Escaping the Trap of Comparison
on August 1 (read more about the book here
I suppose this topic is very much on my mind because I've spent so much time the last few months reading and writing about comparison, but for whatever reason, here's where I want to get real with you. As we post photos of ourselves on social media, isn't it tempting to make ourselves look just a little better? Don't we sometimes wish we could wave a magic wand and erase the years? Well, here's the same photo as the one above with just three minutes' worth of work on my computer's pre-installed photo software. (In other words, anyone could have made these edits.)
Here, look at the two pictures side by side:
See how the second photo lacks a few wrinkles and imperfections? No line between my eyes, no lines on my forehead, no lines on my neck. . . just a few simple little touches enacted with a click of the mouse.
And you'd never know the difference unless I told you, right? After all, the two photos are mostly the same. It's not like I made any big changes.
If we all make just a few little changes to our photos. . . if we do some innocent doctoring so that the subtle signs of aging are erased. . . and we don't mention to anyone that the photos are edited, no harm is done, right? It's not really dishonest, is it? It's just a little of the kind of "pampering" we all deserve, right?
Certainly it's not wrong to wish that we could erase a few of the signs of aging or other physical imperfections. Don't we all wish we could look our best at all times? Of course we do. And if you know of any good creams or lotions or exercises or supplements that can help me to look my best, I'd love to hear about them.
But I'm convinced that if we make those "innocent" little edits and we don't tell people that the photos are edited, we are
in fact doing some harm. First, we're buying into and propagating the myth that imperfections are shameful. Second, we're most certainly harming ourselves by assuming that we're not acceptable and lovable just as we are. And third, while we're not responsible for the actions of others, we are adding fuel to the fires of comparison when we make ourselves look different from the way we actually look.
Jesus reminded his followers that the greatest commandment was to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, then exhorted them to a second great commandment: to love their neighbors as themselves (see Matthew 22:35-40, Mark 12:28-31). The more I think about it, the more firmly I believe that we don't love ourselves or our neighbors very well when we edit our photos to remove the imperfections in our appearance. I think we can do better than that.
So even though I might be sorely tempted to "improve" my photos just a little by erasing a few of the signs of aging, I promise not to do that. I am proud to be 55 years old today. I've been married 33 years, and I've reared three wonderful sons to adulthood. I hope that I'm aging gracefully, but of course my face has some lines and wrinkles! I've earned those wrinkles. They represent the joys and heartaches that go into a life filled with love.
And I think that this big birthday calls for a celebration! So I'm going to give away $55 to one of you in whatever form you like--cash, gift card, or whatever you like. No hoops to jump through--just subscribe to my blog or follow me on Instagram
(whatever works for you) and leave a comment below to enter. I'll choose a winner randomly on September 12. I'll be tickled to share my big 55
celebration with one of you!