Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The real me (and a birthday giveaway)


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 or Facebook (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!

66 comments:

  1. Happy Birthday Rochella. You look beautiful without any erasing things, but thank you for showing the difference. We are all guilty of being too hard on ourselves when we look at those pictures out there on social media and you are right; most have been edited. We need to be easier on ourselves and accept the gift of age. IT is a gift. I lost my dad young, so I made it a goal to never ever be sad about a year older.

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    1. Sandy, thank you so much! I like the way you put it--"the gift of age." My mom died when she was just three years older than I am now, so you're right to think of age as a gift!

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  2. Happy Birthday! You don't look 55 - in either picture! Enjoy your day!
    Shelley

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    1. Thank you so much, Shelley! 55 is good so far! :)

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  3. Happy Birthday! No need to touch up photos - you look amazing! I'm 56 this year, married for 34 years and this is truly the best time of our lives. No comparison, no touching up, just real life! Enjoy this year and all those years ahead of you! Chy

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    1. Thank you, Chy! Here we are together in the mid-50's! Real life is good. :)

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  4. You don't need to edit. You look amazing and are AMAZING. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!

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    1. Oh, Marty, you are my heroine! Thank you, sweet lady!

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  5. Long time blog follower and facebook follower. I enjoy all your authentic posts! Happy birthday!! You look amazing!

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  6. Happy Birthday, Richella! I've enjoyed seeing your FB Smokey Mountains pictures this week. So pretty. So soothing and peaceful!

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    1. Thank you, Bernadette! Hope all is well with you and your family.

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  7. You look great at 55.Bless you for sharing.Dawn E. Brown

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  8. You have such a beautiful spirit, Richella, that can be seen in any picture you have taken!��May you have a most wonderful birthday and a blessed year! You bring such joy to my inbox as I am a Mama to two sweet boys, ages 10 and 8. You are an inspiration to boy moms like myself. ☺️

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    1. Thank you, Christine. What a lovely thing to say! Enjoy those boys of yours--the years fly by!

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  9. Happy Birthday Richella! You are beautiful! I always enjoy reading your posts!

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  10. HAPPY Birthday ! I enjoy your blog.

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  11. Happy birthday! You look great!! It's hard to age gracefully in today's society that's for sure.

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    1. I am trying to age gracefully, and I'm thinking it's better than the alternative(s)!

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  12. Happy Birthday! You definitely don't need to edit photos of yourself. You look amazing!!

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    1. Thank you, Paula! I was a little shocked to discover how easy it is. I definitely want to put my best face forward, but I want it to be the real thing! :)

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  13. Happy Birthday! I think you look wonderful! And I think you are so right! Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

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    1. Thank you, Joy! You're very kind. Thanks so much for being here!

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  14. Happy Birthday! I must say that I have been following you for a few years now. You are an inspiration to me. Thanks you for your honesty and your heartwarming posts.

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    1. Thank you so much for being here, Cammie! Every blessing to you!

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  15. Happy Birthday! I love reading your blog and FB posts. They are always like a breath of fresh air. Thank you for writing. I am looking forward to your new book. Have a blessed day and year. Marci

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  16. Happy Birthday, enjoy the day and just know how special you are.

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  17. Happy Birthday! I also have a September birthday. I will celebrate 51 years at the end of this month.I hope I can be as graceful and authentic as you are as I reflect on another year gone by.

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    1. Thank you so much, Shelley! The 50's are great. Enjoy your birthday!

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  18. You look not one year past 35 and beautiful dearest Richella !
    Happy birthday sweet and wonderful friend. Wishing you all the happiness in the world and may your book be a total success to you !
    Thank you for the generous giveaway.
    Big hugs and blessings,
    Fabby

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  19. Happy Birthday!

    I follow you on Facebook (Mary Carmen)

    mami2jcn at gmail dot com

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  20. Happy Birthday!! Always enjoy reading your blog...can't wait to read your book!

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    1. Thank you, Valerie! I'll be sure to let you know about the book!

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  21. A very Happy Birthday to you ... I love my 50's so far! Somehow I just don't worry about so many little things that used to tie me up in knots! It is a blessing to be sure! God is good!

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    1. Yes, ma'am! Aging has its challenges, but it also has some great advantages, doesn't it?

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  22. Happy Birthday! You are such a sweet and caring person.
    xo Lisa S

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  23. Ha! I do remember that old country song!
    And this month I will leave behind the number 55, so it's great to know that it is in good hands!

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    1. Wow, Michele! We're just about the same age! And I'm glad to know that someone else remembers that song. I never had a "handle," but I remember wanting one! :)

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  24. 55 looks great on you. I honestly didn't notice the difference in the photos until you pointed it out. The only thing I noticed was in one pic your face looked more red than the other. The real you looks fabulous. Happy Birthday!

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  25. What a beautiful and refreshing post! I always whiten my teeth in photos! But you are definitely right about all of the photoshopping promoting unattainable goals. What bothers me most are the apps that let you change pretty much anything about you, from hair color to hair style, to skin tone. Young girls are targeted and I wonder if they ever share a real photo of themselves on social media, and how it affects their identity and sense of self-worth when they look in the mirror and it's not the person they see everyday on their social media profiles.

    You look wonderful and I hope you have blessed birthday and happy year ahead!

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    1. Oh, wow, Amber. I didn't even know about those apps. I think it's up to us to set an example not only of truthfulness, but also of valuing ourselves and every other person. We're all made in the image of God; we are of great value to him!

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  26. Happy Birthday Richella! 55 looks fabulous on you, and this is going to be a great year for you! Your new book will be released and I am sure God has much more in store for you this year as well. Blessings

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  27. Happy Birthday and thanks for the giveaway! I'm now following you on FaceBook and Instagram.

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  28. Oh, wow, I just noticed that my comment makes #55! Does that make me an automatic winner? LOL!!! I finally figured out which post you meant on the other, newer post, so here I am, commenting again! I'm not on Instagram or Facebook, but I have been following your blog for a long time, so I hope it is okay for me to enter. :) I totally agree with what you said in this post. Too often, we get caught up in the comparison game and want to make ourselves look different than the real us. So thankful God loves us just the way we are, no matter how old or young, and He doesn't look on the outward appearance, He looks on our hearts. You look beautiful in both pictures, as you always do! And, I was thinking about all God has brought you and your family through when your son had the stroke. You all look so healthy and happy. God is SO good!

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    1. YES! God is so very good. Thanks very much, Cheryl!

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  29. Subscribed (why not before, I do not know!). Thank you, and have a wonderful birthday celebration.

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    1. Rita, you are such a love. I'm always so glad to hear from you! :)

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  30. Happy Birthday! I follow via Instagram.

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  31. I'm looking forward to reading your book. Happy Birthday!!!

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  32. Happy Birthday sweet Richella. From one 55 year old girl to another, it's a great time!

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom. :)

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  33. Real is good, and I really believe age is just a number! You are doing the whole thing very graciously!

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  34. I was going to say that you look beautiful in both photographs!! Now you have a new headshot to use, too. Always a good thing! Happily sharing to my Ethereal Beautiful You board. <3

    Hugs,
    Barb :)

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