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viewpoint

The whole picture

| Friday, September 9, 2016

Recently, I got to take an engagement-type photoshoot with the love of my life: a McDonald’s XL sweet tea. It was fun, it was easy, and I didn’t really think about what the pictures would be used for. I laughed, joked and the results were priceless.

I didn’t always go about photos this way. A year ago, whenever a photo was taken of me, I would ask myself, “Will this be the picture they use in my obituary?” I smiled in all of those photos, to protect the image that I had built for myself. You couldn’t see through my ironclad shining smile that it took great effort to make it through each day. It was a question I asked myself daily: “How will they represent me in the news if I killed myself?”

Progress for me was when I stopped thinking that question whenever I took a photo. After months and months of therapy, I wanted to build an honest image of myself. I wanted to take a photo and see a person I recognized, instead of a stranger I had constructed. I wanted to be a person whose outside appearance reflected her inner personality and light, not one whose appearance masked hatred and loneliness.

The best thing you can give the world is your most honest self. It is exhausting to keep up with a facade, which is something you only use to protect yourself. I challenge you to give the world your most honest self, be it good or bad.

I still have anxiety. I have had depression. I no longer let those diseases dictate my life and who I am. I wanted to show that having anxiety doesn’t prevent you from living a full, satisfying life with lots of joy. Do not let your fears and your struggles define you. Show the world that you live in spite of them. Be an honest example, but not one that shows up in the nightly news as a shock factor.

Next time a photo is taken of you, ask yourself: “Does this reflect the whole person that I am, and is this my most honest self?

Contact Susan Zhu at szhu4@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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