Meeting My Old Self in the Photo Album by Jeanie Croope

Selfie. The theme of this issue can conjure up many thoughts about the self — inner and outer, good and bad. It was a terrific theme and I confess, a bit of a scary one on which to write. To really look at one’s own self honestly requires a healthy dose of courage and more than a little bit of Kleenex. At least it does for me.

Here on what should be a beautiful April day (but is, in fact, another day where snow and cold is predicted to again hit our Michigan city), the Easter Bunny has come and gone, leaving in its wake leftover jelly beans and chocolate eggs and probably more than a few pounds on my hips. It will require far more work to bid farewell to them than one would like!

A gloomy day like this is perhaps not the best to look deep within oneself, opening that Pandora’s box of faults and foibles. Deadlines don’t care.

My first diet was self-imposed. I was eight and it was post-Halloween. With self control unique for an eight-year-old, I rationed my Halloween candy, piece by piece, limiting myself to three pieces a day. Somewhere between age five and age eight, I had gone from cute, curly-headed girl to a little porkette. To put on my little green tutu with the antler ears for my ballet recital was a memory I’d like to forget. The combination of bad wardrobe, big tummy and an awkwardness that made ballet not my greatest artistic achievement did not lead to a performance I anticipated with great joy.

Throughout the following years, I struggled, as many do, with weight and I do to this day. I wanted to be pretty, like the other girls. My wildly curly hair didn’t allow for the long, straight hairstyle of the day, parted on the side with a strand of hair pulled across the forehead to the opposite side, then tucked neatly behind the ear and hanging below the shoulders. Nor did it work with the shorter chin-length bob with a bit of poof — but not too much poof. Instead, my hair was cut short, the same way it had been since I was — well, eight.


On the night of my junior prom, we went to dinner with a group of friends. I was on Weight Watchers so I ate only lettuce from the salad bar. (Weight Watchers was tougher in the late 1960s than it is now.) My boyfriend in senior high, knowing my struggle, gave me a most thoughtful and wonderful gift on Valentine’s Day (and it remains one of my favorites of all time!) — a huge candy box filled with sliced red, yellow and green peppers, carrots and celery sticks. Some would take offense. I was relieved.

The summer before I went to college, my mom made my 18th birthday cake. It was styrofoam, frosted beautifully. But when college came along, with its dorm food, I met the “freshman fifteen.” Then there was the year of apartment living during college — inexpensive pasta and pizza were the two main food groups!

This led to the brewer’s yeast diet, the grapefruit diet, the cabbage soup diet (that was a very bad idea), liquid protein (another bad idea), Dr. Atkins, bingeing and purging (this didn’t last long, fortunately), calorie counting, points counting. You name it.

And the self image continued on its topsy turvy rollercoaster. Round face, big hips, overbite. I thought I looked bad all the time. Every single minute of every single day for decades. And it didn’t matter what anyone else said.

Not all that long ago I was looking at photos taken during my 30s with a friend.  There are three of us, dressed in gowns for an Oscar party, with our friend who was “the producer.”  And we look great. Really terrific. My friend said, “And we thought we were so fat. Wouldn’t we kill to look like that now?”

I had thought that many times.

We do such an number on ourselves, don’t we? Long before the media discovered Photoshop, conveniently removing blemishes and double chins, we were looking at others, trying to see ourselves in them — and failing. Because we were ourselves.

And when I think of me, there was nothing really wrong with that self except some extra pounds, and not even that many. That self had certain talents, some well recognized, the others less obvious but still good. That self I knew had far more kindness to others than to herself. That self could listen to others for hours, could be there when needed but didn’t know how to be there for herself or listen to the positive parts of her inner voice instead of the negative ones.

That self had (and has) grit. She overcame paralyzing shyness, could sing and act on stage, appear on television or speak in front of groups and shake hands with strangers at a public gathering when necessary. That self studied theatre in college and has acted every single day of her life in one way or another, while still doing her best to be her own genuine self — a contradiction, yes, but a truth.

It was no surprise when I took the Myers-Briggs test again, some 20 years after the first time, to find I was still in INFP-T, an introvert who was intuitive, feeling (versus thinking), “prospecting” (or seeking) versus judging and turbulent (emotion-driven) versus judging. That’s the person who could do a meet and greet or work a public event and then return home, mentally exhausted for having been “on” with strangers and the one who hated being a supervisor because making decisions or disciplining others was simply too hurtful.

But there are good things that come of this introspection, some self-realization that is positive. Or, to put it in the words of Oscar Hammerstein in a song from “The King and I,” — “When I fool the people I fear, I fool myself as well.”

That porky introvert did learn to mix and mingle; to get up there and tell her story (granted, far easier on a keyboard than at a TEDtalk); to do a multitude of things well (some, very well) and never lost that north star of believing that the feelings and needs of human beings and living things are perhaps more important than anything else in the world. Those crazy, irascible, unpredictable, loving, annoying, cuddly, frustrating, irritating, beautiful, wonderful  creatures.

And sometimes, one of those creatures is one’s own self.

And so, I look at yesterday’s pictures and see something different. Something better than I saw before. And I look at today’s pictures, too.

The hair is still curly and unruly — but most of the time it looks kind of cute (and it’s really easy to take care of). Every five weeks the gray hair at the roots begins to show and I make my faithful visit to the stylist who does her magic. Yes, it’s vain, but I can work with that.

The hips are still too big — and always will be. The thighs don’t always stop moving when I do and I could throttle Michelle Obama for launching the sleeveless craze. The orthotics in my shoes for the heel spurs mean you are less likely to see me in a dress but I still find pretty things I like and I can work with that, too. And thanks to the extra chin (or is it lack of jaw line?) and my overbite, I have learned the best way to look at a camera — and it isn’t profile!

But I still smile. I smile big, I smile happy and I smile because I’m alive in this world and there’s less time that there was a few decades before. There’s less time for all of us, really, because in truth, we never know when our last moment will be. And wouldn’t it be a shame to have it come and realize all those we wasted thinking we weren’t pretty or smart or talented enough when maybe, just maybe, we were?

I will still try to lose some of those extra pounds. And I will succeed — and fail — and succeed again. Because I want to be healthy, not pretty. Someone very wise (sometimes annoyingly so) reminded me — health is the goal.

But life is too short not to travel the world, even if you have bad feet. It’s too short not to take a chance and learn something new, do something unexpected, find light in the dark, conquer your own demons.

And life is too short not to enjoy chocolate eggs or jelly beans every now and then. Because after all, it’s a long way till Halloween.

About the Author: Jeanie Croope

Jeanie Croope bioAfter a long career in public broadcasting, Jeanie Croope is now doing all the things she loves — art, photography, writing, cooking, reading wonderful books and discovering a multitude of new creative passions. You can find her blogging about life and all the things she loves at The Marmelade Gypsy.

50 Replies to “Meeting My Old Self in the Photo Album by Jeanie Croope”

  1. Such deep thoughts that a lot of us too go through from time to time..
    Yes we all have imperfections but they are unimportant. What matters is our happiness in little things, our friendships, our love of things that matter to us.
    So keep that beautiful smile and laughter. You are loved….❤️ Pat

  2. And that is exactly why we (I) love you! I only see this adorable curly headed girl with a great big beautiful smile whenever I look at a photo of you, no matter the decade in which the image was captured on film. I aspire to live life as fully as you do. I admire your many talents, and your work ethic. Your capacity for connecting with others far and wide is also something to admire. The part about you being so terribly shy and self-conscious is so hard to believe after “knowing” you online for lo these many years. Thank you for your courage and honesty in writing this post. We all have our challenges, and it is good to remember to ask ourselves how we are really seeing ourselves. Not all of us learn self-acceptance as we age. You are fortunate to have done so. Isn’t it a shame that we never learned to value our true selves when we were younger?

    1. Oh, the years wasted. But not wasted, either. Maybe a lot of unnecessary angst — or maybe that was what I needed to grow. Who knows? Either way, thank you for your nice words!

  3. Jeanie, so beautifully written dear friend! I can so relate to being shy as a child and teen. No one would believe that now, but I am still basically shy. Your smile must light up a room because it sure lights up your blog. You are so gifted, talented and beautiful. Thank you for sharing yourself.

    1. Thank you, Pam. It takes awhile to get over that — and sometimes we never do (I haven’t!) — just learned to work with it.

  4. I certainly identify with your thoughts here, Jeanie. I’m sure a lot of people do. When I look at old pictures, it’s hard to believe I thought I needed to lose weight back then. You are lovely in every way, and you share the experience of many women. Thank goodness, with a few years under our belts and a lot of experience, we arrive at a point of acceptance, or we get closer anyway. 🙂 Striving for self acceptance is a lifetime quest. Thanks for an insightful post, Jeanie.

    1. Thank you, BB. We do such a number on ourselves sometimes. But I’ve decided that life is too short to worry about what we aren’t — instead, concentrate on what we are!

  5. Well, that could be my story, too, including that darn overbite – replace sweets with pizza etc, though!
    You are right, life is way too short to not be happy with what we have!

  6. You are brilliant. A writer you are.

    The peer pressure from our younger days has changed faces and comes in a more subtle way: social media. I am glad however, that I’m getting older so that I can better see what’s behind the many responses I could have to all the pretty faces, the perfect bodies, the perfect home décor, that perfect house…..I could either say, “I WANT THAT but boohoo, I don’t have that” or I could simply admire, get inspired, and be ME, and create. We are all real people with real pasts and just as real futures, but our futures are what we often choose. I believe you’ve chosen the best path dearest Jeanie. Love to you!

    1. You’re so right about the peer pressure, whether it is how we look or what our home is like or so many other things! Thank you, Anita, for your nice words.

  7. Hello, Jeanie

    This is a great post and I enjoyed the photos. You do have such a happy smile, it is contagious. My story is very similar, dieting is a on going thing. I agree life is too short, we all must do thing s to make us happy. Enjoy your day!

  8. What a way with words! Certainly one of the many things you do sooo well..write!
    Loved this Jeanie..I like the personal side of blogs:) dad’s nickname for me was..”Porky”.Says it all.
    He loved me..called me Princess later..but for years Porky.Mortified was I.
    At the local pool the boys would yell :”Tidal Wave” as I dove in for swim team(I quit).No kidding..My bathing suit looked a bit like a tutu.. yellow w/ a striped skirt.In ballet..I was taller than many and could get away w/ my girth.But we moved when I was 10..and 10-15 in my new neighbourhood..was frought w/ kids that liked to make fun of me.Thank God for one did.
    And Gwen and Susan..they didn’t either.
    I think you have a beautiful light up a room face.Filled with joy and kindness.
    Thanks for sharing yourself so candidly:)

    1. I think those things we hear, feel, believe when we are young really shape us later — and it takes a long while to work around that and accept both who we are and who we’ve become. I’m sorry you had to experience those feelings as a child. Thank you for the nice words.

  9. Jeanie, I love you for this post. We women are harder on ourselves than anyone else could be to us. I remember having a little pounch and now wish I was that size again. LOL. I always hated my freckles and now would love that young skin back again. See what I mean. To maintain a decent weight is a healthier choice. So that maybe a constant in my life at this age…which is old. I worry more about my teeth than anything else now…because a smile goes a long ways in life. So I want to have a pretty smile ready for meeting old friends and making new ones. Bless your heart, xoxo, Susie

    1. Thank you, Susie — you are so right about the teeth and the smile. That smile means a whole lot — to you and everyone in your path!

  10. Your post makes me think of Smile – Love – Live. You to me from across the blogging world seem to do all three of these so well, and let’s, of course, add in the write. I feel your honesty in your own self-appraisal makes us all look deep within our selves. Keep smiling Jeanie we all love you for it!

  11. I LOVE this post, Jeanie, and can so identify with it: the long fight with weight and body issues, times of youth when one looked terrific but imagined fat or gave more importance than warranted to a few pounds here and there, to the realization that life is too short for self-imposed limitations. Your insights while looking at those photos from the past (please pass the Kleenex!) were so moving and your conclusion so wonderful! And you live your convictions to keep life full and interesting and fun and growing!

    1. Thank you, Kathy. Yes, I think so many of us have seen things that weren’t there or magnified things that were — or maybe even saw things in our minds after they had passed. It never ceases to surprise me how we can be our own worst enemies!

  12. Such a beautiful heartwarming post Jeanie. We do beat ourselves up too much, I’m constantly telling myself off for not losing any weight. Apart from that I try to be more relaxed nowadays! You are a lovely lady, your smile radiates happiness and beauty, I’m sure everyone who knows you loves you x

    1. Thank you, Polly. Sometimes I think we are our own worst enemies! Your nice words mean lots!

  13. What a beautiful post Jeanie. You don’t look overweight at all in any of the above photos!
    You seem to be such a great and fun person anyway, who cares about a few extra kilos?

    1. Thanks, Sami! I am and probably always will be, but I try! Thanks for coming over — I appreciate your nice words!

  14. Beautiful post my friend. I was a shy little introvert as a child and can relate to your angst. I laughed at your list of diets – I tried many of them. I wasn’t overweight as a teen or young adult but worked very hard to maintain my weight. By 40 all my little tricks ceased to work and weight came and stayed. Thanks for the post!

    1. Thank you, Carol. Yes, we do a number on ourselves, don’t we. But hopefully in the end we survive, better for the lessons learned!

  15. I understand a little better why we were friends at work. My personality type is INFJ-T and that explains a lot on why I needed to leave when there was so much chaos and conflict, disrespect and deviousness. Still, without the friends there that would take the time to hear me when I struggled… I don’t think I would have survived. Thanks, Jeanie.

    1. Thank you, Harold. Yes, I think it explains a lot. We went through struggle together. I value that time and friendship. Thanks for coming over here.

  16. Hello Jeanie,
    I would say that we are two kindred souls. I was extremely shy all throughout school and forced myself to take drama (pantomime too) and speech classes in order to develop more confidence in speaking and mingling.
    I have wasted far too much time trying to please others and just like you I have my share of life threatening diseases. It is a new season in life for me Jeanie and I appreciate your candor. It seems to me when we share the depth of who we really are, we are actually very brave and strong. Let us toast to this post and to the privilege of growing older and getting more out of this life than we ever dreamed that we would.

    1. Thank you, Jemma. Yes, I think you are right about new seasons in life. I’ll join you in that toast and to the privilege you speak of on getting older and more out of life!

  17. Oh my gosh, Jeanie! I never would have thought… I’m so glad you shared your story with us!! I think the images we see of young pretty women in magazines and on television {models are what? 16 year olds with no wrinkles at all… Lol!} just give us skewed images of Self. I have three sister-in-laws and two are larger women and I love them so much! One is very hard on herself and photoshops every selfie she puts on Instagram. It just seems we have to come to a point where we love ourselves the way we are now, whatever we may look like, and be okay with that. It’s hard.

    I’m glad you were in broadcasting! My son finished his broadcasting and journalism major a couple of years ago and is loving making videos for commercials up in South Dakota. Personally I think he needs to move over to television, but time will tell. He and his wife just bought their first house and it’s his life. I just know how good he is filming… 🙂

    I pinned the sweet photograph of you in your ballet outfit to my Ethereal Beautiful You board on Pinterest. Oh, and I subscribed to your new blog as you get going. <3 And another Oh! Just today I made a phone call to someone I've never met and I've been putting it off for over a week as I am paralyzed to cold-call people. Years ago I worked one day for Farmer's Insurance {never even picked up the $11 paycheck!} and had sooo many rejections I have a hard time doing it. Silly, huh? There's one of my weird quirks… Lol!! Oh, found you on IG, too. 🙂

    1. Oh, thank you, Barb, for such a wonderful comment and for the pin. Yes, that cold call thing is just too freaky for me, even now! You make some wonderful points here — yes, love ourselves we must, if we ever expect anyone else to!

  18. A beautiful, introspective post – as usual. If only we could see ourselves as others see us. We are so kind to others and often not very kind to ourselves. I look at your photos and see a beautiful, radiant soul. Us women learn to look at ourselves with a critical eye at such a young age. I remember being on a diet in elementary school and giving away my food at lunch. Which was ridiculous. As I have gotten older, I’ve tried to shift my focus to being healthy instead of thin. I have had periods of being thin but some when I am not and those periods challenge me. I’m in one of those periods right now since I had a baby 7 weeks ago. I don’t like what I see when I look in the mirror as my waistline and face are fuller than I would like. But my husband reminds me to be kind to myself and to recognize what my body has been through this year (pregnancy, terrible RA pain, a c-section and now I’m sustaining the life of a baby). I know I will get through this season of not liking what I see and I will have to be intentional about recognizing that my physical appearance is such a small part of who I am.

    1. You are so right, Lisa. I think healthy is the thing. I know you’ve had so many challenges and your husband is right about reminding yourself about the struggles your body has faced. It’s the inside the counts — the big heart, the love, the kindness. Those will be the things that make you a wonderful new mother.

  19. Wonderful post – I wouldn’t be brave enough to write about myself like that! Lovely photos…that smile…and why do women so often think they’re over-weight when they’re patently not?! I tried the yeast diet once – but I had it with barley, hops etc and let it steep awhile. Then I discovered they sold it ready mixed. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Mike. I will admit, I shed more tears writing that post than I have for far more serious things! Therapy with a keyboard! I think I like your yeast diet better than the one I did. In fact, I might have even tried it before! Didn’t work but we had fun, at least!

  20. Jeanie, I’m so glad I’ve met your sweet soul and I’m so glad you shared this! Isn’t it just a shame that we live so much of lives feeling inadequate? Really, we come into this world so good and we allow ourselves to think otherwise along the way. With age comes a little more wisdom and clarity – you shared it with this!

    You are gorgeous, my friend. Keep smiling!

    1. Thanks, Stacey. Yes, much more clarity — and if I was told that earlier, I probably wouldn’t have believed it!

Comments are closed.