Documenting Me

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I look at pictures of me a year ago and am amazed at how YOUNG I look. I just look softer yet firmer, less wrinkled, less dry. In the past year, my body did go through a lot of trauma and in my personal life, there has been a lot of tragedy and stress, but I wonder if my reflection isn’t telling the truth. Yes, I am older, but maybe I look older because I feel older. I started this year gung-ho about being 40 but now I’m starting to feel it and I may be expressing that in my face, and how I look at my face.

Last year when I did Whole30 I put the app Day One on my phone. Each day I would journal what I ate, and often take pictures of the meals (because really, ain’t no one wanna see your meal on Instagram or Facebook). I also started adding photos after a long walk or a workout, sharing the sweat, the flushed cheeks, and hopefully/eventually the slimming of my selfie.

Life happened, and I went off Whole30, and my walks and workouts became more infrequent. I think that’s a lot to do with me feeling as though I look old and I’m working on that, but in the mean time I am me right now and there’s no benefit to me lamenting my reflection.

I could throw money at it. I’ve done it before many many times. Instead of changing my diet or increasing my sleep, I’ll buy a bunch of new creams, masks, and scrubs and get a whole new arsenal of cosmetics. Instead of getting a haircut, I’ll spend a pretty penny in the hair aisle at CVS and do a late-night Natural Instincts dye job to my tresses. But I know from experience these are temporary fixes that only eat away the contents of my wallet.


A couple months ago, Karl made this lovely meal and after we watched TV, him sitting in his chair, me sitting on the floor in front of him, he rubbing my shoulders and me rubbing his feet. I felt very relaxed, very secure, very loved.  While he stayed downstairs to wait for Cindy to come back inside, I went upstairs to get ready for bed. Maybe it was the glass of Pinot Noir with dinner, but I looked at my reflection and was really happy with what I saw. Sure I have wrinkles, sure my hair needs a cut and color touch-up, and sure most of my makeup had worn away but I think I looked pretty darn hot! I whipped out my phone and took a selfie. I didn’t fix my hair or face, didn’t clean up the towels hanging in the background, I took what I saw right that instant. One picture, closed the camera, and turned off the phone. I didn’t want to look at the picture, I felt the magic may be gone.

The next morning I looked at the picture. And first glance I did what I always do – I noticed the double chin, the bags under the eyes, the limp hair. But I forced myself to close my eyes and look at it again with fresh non-judgmental eyes and I really liked what I saw.


This was no selfie I’d share on Instagram. It’s not perfectly polished, I don’t look especially fabulous, and all those towels and hair appliances in the background won’t bring me a bunch of likes or comments. But that’s not the point; I think sharing in an attempt to gain approval or likes would ruin it. This was a picture to remind me that I am beautiful and I am wonderful RIGHT NOW.


I have continued this little project. Each time I feel good, think I look good, think I look sexy, feel proud of something I have accomplished I take a selfie and put it in a folder on my phone. Seeing that folder fill up with pictures is a great reminder of the positive. Sure I’m 40, and sometimes I feel I look more like 60, especially after a rough day at the office finished off by a child who knows how to push all my buttons. Sure I’m fat, and I am getting more wrinkles, and my skin is not dewy like it was when I was 25. But I am pretty fantastic. I like the person I see in the mirror, her appearance, and who she is inside. And liking that is NOT wrong, it’s not being self-absorbed, it’s not being a narcissist.


Taking the pictures is like a visual gratitude journal, a reminder for when things are low that they won’t always be like that. To have the pictures just for me makes them more special. I’m not trying to look attractive for others, I’m not trying to win approval, I’m just living in the moment with myself. And these pictures remind me that I like myself.

Do you have any rituals, projects, or habits you do to inspire, motive, or just remind yourself of the positive? I’d love to read about them!

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  1. I totally agree with the other comments – you are an amazing, beautiful woman and this is such an inspiring post. I had to smile though at all you women in your 40s thinking of yourselves as getting old. I’m 67 and still think of myself as young, even if the mirror says otherwise! My two top tips are: always smile and people will be able to see your beauty; for fellow over 60s who need to wear glasses, apply your make-up. do your hair then move back from the mirror, removing your glasses, and you won’t see the wrinkles or occasional grey hair. it works for me!

  2. I think this is a wonderful idea. I snap those secret selfies too, but I unfortunately usually go back later and then fall into the pick apart trap. I am working on this mindset!

  3. I love this idea of curating selfies that come in moments of confidence and happiness. As a mom and photography-lover, I’m always striving to take pictures of my children, to see the *real* them reflected in an image, the same way I see them, but when it comes to myself, I avoid this reality at all costs. I have spent several years grimacing at my reflection and deflecting compliments from my family, because I was so disgusted by my appearance. I finally reached the point of change a few months ago, and try to love myself every day. It’s hard. But I keep hoping that if I try, maybe someday it won’t be quite so hard.

    1. This weekend at BlogHer I saw a woman wearing a tee shirt that said something to the effect of for every woman you envy for being prettier or more successful than you there’s another who envies what you have. It such a true statement. For the woman who feels lonely, there’s a frazzled friend who wishes she had such me-time available. The grass is always greener, and the only way to get our own lawn looking great is to stop looking over the fence and getting to work. Dang Ashley I don’t know you in real life but by the paragraph you shared here you sound pretty fantastic. And those children of yours when adults will want pictures of you enjoying life during their childhood! Get out there and be seen. Your family gives compliments because they are deserved! Embrace them, write them down, keep a journal no one knows about (I have a password-protected app on my phone because I know with kids privacy is pretty rare) and when things are tough, revisit them. Remember the oxygen mask scenario – you can’t properly care for others if you don’t first care for yourself. Much love you you, Ashley! <3

      1. I super struggle with envy. My best friend is a tall, thin, blond who is absolutely gorgeous. I know she came into my life to help me battle my jealousy. Seriously. Because I love her. But I do battle those grass is greener thoughts on a daily basis.

  4. Thank you for this post, it seems like a lot of women share these feeling and use similar approaches to deal with them. I’m about to turn 39 and I am trying desperately to recapture my youth, instead of treating myself better and moving on. Lately It became clear to me that the only way to focus on the future is to stop looking in the past.

    1. Ah Rahrah, we look at the past through rose colored glasses and the present may not be as firm or perky, but it can be pretty darn fantastic. 40 seems daunting, but now that it’s here I may miss my old skin or boobs or joints but I wouldn’t trade it for my 20s. I’m finally finding myself, and have the wisdom and tools to shut out some of the chatter and get to finally know me. Thank you for sharing your story, so many of us can relate! Much love to you!! <3

  5. I love your new pictures. I actually think you look like Elizabeth Taylor. Thank you so much for sharing with us your most vulnerable side. I am 62 and people regularly tell me that I look like Im in my mid 40s but the last several years have been a series of back surgeries, a very big move and leaving my best friend behind. However, we are all beautiful in our own ways and I try every day to fee that, even my most ickiest!

    1. I feel in these pictures I look a LOT like my mom at my age, and I remember as a kid thinking my mom looked like Liz, so your comment made me chuckle! 🙂 I am so glad you’re staying positive, sounds as though you’ve had a tough go the past years and I know it’s hard but worth it to remember the beauty. Much love to you!

  6. I was on board and appreciating every word you were writing…. until you got to the part …”40….but feel 60….. . I’m 60. Most of the time, I feel fantastic. So far I don’t use a walker, wear Depends, or shuffle around in orthopedic shoes. I might be retired from nursing, but I’m not retired from life. That comment struck me as a tad ageist. :). That being said, you look gorgeous and happy and natural, and that is appreciated too 🙂

    1. Oh the last thing I want to be is ageist! Goodness my mom is 72 and doesn’t do or wear any of those things either. It was more a statement on no matter how full our life or how much we care for our bodies, life does have an impact on us. You couldn’t pay me to revisit my 20s, I love being 40 far more but I can’t deny that my body and how it worked and reacted was very different then. Thank you for commenting, it’s a good reminder to consider my words more carefully. <3

  7. Thank you for posting this — just what I needed today! You are beautiful inside and out. I have been a reader for a number of years and I really enjoy coming to your blog. Stay true to yourself!

  8. Thank you for such a thoughtful post, Allie. I’m ten years older than you and, at a time in my life when I should be enjoying more time and more resources to do what I want with that time, I am really struggling with myself. Although I’ve always taken care of myself — professional skin care, gym, disciplined eating habits — I feel like nearly over night, my body has betrayed me. I can no longer seem to wrestle this “container” I’m in into my image of who I’ve always been. I keep thinking if I just work harder at it…so, yeah. Your post struck a chord. I hope I can get where you are, but honestly right now I feel completely out of sorts with my looks, my size, my wardrobe. Everything. Thank goodness for good friends, a wonderful family and an enriching career, though. I do realize I’m blessed in many ways.

    1. Keep remembering the blessings. Don’t be afraid to do what may seem hokey – write positive reminders on Post-it notes and put them around the house, start a gratitude journal, create a mantra and don’t be afraid to repeat it aloud. These sorts of things may seem goofy but our brains latch on to them and can help push away the negative thoughts. I’ve been where you are and I know I’ll be there again, and it’s hard when you feel a stranger in your body and life. I’m so glad you have a great support system, you deserve it Lynn! You sound like a pretty phenomenal person <3

  9. Thank you, Allie, for this lovely and heartfelt post…strip away the beauty products and the clothing, and underneath we are still amazing, beautiful, strong women…even when we don’t always feel that way! I’m realizing I will ALWAYS be struggling with my weight, with my health, with my eating, but I can still appreciate the body and the mind I have now, and the people I chose to share myself with. Just have to remember to do that when things get tough. I don’t often comment, but had to congratulate you for today’s post; you are a special lady!!

  10. Thank you for this. I feel like you often write what I am thinking, but more more succinctly! At 42, I struggle daily with my appearance, face, body, hair. Yet I want desperately not to care! I think acceptance is the only way but I don’t know how to really do that. I feel that my whole life has been spent fighting myself- in high school fighting acne and flat hair in the days of tall bangs, college fighting weight gain and no money for clothes, 20s fighting all of my natural tendencies to please undeserving men, 30s fighting my body to get pregnant and carry to term, and now fighting my aging joints, shut down reproductive system, wrinkled face and gray hair. I am tired of fighting but just don’t know how to stop. Thank you for giving me a step to take to at least start the process.

    1. Nancydrew, I wonder what would happen by changing the word “fighting” to “I rose to the challenge and successfully dealt with…”? I know about the “fighting” feeling, but hopefully using a more positive term might help change the way of looking back at things? Because you’re here and thinking about it, and taking in Allie’s positive post, and you survived! You deserve a big pat on the back for coming out the other end and wanting to change!

    2. Girl, you’re a survivor! You’re a strong woman who has overcome many obstacles so many of us can relate to. You fight because you’re a warrior and while you’ve dealt with such struggles you’ve come out on the other side. Pardon my French but what you wrote makes me think you’re quite the badass. Now is the time to realize that, to come to terms with it, and see yourself as the beautiful badass warrior you are. This may sound really hokey, but I know when I felt I was fighting the entire world and getting weary was when I was invited to be part of a women’s circle in my community. These women seemed far more crunchy and zen than I; they were writers and yoga instructors and bliss coaches and I’m here spazzing over sales at LOFT and working the 9-5. But once a month, to meet, drink wine, do a short meditation and have a guided conversation made me realize we’re not that different and we’re all looking for change and peace. Many of these women had done weekend retreats – the ones you find in the back of magazines, a trip to Kripalu even if they’ve never done a single yoga pose, that sort of thing and being removed from everything including friends and loved ones helped them see themselves better and have more tools on how to accept and embrace themselves now. I think I may gift myself with a similar trip for my next birthday. My best to you my dear <3

  11. This post really resonated with me. I think you have such a natural, fresh beauty, by the way.
    I have had a very hard time with the aging process. I’m almost 48. A couple of weeks ago I got really honest with myself about how I am coping with it. I think the lack of control in what my body is doing has sent me shopping quite a bit. I was using retail therapy and hoping that just the right dress or shirt or whatever would do the trick to make me feel more like myself again. I am still experiencing shock when I pass a mirror. Who is that person? I miss the younger me. I love clothes and the right ones do help, but I’ve decided to cut myself off retail therapy until winter clearance. I think I have all I need and I’m just trying to fix a “problem” that is not going away.

    1. YES YES YES Aimee! I often feel I am part of the problem with this blog, because so many of us try to shop our problems away. You’ve seen it doesn’t work, and I think a shopping ban is a great way to focus on yourself. We can’t go back in time and heck, if we could we’d likely see we’re seeing the past with rose-colored glasses. I love that you’re getting honest with yourself and I think through it you’ll find you’re a pretty fantastic Aimee right now at 48, and there’s some benefits to this age that can’t be found in your past. Much love <3

      1. What a sweet reply, Allie, thanks. I love your blog and would never consider it part of the problem. The responsibility is all on me. The truth is, I love fashion. I just have to learn not to clothes as a way to “buy” youth or happiness. I really do want to shop right now, but it’s kind of fun to keep a goal in mind. I’m planning to buy a pricier bag than usual, or something of great quality once winter clearance hits. It will be fun!

  12. Your post was so honest, it really touched me! Energy is my most basic need, I try to store it up. At almost 20 years older than you, I’m finally retired from a job I disliked, and try to live in the moment. As another commenter mentioned, I’m having a pretty good time de-cluttering and down sizing my “stuff”, traveling more and enjoying our aging pups and my now-retired husband! Whomever said it is “all downhill” at this time was wrong!

    1. Cherie, I am younger than you at almost 48, but I love your comment about trying to store up energy. That describes me to a “T.” I have to make sure it’s there for when I need it!
      Thanks for sharing that it’s not all downhill…. I honestly can’t wait for the day my husband can retire. His job is killing him and making him look a lot older than he should.
      Love aging pups, too! 🙂

      1. Aimee, thanks for the comment! My husband retired last Dec 31, and is finally listening to my needs that were tuned out before. He’s becoming more like his old self everyday, TG. We’re doing things together again, and it’s fun! Here’s to aging pups!

        1. This is so encouraging. Thank you so much for sharing, Cherie. We need to lift others up! I’m so happy for you and hour husband and look forward to the same one day, Lord willing!

  13. I’m a professor and often get thank-you notes from my students and colleagues. I have them all in a folder to remind me that my work touches lives. It’s a major boost.

  14. Love this post and for the record you are beautiful. I am 50 years old and feel the same way and lately have been just repeating my mantra “My body is beautiful”. Sometimes I get so sad thinking of all the years I wasted worrying about how I look, not to mention the money. I have to remind myself to live and in the moment, which is so hard when work is crazy, the kids need picked up and driven to several different places and the house needs cleaned. But when the sweet spot of being in the moment and enjoying what is and who I am, I think is when I too feel the most beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Love this! You are an amazing woman Allie – working full-time, blogging full-time, being a wife and mother. It’s not about being beautiful because as a human being you are inherently beautiful. It’s about recognizing your essential value and taking care of yourself as such – if you are doing that, then you are doing everything you need to be doing. What I see in the photos is a woman who has a wonderful marriage, a great daughter, and a very big happy life – she is the architect of all of this fabulousness and she deserves documentation!
    I turned 50 (gulp) this year and I too saw significant changes (diminishing) in what I would call “my vitality” as well as weight gain (thank-you menopause!) and skin rashes – ugh. I bought some new make-up and got my hair cut and coloured but it didn’t really help. It was through journaling and reading the book “Essentialism” that I realized that my vitality was being depleted not by age, but by the fact I was doing a bunch of non-essential things and didn’t put me higher up on my priority list (I don’t even think I was on the list!). So I chose one word to be my mantra during 2015 – “HEALING” – and I base every choice around whether it is a healing choice or not. This word allowed me to really give myself what I need – to leave job(s) I hated, to feed and nurture my body well, but most of all giving myself the time to rest and regenerate. I changed my perspective, said NO to a lot of commitments, made my home a sanctuary of calm (goodbye clutter thanks to The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up!), and basically stopped my manic avoidance (through multiple jobs, volunteering, etc.) of taking care of myself properly.
    You have always been a great inspiration to me – not only your style but your positive presence on my blog feed and on Facebook! Thank you for the reminder to also take the time to stop and document that I do indeed like myself, on the inside AND on the outside!

    1. This is good stuff, Linda. Thanks. I’m almost 48 and can relate to this so much. I was just thinking the other day that something has to change and I wasn’t sure what…. I will think about this.

    2. Oh Linda, thank you for sharing. You are such an inspiration, and I LOVE that mantra! This weekend there was a booth at the conference where you could get a mantra or inspirational word stamped onto a disc for a bracelet or necklace. The line was long and the staff was obnoxious so I didn’t get one but I was thinking about a word like yours, what would keep me centered and on track. I thought of the word CLEAN. Not in having a tidy house or a sparkling bathroom, but making simple, clean choices. Simplifying. Eating clean, making my closet clean and simplified, letting my mud settle so my water runs clear and not muddying my decisions with overthinking and worrying about what others will think. HEALING is SOOOO great of a mantra and reminder! And thank you for adding some books to my future reading list! 🙂

  16. This is just lovely, and I appreciate your sharing it with us. I realize it takes a certain degree of vulnerability to put out these un-doctored, honest photos, but it is great. And you are beautiful. I have a ritual in which i started a “happiness” journal in which I write down something every night — usually just a sentence about the thing(s) that made me happiest today. It helps me engage in positive reflection, and integrating the best parts of my day into my memory, and cultivates gratitude for all the blessings of my life. It is also very instructive when looking back — to realize what brought me happiness and fulfillment, and what didn’t. For instance, I have never written down “messaging on Facebook” — and that was a good lesson to me to spend less time on something that was not bringing me real happiness.

    1. Oh I love this bubu! When at the conference this week I met an attendee who had a horrible situation take place on social media. To wipe out the negativity and horrible comments, this person blogged about the experience asking for positive comments and then printed out all those positive reactions. Each time this person fell into darkness obsessing over the negativity, the positive comments brought this person back and helped stop spending so much energy and time on negativity. We only get 24 hours in a day, it’s so important to use them wisely and positively!

  17. You brought tears to my eyes, literally. I am so happy to see someone love who she is, embrace all the wonderful in her life, and be happy in her skin. We have one life, and it goes by way too quickly. While I appreciate trying to dress well, I sometimes worry about all the focus on our external selves and looking a certain way than on our internal selves and making that internal self happy.

    I say this with a somewhat fresh perspective. DH gained weight with me when I was pregnant with our second child. He hasn’t been able to lose it easily this time and finally confessed how much it was bothering him. Funny thing, I had barely noticed and it had done nothing to reduce how much I loved him. He is my partner, my love, and I want to get old, saggy and grey with him. Makes me realize now that he means it when he says he loves me and doesn’t much notice the stretch marks or tummy having 2 babies has given me.

    1. Oh I love that you shared this story, Elizabeth. It’s true, we so doubt when others say we’re beautiful but we see others through our hearts as they do with us (did that even make sense? Still working on my first cup of coffee). But a great story to remind all of us to believe our loved ones when they say we are beautiful, loved, and lovely just the way we are! <3

    1. It’s so easy to do that, but then a decade from now you’ll realize you didn’t document yourself. And while we may not like how we look in photos, our loved ones know we’re beautiful and will want to have those memories with us in it. And YOU deserve to be present and documented! <3

  18. “I think that’s a lot to do with me feeling as though I look old and I’m working on that, but in the mean time I am me right now and there’s no benefit to me lamenting my reflection.”

    Totally in love with this post. You are lovely because of who you are and what you share, and you remind us all to be a bit kinder to ourselves. I went through a terrible couple of years that aged me and made me feel as though I lost myself, and I just now feel things coming back. Like you, I had to remind myself to treat myself better (eat better, exercise, etc.) instead of just treat myself. I’ve been going to the gym regularly and it’s not always easy to see so many people who look good and then see myself in the mirror (I look so much better in my head), but then I remind myself that I’m strong and getting stronger, and when bad things happen again (because that’s life and they will), I’ll know myself better, be able to use that experience and strength and remind myself to keep taking care. Thank you so much, Allie.

  19. Lovely post Allie. I eat healthy and exercise but struggle with a sweet tooth (okay, more like a whole mouth full of sweet teeth). In the past two years I’ve lost 15 lbs and put them all back, slowly but firmly. I’m starting over again with a one week challenge of eating and drinking only whole foods, nothing processed. I’m surprised I stuck to it. The hardest was giving up diet soda, but that was the key for me. Now I’m ready for a sensible diet knowing I can stick to it. And I am losing weight again.
    But even at my biggest, I liked a lot of things about me and don’t miss my 20s at all. Now my 40s were pretty cool. And I looked and felt damn good.
    Just remember, you’ll look back at you at 40 and think, “I looked fabulous”. Your skin is resilient and firm. Your hair shiny. And your smile is killer.

    1. Oh I know, I think of how critical I was in my 20s and early 30s, I find the older I get the more I know and like this person I am still becoming! I gave up diet soda a few years ago and it was HARD, I wish you much success with your journey! 🙂

  20. This is a fabulous message/reminder for all of us. It really touched me and I may have to revisit it often for the reminder. Thank you for honestly sharing this publicly. Thank you for the inspiration.

  21. Yes you ARE beautiful, mostly for sharing and being transparent and vulnerable to an audience of women ( who the world has told us we have to always mistrust and be leery and have masks with). One thing that caught my attention in your post was that this past year has been one with some trauma and tragedy for you. I could relate to that so much as I lost my 30 year old son unexpectedly two after after Christmas 2014. It seemed that I aged 100 years in that very moment. Weak and weary, tragedy takes a toll on our bodies~ spiritually, emotionally and physically. Luckily I have a wonderful network of support both personally and professionally so I ‘think’ Im processing and getting through my grief in the healthiest way possible, but I also am well aware that if I dont process the loss daily and stay in tune with my body and spirit, it can really affect so many areas of my life. Keep being the gorgeous amazing woman that you are!!

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