Beyond the photo: In high school, my youth group had a celebration for those of us leaving for college. This was a photo of Armanie Miranda as she was listening to her peer speak.

During a celebration her youth group had for those leaving to college, Armanie Miranda, then in high school, listens to a peer speak.

“Let’s take a picture to capture this moment and remember it forever!” says a fictional Uncle Ted of mine. OH NO, LORD PLEASE STOP THIS. DISTRACT HIM. MAKE IT RAIN BURRITOS, I frantically think to myself, filled with dread. Being un-photogenic is a struggle. Very rarely do I see myself in a picture and think, “Hm, I look decent.” Most of the time, I feel the panicked urge to burn it, put the ashes in a bag, discover another dimension and transport the remains to said dimension. When I see the Facebook notification that someone tagged me in a photo, my eyes widen with terror. I usually respond in two main ways: “Phew, it’s just a picture of a flower with an inspirational quote,” I think with relief. Or, if I’m actually in the picture, I immediately hide it from my timeline faster than Usain Bolt running five feet. Not only can pictures mislead me into being a self-conscious, paranoid mess, but they also incite fear in me that people will remember my appearance rather than my personality. It’s one thing to look a little messy throughout the day, it’s another thing to look awful in a picture. When people take a picture, it’s going to last. I’m going to see that picture years from now and make out the bad skin, the lazy eye and the developing food fetus. As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve realized the mistake of focusing on my appearance rather than the moment being remembered. The purpose of pictures is to reflect on the moment, portray a message and/or entertain. The purpose of a picture doesn’t usually consist of condoning an individual’s insecurities. I realized the danger of emphasizing superficiality, which, especially in pictures, can cause me to lose focus on what’s really being communicated in the image, whether it be a capturing of the opportunity I had to spend time with my family, the shenanigans my friends and I were involved in, or the lavender hue of an Oregon tree reflecting the beauty of God’s creation. By only focusing on my appearance, I lose track of all the wonderful or impactful things the photograph contains. Also, by focusing purely on my appearance, my ego, narcissism and conceit might increase. Additionally, I’ve realized that other people just don’t care. Hardly anyone has looked at a picture and said, “Wow, your face isn’t flattering.” That’s probably because other people a) are sensitive enough to recognize how inappropriate that would be to say, or b) are too focused on themselves or what’s happening to care. Am I still self-conscious about how I look in pictures? Yup. Will I always be this self-conscious? Maybe, maybe not. But despite how awful I think I look in pictures, I can look beyond that and see the moment that’s being captured. I guess you can say I’m seeing life from a different angle.