One of the things no one ever tells you about being the editor of a literary magazine is that before every issue, you’ll spend a great deal of time staring at the faces of strangers. More often than not, the only interaction you’ve had with these people is a few emails regarding the acceptance of their stories. It’s very much a business transaction in that sense. They’ve wowed you with a stellar piece of writing, and in return, you’re eager to host and share this piece with the world.
Yet, the act of sending a photo to someone, even a bio photo, feels more personal, doesn’t it? It’s being asked to share something intimate of ours with a complete stranger, something that we judge and pick at and cover with makeup and cream because we’re constantly worried about how we look.
Many of us balk when we stare at ourselves in the mirror. We notice the little imperfections. The encroaching zit underneath the chin. The single nose hair peeking out of our left nostril. The barely visible unibrow connecting left eyebrow to right. It’s maddening, but it’s our daily burden to carry. We know we’ll never look as amazing as those people in the magazines, but we face the public regardless, weighed down by a sense of humility at our own physical imperfections.
I don’t know about you, but I sometimes cringe at that face in the mirror. Not every day, but it happens. I don’t like the skin underneath my jaw that threatens to dip below my chin. My face isn’t chiseled enough. It makes me feel ugly sometimes, as my body doesn’t feel like an accurate representation of my mental persona.
We’re harsh judges, and I would argue that we’re too harsh on ourselves.
In every single one of those photos of strangers that comes into my inbox every other month, I can honestly say that we’re all looking good. We’re shining human specimens from all over the world, and I don’t see the imperfections some of us may be worried about.
I many not know you. I may not know when, where, or how you took that photo. I don’t even know if you doctored it a little bit (it’s okay if you did), but I do know that you look good. Seriously. You’re fine. Before every issue of Literary Orphans comes out, I upload some 30-odd pictures of strangers, and there’s not a bad looking person in the mix, including you.
Recently, I received an email from a submitter where the submitter wanted to replace the photo of themself with a random picture. The stated reason was that this submitter didn’t feel the photo was becoming. I don’t mind changing the picture, but I took a moment to reflect on this edit. It made me realize that I do the same thing, and yet, when I’m uploading 30-odd pictures of strangers every other month, I’m reacting to these photos the way other editors are most likely reacting to mine.
Face it: we’re looking good, ladies and gentlemen.
I want you to remember that the next time you’re getting upset over a small imperfection in the mirror. In all of those bio photos, each one of us looks happy, hopeful, and beautiful. No matter what we find ourselves doing, we’re going to look damn good doing it. Trust me.