Why a Self Portrait Photograph is My Birthday Tradition


self portrait 17th October 2012


I thought I’d take a little time today to share why it is that I always take a self-portrait photograph on my birthday, and yes it has just been my birthday and I did have a beautiful, enjoyable day.

My first self-portrait photograph was taken on my 30th birthday. Although I have never outgrown the joy of birthdays, even my own, I was not happy to be turning 30. It was not so much a feeling about the age as about my life circumstances at the time. I was single, unemployed, living with my parents, with little prospect of changing any of those pertinent life details. 30 in that light seemed embarrassing. I dreaded it. It just so happened that my 30th birthday was the same year that Denmark’s Prince Frederick was celebrating his – thanks to the Australian connection (with his beautiful Australian bride) we heard no end of Danish birthday traditions in our media. My feelings about turning 30 were so negative, that when I heard that in Denmark, if you are unmarried when you turn 30 it is tradition to gift you a pepper pot/mill, that I shouted “why not salt so you can rub it in!!!!!”

About the only thing I had going for me at the age of 30 was that I looked young enough to not look silly living with my parents. I looked young enough that out with a friend (who admittedly was ten years older than me) people confused her for my mother. Great for me, she however had a not so thrilled reaction!

I decided about the only positive thing I could do was take my photograph and try to feel good about myself. I didn’t ask anyone to take my picture, I snuck off and did it myself.

That decision was the best thing I could have done. By taking quiet time away from people, I had stillness, and serenity, and even more magically it was a private moment with myself – no one knew about it, no one was watching me, and I broke down some barriers – I overcame the thought and feeling that what I was doing might be founded in vanity or narcissism. I actually found that taking the photograph, and examining the results was very balancing for me. I wasn’t overly proud, but I wasn’t ashamed either… I felt liberated, humble, content, worthy in just the right amounts.

Since then, I decided that every year I would take a self-portrait photograph, and have stuck to it religiously. I also really like that by taking the photograph myself I am independent. With my aging family, and family and friends spread across the globe (actually very few in my local area), it is entirely conceivable that there will come a day when I spend my birthday alone. I don’t want to be sad if one day I can’t get my birthday picture taken, and I don’t want to feel anxious like I have to track someone down who can do it for me. I am setting myself up for a future where I can be happy and tranquil in my own company and honour my birthday and my self and not say ‘oh you’re alone, no birthday for you this year’. Hell no. I have my birthday every year and I enjoy it!

And the best news is that I have a lot more ‘going for me now’ in my life and I don’t care a jot that I am now 36 (and single) and I really, loved hearing from my niece that “my ability to never age, rocks!”



5 responses »

  1. actually, I just found myself commenting to a friend something I wish I’d expressed in the blog post, so here it is:
    wherever I am, whoever I may or may not be with, I will be with myself so I better appreciate me and know how to be with myself!

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