Honest Pictures · January 2019 - Honest Pictures

Honest Pictures – Week Four – Mental Health & Motherhood

We made it! Week four of honest photos. I wanted to close this challenge out with mental health and motherhood. Before we get there I want to reiterate what I’ve been trying to show you all with this challenge. Here is the takeaway: SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT REAL LIFE.

Let’s go back to the ‘girl Greek island’ I Googled after I asked myself to close my eyes and imagine my dream vacation. I just posted the first picture I found, but the truth is I could have chosen from thousands.

“Our depictions of travel on social media have become an area in which homogeneity has started to be seriously discussed. The problem is all pictures have become identical: iconic tourist destination in the background, woman with the back to the camera wearing a cute dress, clutching at a straw hat. When you travel to any picturesque spot in the world today you encounter lines of young women trying to recreate the same images”

Katherine Ormerod, Why Social Media is Ruining Your Life

There are entire blogs dedicated to where the best photo ops are at tourist locations and if you go to them you will see a LINE of people waiting to get that same exact shot. So I want to remind you again. Here are some images of the same place all those above pictures were taken.

The barriers in question

Really quickly I want to tell you a story of when I was in Vatican City. I was wandering around this pillar statue that was in the middle of the area with all of these stone barriers surrounding it to stop assholes from ramming their cars into it. These really stunning young Swedish women were sitting on two of the barriers with one empty between them. They had their fashionable boots up on the empty barrier touching in the middle and they asked me to take their picture. I took several because I know what it’s like to want OPTIONS before you post. I gave their phone back, they thanked me and I got back in line to get into the Basilica. I passed the area again twenty minutes later (the line to get in is very long), and the two women are still there. This time I watch them ask a guy to take their picture. Have they been there this entire time? He takes their picture, they examine it for a moment before asking ANOTHER PERSON to take their photo. You guys. Is this how we spend our travel time now? Sitting on a cold stone barrier all day asking people to take photos of us in the same positions until we get one we think is post worthy? This can’t be our lives….

So here’s where your mental health comes into play. Weeks ago I asked you all to close your eyes and imagine your dream vacation. I bet most of you thought of photos you’ve seen online from OTHER PEOPLE in locations all over the world living their best life. The truth is you don’t know what was going on in that person’s life when they took that photo and had a caption that just said #bestlife or something else equally absurd. We’ve all done it. We’ve all posted inaccurate representations of our lives. I hope that the last three posts I’ve done have shown you that. What I want to challenge you all to do is when you start to feel that fear of missing out, the anxiety of not living as ‘exciting’ a life as what you see other people doing online, take a step away from the photo that is making you feel that way and imagine the real story behind that photo. If you imagine the girl looking at the ocean with a small Greek village island surrounding her, imagine seventeen other girls standing behind her waiting to take that same photo. Is that how you want to spend your time? Waiting to take a photo of your back so you can put it online and make people feel envious? Is that how we want to spend our time, money and life energy? I’m going to go with no.

The feelings you might have when you see photos like this can be extremely detrimental to your mental health. It can lead you to feel like you aren’t enough. Impostor syndrome starts to reel it’s ugly head. I challenge you to unfollow anyone that makes you feel inadequate. I used to follow a ton of celebrities on Instagram. Now the only verified accounts I follow are the Obama’s (duh) and The Happy Pear, because those boys bring me JOY. I used to scroll feeds of beautiful celebrities feeling less than, wishing I could have the life they do. Without those posts in my minds eye every day I feel so much happier. I follow people I know in real life. My feed isn’t so overwhelming now and in turn I find myself engaging more with people I actually care about and know. I challenge you do to the same. It will do wonders for your self image and mental health.

NOW ONTO BABIES! is a phrase I never thought I’d type.

I want to preface this with the fact that I am not a Mom. I don’t plan to be either, but I suppose you never really know. However, I have a lot of lovely wonderful friends who are mothers and some who are even about to become mothers! It’s VERY exciting for me to witness. I am so impressed sometimes when I see people I grew up with or people whose hair I used to hold back while they puked who are now actually raising small infants and doing a damn good job at it too. I wanted to talk about motherhood though because Ormerod’s book has an entire chapter on it and I think it can really help some women out there who are struggling because even I know, as a non-parent, how fucking hard it is to raise children and god damn people on social media who talk about it like it’s fucking sunshine and rainbows all the time 24/7. Mostly because it can make mothers who aren’t experiencing that to feel like complete shit.

I think we all need to do a better job of being up front and honest about raising kids. It’s okay to show beautiful family photos like this one (the two following excerpts from Ormerod’s book):

“You may see a photo of someone baking vegan treats with their kids, pristine homes in the background, handsome husbands just out of eye shot…these can make a mom who hasn’t showered in three days and eats take out noodles feel incomplete.”

So you feel like shit when this happens because they make it look so easy! Why isn’t it easy for me! Well here’s another bit that I suggest thinking about when you see something like this and it makes you feel less than:

“You can take a perfect motherhood pic and then get right back to the sofa with your sweatpants with baby sick in your hair and no one would know. There is zero point in using those perfect images you see to judge yourself on what you’re doing. ”

The truth is, and I say this with the limited extent of my lens as a non-mom: Motherhood can be a very vulnerable time. As women, we could all do with telling each other our honest experiences, particularly when it comes to our bodies. Enough of the shame.

And don’t even get me going on ‘body bounce back’ shit. Okay, I’m gonna get going on it anyway. Women’s bodies are kind of fucking incredible. We literally GROW HUMAN CHILDREN in our bodies. FOR MONTHS. Our bodies change drastically in this time. Not to mention all the crazy shit that can happen to them after the actual act of giving birth. This disgusting pressure we put on mothers to have the exact same bodies as they had pre-birth is one of the worst things we do to a mother’s mental health. You have just been through something truly incredible and your body will need time to heal and repair itself. Sometimes it doesn’t always go back to what it was 100%.

Celebrities in particular have staff dedicated full time to get them back into shape within weeks of giving birth, with nutritionists, personal trainers, the luxury of not having to go back to work right away 9-5, not to mention NANNIES. I don’t know any mother in real life that has those kinds of resources at their disposal. Most of them just seem to be trying to support their new families as soon as possible after their baby comes into the world (via their vagina. Did I mention women’s bodies are kind of amazing and also insane).

Fuck you Maria Kang. An average person’s ‘excuse’ could be a number of things. You make it seem like laziness is the only reason we shouldn’t all have six packs eight months after giving birth. Seriously, Google ‘diastutie recti’ you can’t even lift heavy objects for months after this shit happens to you never mind, 10 lb dumbbells. Come now.

Not every woman’s pregnancy is the same. Our experiences during and after this time are really going to be unique to our own bodies. We need to listen to our bodies and not let photos other people may take while on similar journeys make us feel bad about where we are at in our own journey.

Okay, whew. We made it and I’m only left feeling slightly angry after typing all that. Just one more ‘GO MOMS’ for all you amazing women out there procreating and shaping our next generation. If you want to do a good job, then you already are. If you’re worried about if you’re doing it right then you’re doing it right. Just like with schooling, careers, and every other facet of human lives NO ONE REALLY KNOWS WHAT THEY ARE DOING. We are all just doing the best we can. We are all this dog:

Remember this dog. Print this dog. Put it on your fridge. Put it at your desk. Put it on your child’s forehead. Life lessons.

Remember if photos of other people are making you feel like shit….unfollow them. They aren’t doing it on purpose (I hope!), but that doesn’t matter. You gotta do you first. Don’t let these images of a moment in someone else’s life, ruin YOUR life. Remember that that’s all it is: a moment! We don’t know what was actually going on before, during or after that photo was taken!

That wraps up honest photos month! I hope you all enjoyed it. Let me know what you thought in the comments or anywhere else online. I’m pretty much ‘hollishillis’ on every platform. If you have ideas of what I should do next let me know! I have February mapped out for my monthly challenge and it’s a doozy you guys. I’m actually having real anxiety of how I will manage it. Here’s a hint: news.

Push-up Update: I’m back at it! The first week I did knee push ups and fucked up my shoulder, then I was out two weeks, but I’m back and doing wall push-ups now. I’m trying not to feel weak and sad about this. My journey is not everyone else’s journey. I have to take care of my body and go slow and as much as I want to just get back down and do the knee ones again I’m going to do the wall ones for another week and then try to move to the knees ones again. I did 40 total this week and I was a little sore, but nothing was damaged so I’m feeling good. I still think I will be able to do 100 real push ups consecutively by the end of the year. Slow and steady wins the whatever. See you all for February’s challenge next week!

Honest Pictures · January 2019 - Honest Pictures

Honest Pictures – Week One – Honest Travel

If you close your eyes and imagine your dream vacation, you almost don’t even see yourself in it. What you see is what you’ve seen in the palm of your hand on your phone while mindless scrolling. Photos from celebrities posing in infinity pools, old friends who aren’t even friends anymore and their latest vacation with their perfect family to Disney World, and even that image of the happy couple, heads bowed and hands held right underneath the Eiffel Tower.

Go ahead, close your eyes and think of a trip abroad and tell me what you see. I’ll do it too. Here is what I always see:

I think everyone has seen a picture like this. You can literally just google, ‘Girl Greek island’ and there are millions of photos just like this. I’ve never been to Greece, but it took me five seconds to find this location online and type in ‘crowd’ and here is what this actually looks like:

So. Many. People.

My cousin and I in Paris in 2006. I took maybe 30 pictures total for the entire trip, didn’t post them anywhere (because MySpace wasn’t really a place you did that sort of thing and Instagram didn’t exist), and didn’t feel like I needed to tell anyone I went. I just went and had a great time.

I went to Europe in February for the first time since I was 16. When I went in 2006 we didn’t have Instagram, and no way would you bring your cell phone. The fees were astronomical and phones didn’t take good pictures. I had a disposable and a shitty digital camera. I remember not taking a lot of photos. Just enjoying being there. I don’t remember feeling like I had to take pictures and post them right away otherwise people wouldn’t know I was there. In Katherine Ormerod’s book, Why Social Media is Ruining Your Life, she talks about how people nowadays think there is no point in owning nice things or going to nice exotic places if other people don’t know about it. Can you imagine going to Amsterdam and not telling anyone? Not posting any photos online? Do you still want to go? I think most of us would, but some of why we wanted to go might be lost. The crowds in Greece don’t stop us from wanting to go AND THEY SHOULDN’T. We just should be more aware of what we are actually getting into and stop curating our vacations to make others envious. Reality is needed sometimes. Otherwise we end up with Paris Syndrome.

I went to Europe again for the second time in February 2018. I went with my now husband and we had a damn good time. I took a million photos, posted mostly all of them and I’m sure many people who follow my social media saw them. So here’s a recap of that trip in photos…but honestly this time.

When we got off the plane in Paris, neither of us had slept at all in about 20 hours. The train we were supposed to take to our Airbnb to drop off our bags was closed. We had a phone with internet, but it wasn’t being helpful. We went up to an information desk and saw a man with a union jack and a few other foreign flags on his name tag. We spoke to him in English. He got mad. I was mortified. The one thing as an American you’re not supposed to do, we did. We were tired and confused and lost already and the first foreign person we asked for help scolded us. Not a good way to start. You’re always supposed to start in French and then ask if they speak English. Even if the guy’s job is to help people who speak other languages I imagine this entitlement gets old for him. Can you imagine if someone just came up to you and started asking you where something was in German? Imagine if this happened every day.

Eventually we made it to Paris and dropped our bags off at our Airbnb that was being cleaned by a housekeeper. We could come back in two hours. The flat was SMALL. We knew it would be small, but the photos on the site were slightly misleading. It was TINY. I posted this picture on the left of our view, but I didn’t post the picture on to the right of it of our bathroom or the pics below it of our elevator.

Oh Paris, so magical! My knees hit the shower when I was on the toilet and you can literally rest your entire upper body on the sink. There was hardly room for our luggage. It was honestly FUN though and a great experience. I’d even stay there again. But my one photo of the flat acting like it was this amazing view in this upscale mansion was not realistic.
Dis Elevator Tho. Like Tetris to get in it. We had to put our luggage in it, press the floor to the very top, then run up seven flights of stairs to get to the top in time to get the luggage out. Not a bad experience and quite funny, but one I didn’t share because it didn’t feel glamours enough. It’s one of my favorite memories of the trip though.

Since we couldn’t sleep yet, as we so desperately wanted to, we wandered around in the cold trying to find that spot in one of my favorite movies “Midnight in Paris”. I wanted to sit on the steps like Gil and wait for my ride to the 1920s. I screamed a bit when we found it and posted a picture with those exact words as the caption.

The steps were freezing, the entire thing was in the shade and I think I got frostbite on my butt, there was something that (not surprisingly I was soon to learn) looked a lot like urine on the step below me, but I was DETERMINED TO GET THIS PICTURE. INSTAGRAM NEEDED ME TO POST THIS.

What do you think of when you think of Paris? The Eiffel Tower, the Metro, old castles, outdoor eateries, museums? Paris had all those things, but they weren’t as idealistic as you’d think. Here’s the things I hated about Paris: the smell, the trash and the crowds. Everywhere smelt like piss. I stepped in piss, dragged my luggage through piss (we tossed our luggage when we got home – it was not salvageable) and NO ONE PICKS UP AFTER THEIR DOGS. Also the cigarette smoking is not just a stereotype. It’s everywhere. The Metro has wafts of the most ungodly smells everywhere you go. Sadly, like any major city there are also homeless people everywhere. Paris is a huge tourist city, even in February when we went, and there SO MANY PEOPLE. Here are some people at Versailles:

I’m surprised I had so much space around me in this photo. The Hall of Mirrors should just be renamed the Hall of People.
Behind us is the line to get in (we took this after we left) and it wrapped around nearly all the way back to the train station.
My favorite times in Paris were walking around at night. Not super picturesque so I didn’t share a lot of this, but the lights and the city were amazing at night. AND NO CROWDS.

The truth about this picture is the croissants weren’t very good and the latte was just about the worst thing I’ve ever tasted.

I took this picture of a croissant and latte I had at a cafe next to Notre-Dame. I put a caption on it that played upon Hunger Games because why not. I had a hard time ordering food in Paris. I didn’t go into many a bakery I wanted to go in because I was afraid of sounding stupid trying to order or that they’d make fun of my efforts. I regret it now and I know when I go back to a place where English isn’t a first language I will not worry so much about this.

We ate at the same hamburger place three times while we were there. It had a good veggie burger and fries. We consistently ate there because the food was good and the woman who worked there spoke perfect English. I regret not branching out more though just because I was worried about what people I was never going to see again would think of me.

Jesse took a photo of me just as we got off at King’s Cross and heard a loudspeaker announcement in English. It was beautiful. This was my face when I realized we were going to eat more than burgers, shitty lattes and cold croissants.

After a few days in Paris we took the train up to London. Our train was delayed and we had to stand in a big giant line in Paris for three hours and ask a million people what was going on. I thought we missed our train and were going to have to pay again, but turns out it was just a massive unlucky delay.

We had the best time in London. I met up with an online friend and his boyfriend that I hadn’t met before. They took me to a great ramen place and we hung out in a pub after. We did all the museums, walked around Harrods and had the most AMAZING experience at the Globe. We also had AMAZING Indian food. But here are some pictures of crowds you didn’t see and also some of me being freezing the entire time.

Jesse and about five thousand other people at the changing of the guards at Buckingham
Me and a bunch of people at the British Museum. I’m thrilled because we are inside and it was so cold outside I thought I was going to get frostbite.
Cool photo op, but seriously can we go inside now? I can’t feel my face.
Me and internet friend Ryan. This was one of my favorite moments of the trip

Here is a terrible photo I didn’t share of my relief when we made it to the bus to take us there JUST BARELY ON TIME. It was a double decker and I nearly started crying because I messed up and we almost missed the entire thing.

Harry Potter Levenston Studios was ON MY LIST. I was not going to be late to it because they had very strict time limits and you had to be there at a certain time, and buy tickets way in advance and all sorts of crazy stuff. I shared all my photos and really did have a genuinely wonderful time there. What I didn’t share of this experience is that because you had to be there ON TIME, I naturally made us leave VERY EARLY and in my stress to get there took MANY wrong turns, had a panic attack and almost made us MISS THE ENTIRE THING. Honestly this was such a wonderful part of the trip, but everything leading up to it was the worst.

I did not share this stressful experience with anyone online and instead only shared my great photos and made it seem like the entire experience was breeze. Oh look at me! BEST time today! Just kidding I cried five times, hyperventilated the entire way there and nearly lost my mind.

After London we took a cheap intercontinental flight to Rome. We nearly missed that flight too. We had to go all the way down to Gatwick and underestimated bag check times, train times and airport lines. STRESS.

Luckily we made it to Rome and everything went really well! I loved almost everything there. Our flat was nice, the people were great, and the sites were amazing. One thing we couldn’t escape though: CROWDS AND THE COLD. I swear I almost lost many a toe and finger on this trip. We waited in the shade in 20 degree weather outside the Vatican before it opened and we legit checked ourselves for frostbite once we made it inside. I posted some lovely photos without people so let me show you those first and then we’ll get down to reality.

We did Vatican, Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica all in one day and I HIGHLY recommend them all, but all my pictures are of the walls and ceilings because there are people EVERYWHERE. Rome had the worst crowds by far. It’s pretty though, eh?
It’s impossible to get a pic of the Trevi Fountain without people in it. This is the best one I got, but you can STILL see people. My gelato was good, but the best gelato I had on the trip was in London (Sour Cherry Riccota at Gelupo)
I posted this with the caption: “Roma, you ruin me”. This was pretty damn cool. What you AREN’T seeing is that there were about 70 other people taking selfies next to us or waiting in front of us staring while we took that. I think you can see that fact in Jesse’s eyes.

Here are some photos of CROWDS in Rome

Sistine Chapel. There are so many people in here that they have a recording of a man in like ten different languages telling people to STFU every two minutes. It’s a holy place and you ARE NOT supposed to talk in here. But with this many people…..
That same so-so gelato I had, but this time half devoured and less pretty in front of the Spanish Steps, which they should just call the crowded steps. Beware of men trying to give you roses for free at the top. Tip: They aren’t free.
All the people at the Colosseum. This is right when they opened too so it’s not too crowded yet, but by the time we left….it was another story
Did i mention it was cold? We were supposed to go to the Vatican this day, and we went anyway and then found it was closed (we had to travel all the way across the city in the muck). Luckily it turned out to be my favorite day in Rome as the snow melted by noon and we walked around most of the day and ate giant pizzas
Giant pizzas are the best

So that’s the truth about Rome. It’s great, but people are everywhere even in the off season. I can’t imagine what it’s like in the summer.

After Rome we had round trip tickets out of Paris so we flew back there. I wasn’t really looking forward to it as our first few days weren’t that great. We had dinner at the hamburger place….again. Oh man…it’s so sad looking back. When we do go back I’ll be much better. To be fair that hamburger place WAS good, but it would have been nice to branch out more. We went to the Louvre the next day which was SO crowded. I had the most fun just having Jesse take pictures of me making fun of pictures of old dead people.

Old rich white people are weird

Finally, we had to do the Eiffel Tower. I did it in 2006 and I hated it. It was dark and scary and I hate heights. The entire thing was MOVING at the top and I was pretty sure I was going to die. But Jesse had never been. Also, ICONIC EIFFEL TOWER PHOTOS AM I RIGHT? Instagram made me. So we trudged through Paris in the freezing ass cold at night. The wind was insane and my face felt like it was going to fall off. Jesse turned to me at one point and said, “It’s freezing” and I knew we were in trouble because when a guy says he’s cold….it’s cold. We took some photos in front of the tower and I gave my most honest caption of the trip and said simply, “It’s freezing”. You can see it in my face. We’d been gone for 12 days and I wanted to go home. I was cold, sick of eating hamburgers and super done taking a shower in a bathroom the size of a coffin.

The view was amazing at the top, but I kept thinking my knees were going to give out because I was terrified. The tower WAS MOVING, and I was fucking cold. So cold. So tired of being cold everywhere. My face kind of says it all in this one.

Our flight home was the next day and I think we smiled the most we did that entire trip on the way to the airport. We had the BEST time. We really did, but it was NOT all sunshine and rainbows and the best part of a vacation sometimes is coming home. I cannot wait to go back to Europe. I’m itching to go back to London and see friends, and take the train up to Edinburgh, and maybe a ferry to Dublin. I think that’s next.

What are some honest truths about your travel and vacations? What did you share on social media that wasn’t the whole truth? Did you ever make something seem better than it was? Let me know!

So that was week one of honest photos, and it was A LOT. So if you’ve made it this far, thank you! And thanks to everyone who messaged me supporting the site since I promoted it. You’ve all said such kind things and have really given me some great advice (particularly about the push ups, which I will get to in a moment.

Next week I’m going to continue the honest photos cycle and talk about selfies and body image. I’ll show you some of my favorite pictures I took of myself and the story behind them (Hint: When I post a selfie it’s the best one I’ve taken out of about 100 I took total).


I now realize that this challenge might go for a few months. I downloaded an app and did five minutes of stretching, and five sets of five knee push ups, then stretched again for five minutes. Not bad. Until the next day. My arms felt like shit. I did 15 knee push ups and I felt like I was dying. I was pretty hard on myself on twitter, but you guys gave me some great advice. Take my time and TAKE BREAKS. I did three days of push ups in a row on the app until I realized on day four it went into week two. Those three days were supposed to be over the course of a week to give your body time to rest. OOPS! So next week I’ll do week 2 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Overall it’s going well though. I’m not sore anymore and I’m looking forward to maybe being able to do five total without being on my knees by the end of the month. Slow goals are the best goals, particularly when it comes to fitness.

I’ll be back next weekend. What are some of your fitness goals that don’t have to do with weight loss? Do you want to hike better? Climb the stairs to work without getting tired? Let me know and thanks for reading!