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How a Solo Photo Shoot Helped Me Feel Seen in My Family

I Was Feeling Lost in My Family . . . So I Did a Solo Photo Shoot

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When I started to feel invisible to my family, I called a professional photographer and arranged a solo photo shoot. They are perfectly lovely people, my family, but sometimes it feels like they don't acknowledge or even notice the heavy lifting I do behind the scenes to maintain the ecosystem in our household.

Do I need them to validate my every good deed? No, but all human beings appreciate a little credit where it's due. My partner has a demanding job, my teenage stepdaughter can't be bothered to speak to me, and my cat is, well, a cat, so her affection is inconsistent at best. Rather than trying to pry recognition out of them, I decided to look internally for the gratitude and visibility I longed for.

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First, I questioned where this need to be seen was coming from. Why was I eager for someone to acknowledge that I brushed the cat's teeth or coddled a fiddle leaf fig back from the dead? Was this really about getting a thank-you for folding the laundry? (Narrator's voice: It was NOT about getting a thank-you for folding the laundry.)

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This was about connecting with who I am outside of grocery shopping and mastering the KonMari Method. This was about recognizing my great capacity for creativity and adventure. This was about addressing the root cause of why I felt invisible in the first place. I felt invisible because I'd become hyperfocused on family-ing and no longer prioritized the artistic, autonomous aspects of my identity.

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So I started to nurse my individuality back from the dead, just like the houseplant. I started small with dinner and a movie by myself, a hike in the hills, and dance classes. These activities were great reminders that I can adorn, challenge, and witness myself. This alone time created space for introspection, which is how I came up with the idea for a more blatant approach to feeling seen: a photo shoot by myself.

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It sounded like a great idea until the day of the shoot when I remembered how awkward I can be staring down the lens of a camera. Unless I don't know that a picture is being taken of me, I deliver "deer-in-the-headlights realness." But with the help of a Lizzo album and the "yes, gorgeous" affirmations from the photographer, I channeled my inner Celeste Barber and ran with it.

The experience brought a few things into focus. My family wasn't outright ignoring my existence: they were investing in themselves and pursuing their interests. I'd clearly missed the memo that I too could pay attention to the things that make me happy. I realized that I felt invisible because I'd become completely consumed with family business and failed to prioritize my own hobbies, creative projects, and joy. It's a classic case of needing to put on your oxygen mask before assisting others.

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Does one photo shoot solve all my insecurities and longings to feel seen? Nope, sure doesn't! But it allowed me to take responsibility for my feelings and prioritize self-discovery. I learned that regardless of how little or how much external validation I receive, it will never be a substitute for self-recognition.

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