Back to the business of silliness. I took a bit of a break (if you read Happy Turtle, you get it).
So, I didn't expect to intertwine this blog with my business. This goes against my own rules. But, they're MY rules, so... I do what I want! My photography newsletter subscribers may have read about this, but this blog is where I can elaborate and get personal.
During my break, I went to an adult camp in Canada. I know! It was not the typical conventional photography conference/workshop experience. Combine a community of amazing photographers, world renown speakers, shoot-outs, talent shows, dance parties, and campfires. This was only for members of the Do More boudoir community. It was such an amazing experience.
One of the biggest reasons for shooting boudoir, for me, is to empower women. To switch the default mode in our heads, our own body shaming that we do to ourselves. It's about freedom, finding your strength, confidence, and loving yourself- just as you are now. Radical self love and acceptance in every stage of life.
It was really interesting to see how many of us photographers- who empower others and truly believe that all body types are beautiful-- have a hard time doing this for ourselves when getting in front of the camera. We all need a little help sometimes. I wasn't planning on getting photographed. We had to give permission for all online use and that scared me a bit, even if it was hypocritical of me, because I desperately want people to let me use their images on my website and really struggle with it. But I'm beyond grateful that I just went for it. I let go. I trusted. Strength in vulnerability. That experience I cannot put into words. I haven't even seen any photos yet. I truly feel empowered just by the experience. It's funny how it even reaches the fears in life that have nothing to do with body image. Strength. Confidence. It's been different since I've been back. I've been different.
What stood out as "silly" to me, was that I've been in Al-Anon for about three years. (Al-Anon is for friends and family members of alcoholics). The program is a life-saver and I wish everyone had this program inside of them. It's the best therapy anyone will get for $1. My past experience goes beyond this into other difficult realms. I agree with Elizabeth Gilbert in the fact that I've learned not to sentimentalize mental illness (page 480 of Big Magic: "I’ve also been around enough mentally ill people to know better than to sentimentalize madness"). It was difficult for me as a woman, nurturers and empaths that we are, and a Catholic in addition to that... Lots of off-balanced ideas about love and empathy. So, this part of my psychological onion left me with feelings of fear, mostly. I could write a book on that, as it is unfounded, but needs to be dealt with none-the-less, so I'll just spare you and leave it there. I also had someone else's words still stuck in my head. These were never my thoughts. I needed to get that girl back.
Working through so many issues and layers, I just found it funny that after all this time, and all this work, you throw me in some pretty underoos in front of a group of photographers and I'm all good. My head changed there. Since I've been back, fear isn't a companion anymore. It's funny to me. Silly. And yet, not silly at all. Many women shared past experiences and grievances that they've been working through for YEARS, and how boudoir has pushed past all that. It's kind of funny what reaches you to really drive the message home.
We all have our own backgrounds and experiences that shape how we see ourselves, in addition to what society forces onto us. The girl I needed to get back to always had a higher vision, even in my youth, in which outside physique was in there somewhere, but very low on the totem pole. I was too busy with things that really mattered. I was more concerned with what I was DOING. I wanted to do everything, make a difference, even as young as I was, and I still have that mindset. "Imagine if people stopped trying so damn hard to change their bodies. They could use that energy to change the world." - Teri Hofford, Do More photographer and educator, "Babes Against Bullshit" promoter
Also, it's all just temporary. I've fluctuated with size all my life, since I was a little kid. It never once changed the way I viewed myself. I've been skinny, bigger, all the in-betweens. In high school, I had a medical condition and was on steroids that made me swell up a few sizes. My face was huge. That's senior pictures and prom, y'all. Look at the bigger picture. It's just temporary. I was more concerned about my health and that I could keep playing sports and doing theatre and art. I knew that my mom's fears and tears had nothing to do with my weight. I was more pissed that I couldn't travel. I missed a trip to Paris.
Yes, there were douchebags. One of them said something right in front of the whole class. That threw me off, sure. In the midst of my reaction, I remember thinking that my situation was temporary (even in the HIGHEST of meanings, as I am a spiritual person), but people like that will always be assholes. Fast forward to present day. As adults, we still deal with bullies and ignorant simpletons. Their judgement says more about them than it does about you. Many women and I have shared experiences about narcissists, alcoholics, the mentally ill, abusive loved ones- be it verbal, mental, or physical... or even just the judgment that people dole out onto other human beings automatically, without much thought. The emotional sickness can take root if you let it. That onion has many layers, no matter what your story, and boudoir has been tremendous therapy for thousands of women. The effect of an intimate lifestyle shoot is strong, with themes that also include individuality, independence, sensuality, and intimacy. It's kind of a big deal.
MY ADVICE ON BODY IMAGE THAT I HAVE BEEN GIVING TO MY FRIENDS FOR DECADES:
Last week one of my friends who has been battling with weight for a while had a hard day because someone made a horrible comment specifically about her weight. She is a fitness instructor and I was just telling her a week before what a role model she was for me and she actually helped me stop smoking years ago. This was my response to her day, which I've been saying to all of my friends for decades:
"The reason you were a role model to me had nothing to do with your outside package. I've always believed that OUR WORTH IS NOT IN OUR WAISTLINE. I get what you're feeling, because we are human and that's just a default mode we need to adjust. It was your sass, your feistiness, your positivity and confidence, and you made me feel good about myself! That's a big deal in this world.
I feel sorry for people who don't get it about weight. They don't get anything, really. PRIORITIES off much? Excuse me, miss, you dropped your VALUES. We all have SO MUCH MORE TO US than that one stupid thing. It's temporary too! What are they going to do when they're boobs are down to their knees? What about when they get old? What happens if they lose a limb? A bit SHALLOW, am I right? They'll never get it. FEEL SORRY FOR THEM AND MOVE ON.
I love you for YOU. Even when your boobs will be at your knees.
And yes, you will still be gorgeous at that time."
Another friend has done the battle with weight for years and necessary medication is a factor. She didn't want to go to her reunion. She didn't want to put on a bathing suit on her vacation. It was heart wrenching the way she was speaking about someone I loved- her!
I told her these same things, essentially, but also that she needs to talk to herself like her daughter was listening. She is the ROLE MODEL that girl has, and her daughter's vision will be shaped by that, whether she likes it or not. So PAY ATTENTION. How you view yourself, how you talk to yourself... maybe you need to put yourself in timeout for a bit.
I wrote a while ago in a photo newsletter, Wake Up Call , that some moms won't even get in the family photos because of their body image issues. I've had too many people ask if I had something-anything more of so and so, could I look again... Always needing as much as they possibly could hold onto after a loved one passes. I had a daughter ask for photos of her mom, when sadly, mom had done what way too many moms do and decided she only wanted photos of the kids. She hated getting her picture taken. That always breaks my heart. The kids don't see a double chin, they see their hero. (And a professional knows how to work with angles so that wouldn't even be the case. It's not like Aunt Betty taking a photo with her phone.)
I would like to add a little note, as I'm writing this for women because they are my usual clients, this applies to men as well. In my experience, they have the same damn default mode too. So, keep that in mind and lift them up as well.
It's time to change the distorted perception of beauty that has been driven into us for far too long. It's time to stop the judgment. When I think of beautiful women, the first that come to mind are of all shapes and sizes, most are "bigger (curvy) ladies" by society's standards, and three of the top ones are over 45yrs old.
Helen Mirren is amazing for crying out loud.
Embrace who you are right now. Celebrate it.
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