Continuing the conversation of loving and embracing our bodies.
Embracing my body hasn’t been an easy journey.
Looking in the mirror and instantly picking out the features I didn’t like was a regular behavior not too long ago. I had done that my whole life but finally tired of it. I was sick of the negative chatter filling my head and felt alone in these thoughts. In my mind, I was the only one struggling with a belly pooch from pregnancy and dreaded saddlebags.
When I discovered I was pregnant with the triplets some of my first thoughts were, “My body will be ugly, gross and never the same,” and “There are going to be THREE babies in my belly; what is this going to do to me?!”
After the triplets were born, I was back looking in that same old mirror. But this time I was horrified – I had a big belly, my butt and legs were huge and my still healing C-section wound created this unsightly bulge on my belly.
People would say, “I can’t believe you just had triplets!” I know it was meant to be a compliment, but I’m not really sure what “just had triplets” was supposed to look like. All that mattered was that I felt gross and not at all beautiful.
One day though, I made myself a promise that I would be nice to myself; I would say nice things about my body even if it was a “fake it till I make it” kind of situation. I’m a solutions-oriented person and was determined not to hate what I saw in the mirror from now on. My thinking started changing when the doctor allowed me to go back to the gym and I was able to work out again.
I wasn’t always successful about feeling good about what I saw in the mirror, but I kept trying. I continued to say positive things to myself looking head on into that dreaded mirror that was becoming more friend and less enemy by the day. I kept going to the gym – not to lose weight but to feel good and get stronger.
Embracing my body has been a mental, emotional and spiritual change for me. I had to change my thinking. This doesn’t just hold true for me though, it was a concept illustrated during our recent photo shoot for the Embrace Your Body campaign. A size 16 woman walked confidently through our shoot in only her underwear while a size 2 woman shyly talked about how she was fat and didn’t like her body.
One of these women is not more beautiful than the other. What matters isn’t the way you look, instead it is how you feel about your body.
If you were to decide today that you wanted to change what your body looks like that process could take months or even years. Do you really want to hate your body until you get to that goal? Of course not! We have to look at ourselves in that mirror and embrace what we see each and every day.
We have one body – it’s the vessel through which we live all of life’s journeys. We should be nice to it, respect it and love it.
I decided to do this campaign because I knew other women were struggling with accepting and embracing their own bodies. So I thought, “Let’s show women what real bodies look like.” Each photo tells its own story of loving and embracing our bodies.
A Note from the Photographer
Everywhere we look we are bombarded with images of beauty. There are skinny, beautiful people on television, in magazines and on billboards selling us products as well as the notion that if we want to be beautiful and successful we need to look like them. The problem with these images is that the models themselves don’t even look like the ads they are appearing in.
As a photographer, I am keenly aware that what they are promoting is a manufactured reality thanks to computers and heavy, digital retouching. Flaws are removed, fat is trimmed, skin is smoothed and everyone looks as if the only thing they eat is lettuce and water. Everyone wants to look like these people who don’t actually look like that either. All this does is add to the self-doubt and hate we have for ourselves.
I know all of this because that very same voice has lived in my head for years.
As women we look at the images thrust at us daily and begin to let ourselves feel inferior. What we fail to realize though is that beauty is not determined just by how we look on the outside but also by whom we are on the inside.
We all have flaws. Learning to embrace those flaws and to realize they only add to your beauty can be a challenge. But once you do, others will be inspired by your confidence and beauty.
When I heard about Project Reveal, I knew right away that I wanted to be a part of it. The Embrace Your Body campaign is a movement that helps women recognize their beauty no matter what size or shape they are. I wanted to be a part of something that helps inspire other women to silence the negative voice in their heads and instead replace it with a positive message.
Photographing more than 40 women for this project was an incredible, inspiring and humbling experience. In many instances, the women you would have expected to be more comfortable in their skin because they are smaller or more fit were more self-conscious than the women who had a larger or fuller figure. And many of the women wore their marks of motherhood proudly. And though they may not 100 percent love their bodies in their current form, each of them was content with their shape and size because they made and carried their children in that body.
The photographs in this project haven’t been retouched, only color corrected. No lines, wrinkles or blemishes have been removed. We wanted young girls and women to see that no matter what size or shape they are, they are beautiful just as they are.
Girls Embrace Your Body
When Team Project Reveal started planning their upcoming Embrace Your Body event, editor Abbey Doyle felt it was critical to have something specifically for girls. While the fundraising aspect and awareness for the adult event was important, we really wanted to plant the seed of accepting and embracing your body early on. Our goal is to promote a positive body image and more self-confidence for our area girls so they can become women who embrace and love their bodies.
We need to start those conversations early. The journey to embracing your body shouldn’t start at 20, 30 or 40. We need to teach our children from the very beginning how important it is to be nice to themselves and their bodies.
Project Reveal hosted nearly 100 girls for a two hour event filled with positive self image activities facilitated by HerSpace Inc., and guest speaker Dr. Danica Wilking, an OBGYN.
Editor Abbey Doyle reflecting on embracing her body and the importance of the Girls event:
“When we started planning the Embrace Your Body event I was a little hesitant about it because I’m not there yet; I hadn’t completely bought in yet. I’ve struggled with loving and accepting my body for a lot of reasons and for a long time. When I was younger, my biggest issue was my weight — I hated the way I looked. How could I love and accept my body with all that self-loathing going on. So it didn’t happen. But as I got out of school and traveled the world I learned to come around and appreciate my body for all the adventures it allowed me to go on.
Out of nowhere though, and at just 24, my body once again let me down (or at least that’s how I saw it.) I caught some random tropical virus in Bangladesh that spread to my heart causing some pretty serious issues and necessitating several surgeries, a pacemaker, countless hospitalizations and medical struggles still today nearly 10 years later. So, once again, I’m on that teeter-toter bouncing up and down violently between self-loathing and embracing.
Through this project I was immersed with some amazing women who have really made that leap to truly embrace who they are — wrinkles, dimples, rolls, physical limitations and all and I’m beyond inspired. Inspired so much that I a ready to hop off that teeter-totter and commit to loving and appreciating my body for giving me two amazing sons and a pretty good life so far.
And the push that I needed most of all to get off that crazy up and down ride was to be in an art gallery teeming with little girls. The majority at the event were in the 7 to 11 age range and were so excited about being there, talking about loving themselves and really committing to do it. When I saw little girls standing in the photo booth with chalkboard signs reading, “I love myself” in their childish script and smiling to prove that they really felt that way I was reduced to tears.
That’s what this project is all about. So, you know what I’ve told myself every morning and night since then, “I love myself.” Now you do the same!