How To Get Over Yourself
Kids can be hurtful
Growing up I was teased a lot. I was tall, awkward, gangly, acne ridden, and one of the ‘smart’ kids. Oh, and braces. We grew up with a tight budget so I often wore mom’s clothes when things were pinched. I don’t have to tell you how that affected my social standing. I was also very sensitive.
Still am, really.
I regularly found myself crying and wondering why I was being picked on. It was mostly the boys, but the girls I swam synchro with, also picked on my stick figure and shyness. Being a late bloomer, I didn’t really develop womanly curves until I was into my twenties. Even to this day, the booty I do have is because of the hiking and squats I do to keep strong. Breasts? Well I have them, but not really the kind that require a bra. And you know what?
I love them.
And I love everything else too. Well, minus the acne. But the thing is, I feel beautiful despite my acne. I have learned to love my appearance and appreciate the things that are different about my body and look. It has been a long process. It wasn’t easy. I WORKED on it. And I had help.
How did I manage to accept and love my appearance?
I turned 37 this year and can honestly say that I feel more comfortable in my skin, more confident and sexier than I ever have before. Yes, even with the new wrinkles, age spots and copious amount of grey hair constantly working itself into my awareness.
Why and how did this happen?
Answer: Some key mindset shifts, a couple of supportive boyfriends, and photoshoots with some amazing photographers. That’s how.
Truthfully, it’s a bit more involved than that — but the ‘aha!’ moment came with seeing the final images of my first photo shoot. So part one of this story is about the photoshoots. I’ll save the story of boys and brains for another time.
When I started my business in Kelowna 7 years ago, I had no idea that my first studio would end up downtown, in a collaborative work space, with a modelling agency and a photographer. It was a game changer.
The modelling agency taught classes in the space. I observed the young women and men as they were taught yoga, healthy eating practices, how to take care of their skin, how to apply make-up to achieve different looks, how to walk, how to strut, and how to stand — all to best present their attributes. They went for runs together. They encouraged each other by working out together and practicing their lessons. THEY WORKED.
To put together a photoshoot, all of the above work was required.
As well as: a professional photographer, a fancy camera and special lighting. Top it off with a hair stylist, makeup artist, a stylist/ director, a shwack of borrowed clothing and jewelry, and hours and hours of shooting.
To get ONE photo. ONE.
Or maybe two, if they were lucky. If they spent a whole day shooting they may have got a handful of gooders that could then be used.
That final image was: Planned.
It was trained for.
It took a team of people.
It required discipline.
It involved many hours.
It used expensive equipment.
It needed editing.
It wasn’t just a photo of someone. It was a piece of collaborative artwork.
Brave friends got in front of the camera
And yet we look at professional models and magazine covers and think less of ourselves.
Equipped with this knowledge and a desire to help some of our friends see themselves in the beautiful way that we saw them, my photographer friend and I started asking them to come into the studio and get vulnerable with us.
I applied makeup, styled hair and picked outfits and coordinating accessories. The photographer set up the lights, the backgrounds, the fancy camera gear. We turned up the tunes and hit it! I stayed on set, constantly adjusting hair to look just right, touching up lipstick, liner, highlights, clothing etc.
The photographer would direct the new models on how to stand, how to pose, where to put their chin, how to create space under their arms, how to use those yoga poses to their advantage and stand tall. We would joke around to help them relax and feel more comfortable. To remove any sense of judgment they had on themselves or may have thought we had. We’d shoot for an hour or two, trying a couple of different looks. We worked at it and we had fun!
And the results?
AMAZING. It was an incredible moment to sit down with our friends and show them the images. To watch the stunned looks on their faces as they realized they were looking at pictures of themselves. The feedback was fabulously positive. Comments regarding the fun they had, the shyness in front of the camera they’d overcome, that they would be open to doing it again. We had a couple of women who’d never seen themselves as sexy, say that their perception had changed. Women who’d never thought of themselves as beautiful, recognized that the comparisons they were making were no longer valid. OH THE JOY!
So how did I overcome my negative body image?
I got to a point where I realized I was asking these women to go through a process that I had never fully attempted myself.
I’m fortunate I’ve never lacked self-worth, thanks to the loving and supportive family that raised me with a strong sense of moral grounding and competency. I always felt like I could do anything I wanted, that I had the brains and drive to do it. I had ambition, I had friends, I had love in my life. Yet I still carried the judgements from childhood and felt that my appearance left something to be desired.
I was a fraud.
I wouldn’t leave the house without my makeup on or my hair done. Even if it was to go for a hike, alone. I would pick at my skin, wish my big ears were smaller, fret about the cellulite on my bum, despite being fairly lean. My friends would tell me I was being ridiculous — but I would seldom listen.
Eventually I became so tired of picking myself apart and pretending I didn’t care what others thought of me. I was exhausted by the amount of time spent in front of the mirror and changing outfits repeatedly because I was trying to hide parts of my body.
Enough was enough. I was nearly 33 and something had to give. It was time to face the facts. I wasn’t taking care of myself. I wasn’t eating well or working out regularly. I wasn’t stretching or meditating. I wasn’t treating myself to letting someone else pamper me — even though that’s what I was doing every day for others.
I was sure talking the talk. But I wasn’t walking the walk.
I set myself a big, scary goal to work towards
So I made some changes. I started doing all of the healthy things listed above and I began feeling better. Without the use of any extra makeup. In fact, I began to wear a little less of it. I set some goals. The biggest of which, was to get vulnerable and throw myself in front of the camera.
Talk about terrifying. But I had to. I couldn’t keep promoting and asking others to be involved in a perception-changing experience that I hadn’t undergone myself.
I did it. I trained, I ate healthier, I picked out some new clothing and fun items that I felt were sexy, or beautiful, or both. I applied my makeup, I did my hair, I even bought a wig because at the time I was rocking a pixie cut and kind of missing my long hair. I love my hair short, but never quite felt as sexy as I did with it when it was long.
And then we shot. The photographer was so good at telling me how to stand and how to move, that I quickly relaxed and kind of got into it. We laughed at my awkwardness and celebrated the moments where I was able to let go of my inhibitions to offer genuine expressions for the camera. And when it was all over — I was tired!! That shit is hard! It’s like yoga when you’re trying to pay attention to form — but now your face and hair and clothing are involved too. My muscles were actually sore the day after!
Then the photos.
How the photos turned out
The photographer sent me a selection of her favorite raw (unedited) photos with the kind offer of letting me choose which ones I wanted her to edit.
I was blown away. I couldn’t get over the fact that some of the images were actually me! Now don’t get me wrong, there were a couple where I went: “Oooo… well that’s not perhaps the most flattering” but at the end of the day there was so much more good than bad.
There were a couple of images that turned out so well that I cried.
I’ve had moments in my life when I felt beautiful or sexy, but I’d never been able to catch it in a photo. So the doubt set in. Selfies weren’t around for me growing up and let’s be honest — they don’t capture the whole essence of you and your beautiful body anyway.
And that wig?? Well turns out I felt sexier in my short hair after all! It wasn’t that the long hair images were not lovely — they were — but I realized that I didn’t really see me in them. It was like I was pretending to be something I wasn’t, and it felt kind of cheesy. That realization alone was worth every effort involved.
I LOVE the photos. I love how I was able to get creative and play with different looks; to showcase different facets of my personality. It was as though seeing the images enabled me to finally connect the bits of me all together. To see myself as I felt. It was incredible. It was liberating. And it was exactly what I needed.
Now, I don’t feel I need to hide
Since that shoot, I’ve been asked to participate in a couple more. And instead of being insecure about the idea of being in front of the camera, I welcome it! My experiences with both the ensuing shoots were similar to the first one. The last of them was the raciest of the bunch, to challenge some of my body issues. Body issues be gone! We are all different, that’s part of what makes us beautiful.
Where I used to use makeup and clothing to hide, I now use them to highlight facets of my personality. I use them instead of words, to tell people what I want them to know. Some days I wear hardly any makeup. Some days I sport a bright red lipstick and lashes. Depends on how I feel and what I’m up to.
Gone are the days of my demure, long brown locks and trying to fade into the background unnoticed. Lately, I’m rocking a long red-violet faux-hawk and hot pink lipstick. I love that I look after my body with healthy food, keep active to stay strong, spend time on self-care rituals. I even occasionally outsource and let others take care of me. (Hellllllooooo hot rocks massage! ) I don’t spend hours fussing like I used to, and I certainly don’t talk trash about myself either.
I recognize that comparison is truly the thief of joy — and ridiculous when you realize that there is a team of talented artists behind the images we use when we compare ourselves to magazine advertisements.
The photoshoot experience became a huge driver for me. Seeing how it changed me, and others around me, made me want to do it again and again. I love being able to help women see a different side of themselves. To help expose bits of their personality, and showcase who they are. I believe in the therapeutic value of our self-care rituals, and honouring our individual take on beauty, to proudly communicate who we are, rather than hide or deceive with vanity.
I’m not sure there’s a better distinction made than by Jane Austen’s character Mary in Pride and Prejudice: “Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.”
Now, my love in life is empowering women to develop their self worth through this process. From start to finish, from the inside out, or outside in. The heart, the mind, the body, the spirit.
It all works together like the chapters of a good book.
We all have different stories, yet one thing in common: we are always the writer of whatever happens next.
What will YOU choose?