Recently, I did a photo shoot with a very talented photographer in my area and it was one of the most beautiful experiences of self-love that I’ve ever had.
Life is so beautiful, with its many twists and turns, unexpected events and joy-filled experiences and I chose a path that many women choose. After college, I married immediately and then started a family. Looking back through our pictures, they are so indicative of my life – surrounded by love, friends, then a wonderfully squishy little baby. I love everything about those pictures – the ones that show how loved I am and how much I love others.
But what you don’t ever see in those pictures is a woman, alone… in her own skin. Throughout the past 10 or so years, I delighted in being a girlfriend, fiancee, wife, and then mother. I treasure all of those roles and I am proud to be them.
When I did this photo shoot though, there wasn’t anyone to link my arms with or hug or laugh with. It was just me. For weeks leading up to the shoot, I studied different poses and locations and I was so excited to have a day to play “model.” All the way up until the camera lens cap came off and then suddenly, I didn’t know how to stand, where to put my arms, how to smile, how to just be. Everything I had studied just went out of the window! All of a sudden, I was just Pam – no husband to wrap my arms around, no baby to cuddle.
Thankfully, my photographer is a pro and gently guided me through the shoot, amidst my nervous giggles and awkward stances. And the whole time, I felt beautiful. I was proud of the skin I was in and I just felt good. So good, even, that I donned a crop top for the first time in my life! I felt gorgeous, sexy and fit.
When I got the proofs back, I loved every shot and when I looked at each one, I remembered how I felt during that moment. This one photo (the one pictured above) made me stop scrolling for awhile. Dissecting it, I thought, “Hair looks good. Skirt fit well. Smile looks natural. Hmmm.. Waist looks a little….thick.” And in that split second, I had turned this beautiful moment into a criticism party. I had forgotten how great it felt to wear that top and feel good. I became fixated on the size of my waist. Suddenly, I didn’t see myself as gorgeous, sexy and fit anymore. Then I noticed that my arms didn’t show the definition I had worked hard to get. And before I knew it, I kind of felt silly for wearing that blasted top.
Moments later, I finally forced myself to draw my head back a few inches (literally, because at that point, I was scrutinizing every little detail) and take in the whole picture. I felt beautiful in that moment. I look beautiful in that picture. And the size of my waist doesn’t change that. Or at least, it shouldn’t. The truth is, people can make you feel like you aren’t enough – either you aren’t healthy because you don’t abide by their eating style, or you’re not fit because you’re not lean enough, or you’re too skinny without muscle definition, or “insert whatever people want to say in order to make themselves feel good.”
So, I slapped myself a few times (figuratively) and reminded myself that beauty is not a certain size, shape or body fat percentage. Beauty is in all of us and it radiates out beyond us through self-love, good health and joy. What really matters is how you feel in your own skin, in your own life, by your own standards. Treat yourself well – through the nourishing foods you eat, the way you move your body and the thoughts you form in your head. And spread that beauty out to everyone in your life!
And remember that you are beautiful – YOUR own kind of beautiful.