Self-Love – Your Body Is Yours
When I was young I had the quintessential body. Blonde hair, blue eyes. Curves in all the right places, and just enough breasts to be noticed. I was above average at 5’6. But I always struggled with what defined my femininity. I wasn’t a gorgeous girl. I was just another girl - or that’s what I told myself. The truth is that looking back I never valued the body that was mine. I didn’t honour it. When it was stretch-mark-free and I had no sag from babies, I didn’t see it as my temple.
As women who’ve chosen to enter into motherhood, we struggle to love ourselves even more because of the physical toll that happens to some of us during pregnancy and birth. But that body creates life, nurtures and grows it, and brings life into this world. How many women try to hide those reminders, cut them out, and or obsess over exercise to rid themselves of that reflection in the mirror?
How many times have you looked at pictures in your early 20s and
longed for that bikini body back that you never truly appreciated?
Age is no different. Our body’s stare back at us, as they slowly change with each year that passes.
Even for women who don’t have children, this is inevitable. I do believe that a woman's body is a temple. My scars, stretch marks, sagging belly, and cellulite is a reminder to me of how powerful my body is and what it truly is designed for. But knowing that and living that truth isn’t the same until you become mindful. I still find myself having to stop myself every time I pull my shirt down to cover my baby pouch.
So what does it take to love our bodies no matter what stares back at us?
For me, the path to getting to that self-love is a combination of experiences. As promised in my last blog, I am going to share one of these enlightened experiences with you in hopes that it will encourage you to possibly take a leap one day.
Get Naked, but first…
The minute I booked my boudoir session with Cynthia Bendle, I drove home and started a plan.
What was the plan?
To rid me of 25 lbs and look dynamite going into my 40s.
Wasn’t I just going on about self-love and respecting the body I had?
And that’s how easily that inner destructive voice lures us back down a path we aren’t meant to be on. Be careful. Be mindful. Those thoughts aren’t us.
I recently read a book called, “The Wisdom of Sundays.” It is a compilation of life-changing insights that Oprah Winfrey gathered from conversations with all the hundreds of people she interviewed in her 25 years of having the Oprah Show. To say the book was amazing is to not even touch on the effect it had on me. I commonly will reference books I’ve read throughout my blogs because I believe in passing along knowledge. This book is a must read!
Going back to the reason I brought up the book… on page 42 there is a conversation with a man named Michael Singer. He talks about that inner voice and how we listen to it regularly. “The problem”, he says, “is that we think it’s us… I realized it never shuts up, that it talks about everything, it judges everything, it thinks about everything.” He explains that we are just an observer of that voice. Realizing that inner dialogue was an expression of the psyche, not the soul, was the beginning of his awakening.
This thought stuck with me. We are just observers of this constant rambling of thoughts. They don’t mean anything.
So when I ran home and began my pursuit to change my appearance before I had pictures taken, I was just listening to the inner voice that told me I wasn’t beautiful enough as I am. The judgment of myself.
I had 2.5 months to get in shape – because I didn’t like my shape. My best friend Christine even set up her Slim Wave system in my home (electronic stimulation) to help me hit my goal. And for a while, it seemed to be working. Then I got on the scale one day and it said I had gained weight. I took the sale outside onto the trampoline and did a live video on social media as I discussed the difficulties of conforming to BMI and a number on the scale. Then I smashed the crap out of the scale while jumping around like a school girl.
You bet! One step closer to self-love. After that, I spent not one more minute obsessing over my body. I quit doing the slim wave and I started just examining my intent in doing the photo shoot in the first place.
Intention – The Why Factor
Gary Zukav said, “An intention is the quality of consciousness that you bring to a deed or words. It’s an energy. It’s your motivation that creates consequences.”
So why was I booking a photoshoot to capture my body going into my 40th year? The answer was clear. I wanted to empower myself to strip down to nothing and stand before the camera and own the body that had blossomed over 40 years.
I wanted to let go of inhibitions and fears of ugliness and find my authentic self. Self-love.
So I made an appointment with my hairdresser. I went in with fears. I wanted to cut my hair off.
I told her I wanted to be some highlights in to bring a little summer into my blonde. I did want that, but I also wanted her to cut all my hair off. So when I sat in her chair that week and popped up a picture from google I found, she was more than happy to indulge me. I was scared shitless, but I jumped. The boudoir photos were in 3 weeks and there was no growing it back that quickly. All the boudoir shots I had googled were women with long locks of hair.
But this didn’t feel like me. My sense of beauty was completely different. I had already spent too much time with a hairstyle I loathed. So off it went. And woah – she didn’t hold back. It took a few days for it to grow on me. Will said he loved it. Even my Dad said it fit me and made me look younger. I loved running my fingers through it. It was me.
That inner voice tried to tell me it wasn’t ‘girly’ enough, but I turned off the volume. This was about finding my authentic self. One step closer.
Makeup – Does It Hide or Enhance?
I decided to book a friend of Cynthia’s to do my hair and makeup before the photo shoot. She worked right at the studio and it seemed like a great idea. Truth be told, I’ve always battled with why I wear makeup. Is it to hide my natural skin in shame, or does it make me feel good?
I have two daughters. I’m always telling them how beautiful they are. I tell them their natural beauty will always shine and that they never need to hide that. Then one day my daughter Madelyn holds me accountable for that statement. She wanders into the bathroom while I’m putting on my makeup. She sits up on the counter and says, “Mommy, why do you wear makeup?” I should have taken more time to think before I responded because I walked right into her brilliant mind. I said, “Because it makes me feel pretty.”
She didn’t skip a beat. “But you are pretty without it.”
Well damn. How is one supposed to respond to that? Hmmm… Here I was telling her she didn’t need makeup because she was beautiful just the way I created her, and I couldn’t own that statement for myself. I began to feel shame.
Then at that moment, I grew mindful. What was my intention behind wearing makeup? And my truth was this; I like how makeup makes me feel, just as some people love how yoga makes them feel. I’m not self-deprecating when I don’t wear makeup. I can lay around the house in my comfy clothes and go outside and garden without it. Keep in mind, I don’t wear a lot of makeup. I put on some foundation, blush, and on occasion some eyeliner and mascara. I am no makeup guru. But I like how it makes me feel when I start my day. What’s wrong with that? Squat!
So I turned to my daughter and said exactly that. I also added, “You know how it feels when you get dressed up and twirl around the house? It makes you feel good, right? Wearing makeup for me is no different. I just like it. And when you get older, you can decide for yourself the things that make you feel good.” And that answer brought a smile to her face.
So when I booked to have my makeup done for my photos I thought I wanted soft and subtle. I sort of was going for that look when I was trying on lingerie pieces for my partner. Of course, with every outfit I put on, he grew more excited (literally and figuratively), and said he liked everything. He was clearly no help.
So I stuffed everything in the bag. There were some not so soft and subtle outfits, but I put them all in.
I had a plan – or so I thought. But my plans have a way of getting tossed to the curb.
Boudoir Day – Soft & Subtle?
The big day had arrived and I was so excited! When I arrived, I hauled my bag into the studio and was whisked away to the makeup chair. One lady (Alice) was doing my makeup, while another lady worked on my hair. I proudly mentioned cutting it all off three weeks ago, and she did what I expected her to. She asked why - in this voice that said she would never do that. I didn’t hesitate when I answered her. “Because it’s me.”
So away they worked. I have to admit I wasn’t so sure I was going to come out looking radiant. Subtle and soft quickly flew out the window. (Insert picture of me with scary makeup done) The stylist almost seemed as though she wasn’t sure what to do with my short hair. So she started teasing it for somebody. What happened next surprised even me. I looked in the mirror and saw my hair sticking straight up in the middle and I was like, Wow… can we leave it like that?
Then my partner walked into the studio and his face said it all.
He was standing there smiling from ear to ear. It was me.
But alas, I said nothing as she worked it back down into this ‘professional, mature’ look I wore it daily.
Alice was starting to convince me that subtle wasn’t my shtick. (I feel like anyone who knows me would insert laugh here). She put fake lashes on me (at my request, because I always wanted them) and she did grey tones with gold on my eyes to make them look smoky. When they were all done, they stood back to let me admire the reflection. I loved my makeup! It was dynamic and bold – ME, but never like I had seen me before.
But I hated my hair. Even short, I felt like the faux hawk look at the in-between stages was what I wanted. Normally I would have just been quiet. But not today folks. So with even slight hesitation still, I opened my mouth and asked her if she would start all over and restyle it. With a chuckle, my partner began changing for his section of the shoot (I asked him to be a part of it with me for fun). And the final transformation happened.
When I stood up, the new me, I felt powerful. The woman staring back at me was a goddess. She was strong. I could have roared at that moment. Damn, I was hot. Then I skipped over to the pile of outfits I had thrown out. I grabbed a black, zipper short dress and was holding it up, when Cynthia declared, “Put that on. Now.”
I changed in the bathroom. That was also the last time I changed in the bathroom. When I strolled out into the studio, all picture snapping ceased. Cynthia turned to stare, and my partner, well… his mouth dropped to the floor. I looked in the full-length mirror. Shazam!
The plan for this photo shoot just went off the rails.
I spent the next three hours between sexy outfits, prancing around naked (completely naked), and letting go of any inhibitions I ever had about my body. Truthfully. Ladies, if you want a life-changing experience, get naked with a photographer and let it all hang out.
Be real. Be authentic. Forgive yourself for disrespecting your body over the years. Worship your spirit and fly. Something in me changed forever. A heaviness lifted from me.
I have chosen to be bold and display some (not all), of my photos because I want you to see how fierce and powerful I was that day. That’s the new me. With or without the makeup and lingerie, I am beautiful. But permitting myself to capture that part of me… that was an altering choice of acceptance and self-love.