I received an email this morning that stopped me in my tracks. Reading it, I immediately started bawling. For those of you that know me, you know I’m not a crier or openly vulnerable person. This woman’s complete honesty and vulnerability brought me directly back to my chubby, unpopular 12-year-old self that was teased relentlessly for years. It brought me to a place where I remember why I am a photographer in the first place. It is to see the beauty in you. It is to capture it through my lens. It is to show you how beautiful you already are.
“I have felt guilt and shame throughout my childhood for being beautiful, and as an adult I decided to just be ugly; because it made me feel better about myself. Over the last few years I’ve let myself “come out of the closet” and choose to be me, and it’s been so terrifying much of the time! But being part of this photography project with you would feel like a public embracing and accepting of myself as the woman I am: me! I am beautiful! But it’s my soul finally free to shine that is my true expressing of beauty, and I’m so happy when I let that pour out of me! I’m deeply inspired by the journey you’re on, and would love to connect with you on this project.”
As a woman who has struggled with accepting herself, her true self for her entire life I am in a constant state of growth. I am learning daily how to forgive not only those that I allowed to destroy my own self value but, also forgive myself for allowing it to happen in the first place.
Forgiveness is not an easy path. Over the years I’ve found myself stalking their social media profiles and hating them and their successes in life. I know, it is terrible. Here I am, 39 years old and I can still feel those wounds and times in my life like they were yesterday. I don’t allow myself to go down that rabbit hole any longer. The only person that hurts, is me. The difference between then and now is that I honor how my younger self felt in those moments of what seemed like sheer terror. I hug her. I peer into the mirror, through my eyes and see the lost little girl and tell her that she is beautiful. That she is valued and loved. I honor those moments by finding the light in every single woman who I meet. When I photograph you, I can see everything you don’t like about yourself. I can see everything that you love. No one is “crazy” for feeling their nose is too long or their hips are too wide or their frame is too small. We all have imperfections, they are what make us beautiful. And now, instead of stalking those profiles and hoping they have found some sort of karmic retribution, now I hope they have found some way of filling the void that they held as children. That terrible loneliness that caused them to be so cruel. Some days it is hard to wish them only the best in life, to wish them happiness and a life filled with love. That challenge is my own but in learning to forgive them, I am learning to forgive myself.
This woman’s simple email brought everything right back around for me. Having guilt and shame wrapped around embracing your own self is so incredibly painful and it is terrifying and I am blown away and honored that they would choose me and my services to help them to reclaim that for them. Thank you. Thank you for your honesty. Thank you for your vulnerability. Thank you for reminding me that we all deserve to value ourSEVLES. I look forward to photographing you.