Disclaimer: I’m not gonna write this like an academic article with great paragraphing and points that flow smoothly from one to the other. This is a way to process my brain stuff from the last couple of months to figure my shit out, but I think it’ll still be a good read and hopefully help other people deal with some shit too. So, if you don’t like stream of consciousness stuff and random paragraphs, *shrugs*.
A few weeks ago I had a photoshoot in a forest beside the river with my friend, photographer and fricking inspirational goddess, Dalyce Wilson (here and here). I only met Dalyce in March of this year. I think I desperately needed someone who understood that I wasn’t getting over my broken heart, and we bonded over the sadness while laughing through the ridiculousness of it all. Do you ever meet someone and like, ten minutes into your first conversation with them you’re just thinking, this is going to be an Important Person? Dalyce is one of those people. I just instantly felt so comfortable with her, like I could say anything and it wouldn’t be judged, but that I’d find some sort of answer or solace or understanding through talking to her. She left last week for Thailand on a one way ticket, and I never said goodbye to her even though I meant to. It was my typical anxiety-ridden, talk about doing stuff then drop off the face of the earth thing that I do quite a lot. I’m pretty sure she’ll understand, and also that she was probably too busy getting ready to worry about it too much. I’m also pretty sure that I’ll see her again some day and we can just pick up where we left off.
Anyway. We’d talked about doing a photoshoot for ages, because we were both craving some sort of creative collaboration. I had all these ideas and visions, but when it came to the day all creativity seemed to have left me with my confidence and self-assurance (which have been in hiding for a little while), but I felt like I was in good hands with Dalyce. Also, it’s really fucking weird getting your photo taken in your underwear by an actual person when you’re used to just propping your iPhone up and taking selfies in your room. Not weird in a scary way. Dalyce wouldn’t make you feel like that. But it’s easier to do dumb poses by yourself than to try and do them in front of someone else and act like that’s totally normal. Dalyce was good at directing me though, and once I warmed up it felt pretty good. I didn’t even try to hide when families and cyclists were passing by.
I felt so energised and inspired after the shoot, which is kind of a normal feeling after being with Dalyce cuz she just exudes that woman magic – I hate myself for saying that but it’s the best way I can describe it. I was more motivated and felt slightly more equipped to keep pushing through the shit that is being unemployed and trying to become self-employed and being 26 and living with my mother and feeling like a lost 16 year old and losing all confidence in myself and trying to ignore the dark, negative thoughts I thought I’d pushed away forever years ago and trying to remember how to deal with hating my body when I only just learnt how to love it and feeling sort of worthless and pointless and pathetic but not wanting to give up. It’s kind of embarrassing to admit stuff like that when you’ve created this online presence and preach about body positivity and believe so strongly in the message that all bodies are good and beautiful and normal, but then one day look at your own and suddenly it’s changed and this time you don’t know how to accept it and be positive and love it. I’ve been looking at my body lately and the immediate thoughts I have are so negative and destructive and just SAD. I haven’t felt this way in such a long time. I got used to being pretty happy, and confident, and self-assured and really believing in myself. I got used to looking at myself and loving what I saw, and not giving a shit what people thought or said about me. I guess I kind of forgot that I’m still just a human. Things change. And especially when you’ve already dealt with the good old depression, and “got over it”, you feel like you’re cured somehow and that you couldn’t ever possibly feel bad again. It super sucks, but that is just not how life works. Mental health is a journey in itself. It isn’t something that stays one way forever. And sometimes a bunch of stuff happens all at once, so it makes everything seem so much worse and harder to deal with. But hey, I’m still here and I’m pretty sure I’m doing the best I can, which is all we can ever ask for.
So, a couple of days after the shoot, I got the photos from Dalyce. I was so excited to see them and the first couple I looked through I loved. Then I started seeing things I didn’t like. Things I wanted to change. I should’ve stood differently. Angled myself that way, sucked that in, hidden this, worn something else. I noticed how much weight I’d gained and all I could think was that it was bad, shameful, disgusting. But then I saw this photo:
I know it doesn’t show an awful lot of me or my body, but, it also kind of does show a lot of me. I saw a bunch of little things all at once that would have made me sad the day before. Seeing it did make me cry, but it was happy cry. It was relief, and love, and release. I saw stretch marks, hairy arms, scars, fat that wasn’t there a couple of months ago and fat that has always been there. I saw some breast tissue falling out of my bra which as a bra fitter makes me cringe but as a human, I can accept it and see past it. I also really fucking love my tornado tattoo and what it means to me. And this is just such a beautiful photo. I looked through the rest of the photos and still picked out the things I didn’t like. About myself. The photos are so gorgeous, because Dalyce is super talented and sees beauty in so much. But no, the photos are also gorgeous because I’m in them. I had to keep reminding myself that when I was standing in the middle of those trees where anyone could pass by, I wasn’t thinking about my fat or stretch marks or boobs or anything else. I was barely even conscious of my body or how I looked. I was just having a really good time with my friend. It was peaceful and relaxing and so badly needed. I want to share a load of the photos from that shoot, because I really do love most of them. But even though there are ones I don’t like as much, and in most of them can pick out things that bother me, I’m going to write something I love about myself in each one. I’d highly recommend everyone do something like this for themselves with their own photos.
I like how in the first photo, I’m making the exact same face my great-grandmother is making in a photo I only recently saw of her. I like how dark my hair is, and how my skin looks in this light.
I have terrible posture from years of trying to hide my body, but that’s part of who I am now. I’ve put on weight and my belly is bigger, but that’s one of the most human things to happen and if I was looking at a photo of anybody else with this body, I wouldn’t see anything bad. I like my hands, and the side profile of my nose which I have never liked before.
My lips have a natural pout, which friends have made fun of but it looks pretty good. They are such a nice shape. I have a great smile, and even when I’m taking the piss it still makes for a pretty good photo.
I have a great pair of legs. They work, and they keep going even though I’ve had trouble with my knees for over ten years. They respond to different types of exercise, and heal and get stronger.
My freckles are really pretty and my eyes are amazing.
My face is good and kind and interesting.
I love my cheekbones and my dark eyes. My eyelashes always seem to stand out and my hair is shiny even if I haven’t just washed it.
My back rolls are cute, and so are my front rolls. My face is super cute too, and I know it makes people happy when they see it.
I’m just a person. It’s impossible to love myself all the time, but when I’m not feeling it the best I can do is to not say negative things about myself and try to remember what is good about me. Body positivity, just like life, is a journey. There are setbacks, and obstacles, and bumps in the road. But it’s how we deal with these things and what we learn from them and the kind of person we become through this that is important. And if we really can’t see how beautiful we are, sometimes it’s good to remember that we aren’t our faces and our bodies. We are people with unique and interesting qualities.
I’m kind, caring, passionate, intelligent, ambitious, introverted, funny, anxious, loyal, hardworking, warm, friendly, curious… I’m so much more than my body. But when I remember how to love it and be kind to it, it makes life a whole lot easier.
(Bra is Clara by Panache, briefs are by Marks and Spencer, suspender belt is by What Katie Did and stockings are by Charnos)