Wednesday, April 18, 2012

This is the Point

As I entered my second week of shoots for this project, I got some disappointing feedback. A somewhat large number of people have backed out of getting their photos taken or have simply not replied. I have had multiple people tell me that they decided they do not want to do it because they really don't like their pictures taken and do not feel they will look good. This makes me sad and also makes me realize even more why I want to be doing this. The fact that so many people feel this badly about themselves is horrible. I've also been very surprised by some of the response. I have asked a couple of people if they would get their picture taken who have either laughed or gotten defensive and started talking about how horrible they look. I even had a person agree to it, but immediately say, "But if it looks horrible, just throw it out. You don't have to use my picture since I look bad in photos." To every one of these people, I said, "That is exactly why i'm doing this" and "That is the whole point of this project." I don't want anyone to feel that way anymore. More importantly, I don't want girls to grow up with these same insecurities.

I'm going to be honest. These responses were a big disappointment. I was so happy when people were excited at the beginning and many different women were eager to join in with photos. Now, I have 30+ slots that aren't being filled. On the other side of it, the women and girls that I have photographed so far have been amazing. They have been different ages, shapes, and sizes. Some have been completely comfortable in front of the camera, while others are not. A few said they don't like to get their picture taken and do not think they look good, but felt this was such an important project, they wanted to do it anyway. That is the attitude I wish everyone had.

I, myself, have always hated being in front of the camera. As I've shared, my self-esteem has been horrible in the past. I critique every picture of myself and even the ones that I like one day, I may hate the next. I have stopped feeling this way. I am even investing in my own head shots next week. Something happened as I started this project. I started to see myself differently and feel better about myself. I think it was a combination of sharing all of my struggles as well as hearing other people's stories. It made me realize that we are all struggling with this same issue, just in different ways (or the exact same way). I always had this belief that people who I saw as beautiful knew that they were. I now know that those same people also look at themselves in negative ways. I also started to realize, who is anyone to say what is beautiful and what is ugly? How did we get here to believe that the word beautiful only applies to certain criteria?

Why do we have to be a certain weight/size/shape to be beautiful? Why do we beat ourselves up if we don't fit the "perfect body type"? There is no perfect body type. Everyone is different. I've said it before and I'll say it again. One size and shape on one person may be totally wrong for another person.

I do have to say that part of the reason I feel better is due to my weight loss over the past few months. However, it is not about the weight. It is about feeling healthy and strong again. I felt out of shape and low energy for too long. When I feel healthy, strong, and energetic, I feel happy. I also feel happy because I do what I love, avoid negativity, enjoy the little things in life, and consciously make an effort to stay positive about everything. As I've said before, this isn't necessarily easy. But, I'd rather work hard and be happy than not work at it and be unhappy.

I am hoping that I can change people's minds and gather more people who see this project for what it is and realize that these photos will help them as well as others.

Now, because I always do, I'll finish with a quote.

“You are what you believe yourself to be.”―Paulo Coelho

Believe you are beautiful, believe you are worth it, believe you are strong, believe you can do anything you set your mind to. You will then be on your way to total happiness.

You are all beautiful inside and out,

Monday, April 9, 2012


Today was the first round of photos and it was great. It was pretty windy but we managed to find a spot that wasn’t too bad. Everyone who was photographed today had fun with it. They came looking how they do on any regular day that I see them, which is what I want. They embraced the point of this campaign and I’m looking forward to the next round on Saturday. Here is a sneak peek of what will be happening. The full pictures will not be relieved until the photo show on the first weekend in June. 

While talking about this campaign yesterday, I had a conversation about teasing. We talked about the effects teasing has on people and how it can be carried with a person their whole lives. It made me think of another conversation I had the other day.

I was talking with a friend about this project. My friend asked if I was teased at all.  I mentioned in another post that I was not made fun of for my weight. However, I was teased in fifth and sixth grade because I hit puberty early and had pretty bad breakouts on my face. I remember being horribly embarrassed about it and a few of the boys who we hung out with and who were in my class were relentless about pointing it out and calling me names. Looking back, I don’t blame them. Kids are kids. They don’t realize how much words hurt which is why we need to teach this to them. At the time, I just hated myself more. A few years later, in eighth grade, I was in all of my classes with one of those boys. We sat next to each other in computer class and became good friends. One day, he just suddenly said to me that he was sorry for how he treated me in elementary school. It meant a lot to have him acknowledge it. It’s funny how I forget this teasing and the apology when it certainly had an impact. Maybe I blocked it out a bit.

I always thought my negative feelings about my appearance were just about weight. But they weren’t. I think my weight was the thing I could control so I focused on it. I couldn’t control my bad skin and I couldn’t control (or didn’t know how to) the feelings I had of never being good enough.

This makes me think of teasing in general. We know there is a large problem with teasing and bullying. Kids do not understand what teasing really does to another person. It is our job as adults to teach them, earlier rather than later. 

Sometimes I even listen to adults saying horrible things to others and even in front of children. People do not realize how much children absorb and how they pick up on everything. We need to stop teaching negativity to children and instead, teach them to be kind, understanding, and respectful. People also do not realize that everything you say to a child gets placed in what I like to think of as a small folder in their brain. Every time you make a comment about someone’s appearance or use words such as “fat”, “skinny”, “ugly”, they hold onto this. They begin to look at people and notice these things. The same goes for when we’re joking around. We may say something that we mean to be funny, but the child doesn’t get that.

I continue to have people contact me who are sharing their own stories. Some say their story is just like mine while others had different experiences. Some of the people are women I have known for a while and never realized they struggle with these issues. It goes to show that even people we think are confident are not and it also shows just how many people feel the same way. As I read each one, I think, “This is exactly why I wanted to do this project”. I want to take beautiful pictures of every girl and woman involved and have them believe that they really are amazing and beautiful people.

I’ll finish with this quote today.

"Do what makes you happy
Be with who makes you smile
Laugh as much as you breathe
Love as long as you live"

I truly believe doing what you love and makes you happy has a huge impact on how you feel about yourself and your life. I also believe that surrounding yourself with positive, kind, and fun people is extremely important. If you don’t hysterically laugh at least once a day, you need to find people that will make you do so. Don’t let any friends, significant others, family, coworkers, or anyone make you feel bad. The people around you should lift you up, not bring you down. If they do, ignore them or remove them from your life. Lastly, LOVE. Love your friends, love your family, love the little things such as the feeling of the sun on your face or the sight of a small child playing.  Most importantly, LOVE YOURSELF.

You are all beautiful inside and out,

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


I am inspired more and more each day by talking to people who are joining this cause. I actually had one person say to me that she wanted her child to be part of it because she felt that her daughter really needs it. She said, “So, it’s a selfish reason to want her involved.” I told her I do not want her to think or say that. That is exactly what I want. It should be “selfish” reasons for getting involved. By that, I mean I want people to do it so they can help others and/or so they can help themselves. I am starting this so that it helps and reaches people at critical times like when young girls are starting to have doubts about themselves and struggling with the way they feel.  I want it to also reach teens and adults who are already in the middle of dealing with these issues. Lastly, I want people to feel as happy with their lives and with themselves as I do in regards to abilities, personality, and appearance (well, as I’ve said, still working on this one, but I’m pretty close to total happiness). I had severe depression in high school and again as an adult. This was partly due to me keeping things in and never telling anyone the pain I was going through. 

I realized something today. For about the 10th time since this started, I had someone say that the story I had just told her about my own self-esteem issues sounded like I was telling her story. This goes to show that many people go through similar situations and difficulties; we just don’t all talk about it. Sharing your own stories with people is so important. I kept things bottled up for a long time. I felt heavy inside. I felt that if I shared things, it would be a burden to others and it would make it all too real.

Now, I share everything and I mean, everything. I don’t walking around telling people my business, but when talking to friends or people in the community, I have no problem speaking about anything I’ve gone through in my life. If I had done this when I was not happy, it may have come off in a negative light. The negative energy and feelings I had may have reflected in the way I did it to sound more like complaining. Now, however, I talk about everything very matter of fact. I have even asked people if I ever seem like I’m complaining or upset about the things I talk about. They all say no. They say I talk about anything and that they do really believe that it does not affect me and is not a big deal. Once you start sharing things with others and getting out, you are lifting some of that heaviness out of your body. If you have pinpointed your insecurities and angers and worked on knowing where they come from and moving on, then you can speak about them with ease.  

I want to give everyone a challenge. Start sharing with those close to you. We all have things we have kept quiet about, even with those who are our closest friends and family. It could be an eating disorder, feelings about our physical appearance or our abilities, or things that happened in our past that we are ashamed or angry about. I challenge you to start share at least one thing. Find a person in your life that you fully trust and respect and share. When you speak about something, own it. Try your best to let go of any shame or fear surrounding that time in your life. Know that it was one of the steps that made you who you are today. The past is the past. There is no reason to be ashamed of it. 

You will be amazed at how you start to feel lighter and free. In addition to feeling this way, you will be starting to acknowledge these feelings and work through them. Of course, the person you share with is not a professional, so if it is something that requires that, I highly recommend you find someone to talk to, whether it's your doctor or other health professional. But starting with this person who is close to you will get things started. Here are a few resources that may be helpful for anyone struggling with eating disorders, anxiety and depression, and/or drugs. 

National Eating Disorder Association
Local help:
Cambridge Eating Disorder Center
Massachusetts General Hospital has a list here of many places for eating disorders, anxiety, and assistance
Charlestown Substance Abuse Coalition

I would love to hear from any of you that do start sharing and how it makes you feel. I have even noticed since this project started that I feel “lighter”. I mentioned to a close friend today and she agreed. She told me that she definitely sees and feels it from me. I’m finally starting to let go (at 32 years old) of the negative feelings I have about my appearance and I’ve never felt more alive. I want everyone to feel this way. I want to make it so that young girls do not go until they are in their 30s to feel it. I want each person involved in this to be proud of herself, believe in herself and love herself.

I’ll leave you with this quote.

BE CONFIDENT. Too many days are wasted comparing ourselves to others and wishing to be something we aren’t. Everybody has their own strengths and weaknesses, and it is only when you accept everything you are –and aren’t –that you will truly succeed.

You are all beautiful and strong,