The growing trend of self-made photographers escalates and more people than ever are becoming self-proclaimed models, and naturally I began to wonder what it must feel like to be photographed professionally. I never got senior photos in high school. Lucky for me, I work at a creative agency that produces really amazing content daily, and Holly Colvin asked if I would take part in a photoshoot for the cover of a book about self-care that is being proposed by one of their major clients. I agreed immediately.
Some irony can be found in how easily I agreed considering that a few years ago I would have never ever ever been able to stand in front of anyone showing this much skin. I could barely convince myself to wear a tank top because my arms have stretch marks from me grabbing at them so tightly growing up, wishing I could simply pull the fat away to reveal a slender, angular arm. My boobs have stretch marks that showed up when I was 13 and obese. My belly, my thighs, my back. All stretch marked. All showing signs of growth, struggle, and a back and forth relationship with food and myself.
The extent of my relationship with myself is still unknown to me, and is something that I am striving every day to sort out and understand, and a part of me thinks I will have to write my own book in order to finally put it all down and away so that I can have a day without my self-doubt and self-criticism nagging at me.
Since it's 2016 and absolutely everything that can be imagined comes with a definition, I found out recently that for over 10 years not only was I battling an eating disorder, but I also developed chronic body dysmorphic disorder. In fact, I fed this disorder for so long that it grew big and strong and almost killed me in 2012. Due to the circumstances of my upbringing I have forgiven myself for the damage done, and I know now why it all happened and where the negativity came from.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder, or BDD is when you are so focused on the idea that you do not look okay that you simply can not relax. You have this ongoing objective criticism filter turned on, and it ruins every moment, everywhere.
According to Google: "The flaw may be minor or imagined. But the person may spend hours a day trying to fix it. The person may try many cosmetic procedures or exercise to excess. People with this disorder may frequently examine their appearance in a mirror, constantly compare their appearance with that of others, and avoid social situations or photos. Treatment may include counseling and antidepressant medication."
Counseling helped alleviate some of it and make it real by talking about it. Antidepressants made me feel like a walking pile of goo. This is no sob story. This is me, taking ownership of my flaws.
It's all WAY easier said than done. Everywhere I look I see the idea of self-love proclaimed. Social media does a good job of making it all so simple, when in reality we have been raised by a culture so deeply tied to an image of ourselves. There is a general notion of always having to be more, to do more, to achieve more. This notion is empty and useless because it is built on the idea that we are not enough.
I have learned that when you declare "I AM ENOUGH. I AM MORE THAN ENOUGH. I HAVE SURVIVED AND CONQUERED EVERY OBSTACLE IN MY WAY SO FAR AND I'M NOT STOPPING. I AM BEAUTIFUL AND I HAVE THE ABILITY TO MAKE OTHERS SMILE. I AM A VESSEL OF LIGHT AND THAT ALONE IS WORTHY OF BEING MY PURPOSE", only THEN can you begin to do more, be more, achieve more. What is light? What does that mean? Light is freedom. It's a true and utter miracle that can wash over people, places, situations, memories, etc. To me, God is this light.
When I accept the truth I am liberated from the ~ BDD ~ and the mental habit of self-criticism and I can't help but feel eternally fucking grateful for the skin I am in, the rolls, the marks, the bumps, the crooked teeth, the blackheads, the countless times I hunched over the toilet (upwards of 5 times a day for years), the times I sat in my room pinching and clutching at myself wishing I could just be like the girls I saw at school with the flat bellies and perfect outfits, the pages in my diary growing up with only the word "FAT" written over and over until I forced myself to sleep in order to escape.
Every day I am healing from the ways which I mistreated my body for far too long.
It's not easy. It's not always possible to remember that I'm beautiful because beauty is all over the place these days. It's not always possible to want to be around others when my brain won't stop telling me I am a useless addition to this world.
Growing up around abuse and emotional stress, I turned against myself so that I would not be angry at those who hurt me as a child because I can't imagine hurting anyone, which opens up the question: why is it so easy to be cruel to oneself?
I am no longer sustaining that cruelty. It's been 4 years since I lost my dad and every year I realize I am stronger, kinder, more patient, more open, more understanding of the fragility of life and the temporary nature of all things. My organs will rot in the ground one day and I might as well be nice to them while they are healthy.
Everything changes when I remember that I have fellow humans who have missing limbs, diseases that require daily attention, body dysphoria with transgender individuals who battle not only self-hate but hate from others who choose not to accept their reality, those who are blind or deaf, those who simply have not been raised to have love and understanding in their hearts, those who hurt others for personal gain. However, none of this changes my reality in the end. We all have a story, not one less important than the other.
In this image based world culture we are brought up to be vain while our egos rage rampant, ruining gratitude and awareness of what is important.
My skin holds my memories, my hopes, my love and care, my talents, my character, my truth.
I will be kind.