How I Found Self-Acceptance At An Intimate Photoshoot

I came up with this idea after having what seemed like endless conversations about body image issues with some of my friends. I am not one of those girls who obsess over her body, maybe even to a fault. I sometimes wonder if I should care more that I’m not a size 4, but for some reason I cannot muster up the self-loathing. And not without trying! It’s not like I grew up with people who always showered me with body positivity.

I’ve been told to stop eating cake, to go on diets, to work out more. I’ve been the fat girl in the group – in high school and beyond. I’m the girl who goes out with friends and doesn’t get hit on. Ever. And it’s not like I’m so in love with my body either. I wish my face were symmetrical, that my nose was smaller. I wish my face wasn’t quite so… round. I wish my body was more defined so that my collarbone and shoulder blades were actually visible. I wish my legs would be shapely and that my thighs wouldn’t rub together. I have enough parts of my body that I could work on fixing if I weren’t just so…indifferent towards it. I just feel like there are more important things I want to devote my time and energy to. And I like cake.

So, after hearing enough of skinny people whining about how fat they were I proposed something. If one would be photographed doing something they feel makes them who they are, gives them a sense of fulfillment in some way, naked and without makeup, would the result show evidence of beauty despite the flaws? How do we look when we are not covered in the things that mask our true selves? No clothing to hide stretch marks and cellulite, no eyeliner to wake up our sleepy eyes. Just ourselves, raw in the flesh, in our element.

Naturally, I would be the first, and probably the only one, to take this on. And so I did. One snowy Sunday afternoon, I went to a warehouse with a photographer and stripped down naked to my core. Just she and I, in this huge room under fluorescent lighting. Me, my naked limbs and naked face.

The moment I removed my bra and underwear, I just stood there, nervous but somewhat liberated too. Slavy had me stretch my arms out and relish in the freedom of it and we both laughed.

I did some of my favorite yoga poses, like tree and warrior II. Yoga is one of the few things that center me. It challenges me, mind, body and soul, and at the same time gives me the space to be compassionate to myself. Yoga is liberating in its discipline and it allows me to look within and find the me that sometimes gets lost in the rate race of life. The poses I chose are the ones that make me feel grounded and strong; confident and balanced.

Slavy paused to show me some of the photos she had taken and warned me not to be critical of my body. Nope, I didn’t look like they yogis I follow on Instagram, nor did I expect to, but my mind still immediately went to thoughts of self-judgment. I let them in and then let them go.

We then went to do some sitting poses, of me just being. I wasn’t sure if I liked digressing from doing “the thing that makes me happy” but I went with it. Especially when we switched up the lighting and the vibe turned more intimate. Despite my weary face and bloated PMS belly, I managed to feel pretty good when I did some poses. Some felt coy and alluring, others explicitly sexy. Sometimes, I just felt vulnerable.

When I saw the first photo, I immediately cringed and thought, “Crap, she got me on my bad side.” And then I looked again. And again. And I saw something amazing that I don’t always let myself see.

I saw me.

ME.

And I looked so at peace, even uplifted.

Slavy Photoshoot 2

I saw the me that most other people don’t ever get to see. I saw the me that was the most authentic and true version of me. I saw the me that isn’t afraid to look exactly the way that nature intends. I saw the me that is beautiful, not because my eyes are framed by a perfect set of lashes or my cheekbones are highlighted, but because it reflects the truest form of myself. I saw the me that hurts and laughs. The me that struggles and succeeds. The me that hopes and worries. I saw the little girl I once was and the old woman I one day will be. My face and body reflect the changes of the passing of time, but I will always remain me.

And I feel good about me. I evolve and I grow. I love fiercely and try relentlessly. And I nurture the parts of me that allow me to do those things.

But I’ve also gained a new respect for my body, the cage of my soul. My body is my responsibility, and mine only. It is incumbent upon me to respect it, to nurture it. To love it and care for it. To do what I need to so that it continues to function and harbor that me for as long as possible.

I look at my hands and see the tiny hands I’ve seen in my baby pictures. They are one and the same. I look at my eyes and recognize the hesitant kindergartener, afraid to mess up her lines in the school play. These parts of me, the most intimate details of my body, that only I know the secrets to. They will come with me to my grave. They will wrinkle and grow liver spots. They will sag and slow down, these beautiful parts of me that are me.

I don’t know if the form of self-acceptance I gained is the kind I could explain to anyone who hasn’t experienced it as well, but this is what it was like for me. It was an entity unto itself, almost otherworldly. And I am so incredibly grateful for having had the opportunity.