This photo, in its unedited version, is a celebration of the life I am living.
Body Image. These two words flood my mind with thoughts, ideas and questions like, Why is it so easy to pick out our flaws and so difficult to see our beauty?
To prepare for the first PeaceFull Living photo shoot, my photographer Jamie Herrera, asked me to create a vision board that would become our roadmap for the look, feel, and design of the PeaceFull Living brand. My vision included beautiful photographs that felt soft, light and peaceful. The pictures we took would set the tone for the website, a digital gathering space where I hoped visitors would feel both welcome and relaxed.
To build my vision board, I scrolled through hundreds of photos on Pinterest and started to pin picture after picture of perfect models with perfectly posed bodies. With each photo pinned, I began to feel more connected to my vision. When the board was complete, my excitement faltered. My critical eye began to compare what I saw in the images to how I felt about myself. The more I looked, the less confident I became. I no longer saw the beauty or the possibility because I could only see my flaws.
With some trepidation, I sent my vision board to Jamie. I described to her that I wasn’t trying to replicate the poses in each picture or the way the models looked. Instead, I was hoping to convey the feelings I got when I looked at my vision board – peace from the softness and beauty in each photograph and beauty from the way light brought each picture to life. My hope was that the pictures we took could inspire feelings of peace and beauty in the people who saw them.
Preparing for the Shoot
Jamie thought of every detail, which made the planning process fun for me. She asked about props, location, wardrobe, make-up and hair. I experiemented with different hairstyles, took a make-up lesson, put together outfits and thought about where I would want the photos to be taken. When the day of the photo shoot finally arrived, I felt prepared and my confidence had returned. Feeling good in my body again, my critical mind was at rest. Following Jamie’s lead, we took hundreds of pictures outdoors first then in my home studio a few days later. Jamie’s guidance helped me feel both beautiful and and at peace.
Choosing the Perfect Pictures
When Jamie sent me the galleries of all of the photos, I was excited and nervous. I also wasn’t prepared for how emotional it would be to choose pictures of myself. My purpose was to connect with people from a place of authenticity. The creative process had made me feel vulnerable, which led to uncertainty, which led to negative self talk. Once again I could only pick out my flaws, so I asked Jamie for help.
The two of us sat in front of Jamie’s giant computer screen in her home office. We combed through each photograph, putting them into three categories “no,” “like,” and “love.” When we came across this picture, my first thought was “I look fat in this picture.” Jamie had chosen it as one of her favorites. I told her that I loved everything about the picture, except my tummy looked fat. Jamie said she didn’t see it that way at all. Feeling my uncertainty, she kindly offered to photoshop the picture and flatten my tummy.
Time for a Pep Talk
My first feeling was that photoshop was inauthentic, the complete opposite of what I wanted to represent. Over the next few days, as I spent time in reflection, prayer and meditation, I became even more certain that changing the picture was not the answer.
Choosing to keep the picture took courage. It required a serious pep talk to get rid of my negative self talk. Here’s the thing, my body is a reflection of the daily investment I make in my well-being. I am 46 years old; I was an active little girl and teenager. My relationship with food has always been quite healthy, and I have stayed fit by doing things I love. When I was younger, gymnastics and cheerleading kept me me fit. As an adult, daily walks with my dog and practicing Pilates and Yoga keep my mind clear and my body strong. After three pregnancies, all in my 20s, I was blessed with two amazing sons and one angel baby. My tummy created precious life, and having a small pooch there is NO BIG DEAL!!!
The Other Side of Criticism
On the other side of criticism, I found self acceptance. Here’s the thing, as vulnerable as I feel sharing this photo, I also feel proud. In today’s digital world, it is so easy to alter images and create a false sense of beauty. I want to inspire each of us to share the authentic beauty that lives deep within our hearts. It is this beauty that will lead us to peace, joy, and love. So, regardless of how perfect photoshop could have made it, I now think this photo it is pretty perfect just the way it is.