We all cope differently. Some of us, like myself, lift our heads up to the sky and howl in pain until someone responds. Until others understand the injustice I’ve endured. Though, some, like this lovely lady, like to keep the dirty details private and focus on the big picture. And as an open book, this at first puzzled me. I couldn’t figure out why she wouldn’t just tell me all her struggles right off the bat like the other women but then I realized that not all people cope with their problems like myself. I learned that during this session and I deeply respect this woman and all she has been through. Please remember, sometimes the hurt someone feels is too great to re-live through storytelling, especially with a strange photographer you’ve never met before. Respecting someones privacy is just as important as telling their story and I know that now.
\ PRE-SHOOT ///
How you rate your self-esteem from 1-6?
I’d say a seven.
Why did you want to participate?
I just thought it was a really cool project. I’ve been trying to become more positive about my body, and take ownership of my body.
Are your nervous?
Yes. Pretty nervous. I also just had coffee, so.
What is your biggest fear of doing this?
Being naked in front of other people. I feel like maybe people I know with judge me knowing that I did this. I mean, it shouldn’t matter though.
\ POST SHOOT ///
How did you like the shoot?
I liked it a lot! It was fun.
How is your self-esteem level now?
I would say a nine now!
And what part of the session meant the most to you?
When you made me take off my glasses.
Oh that’s right, you can’t see anything without them correct?
So, you really did fully experience being in your body without judging yourself?
I felt very vulnerable. Peaceful, yet vulnerable.
Tell me about the vulnerability.
It’s hard…not being able to see. I felt more inside my body. I usually only take my glasses off the sleep or shower. Having someone else there, while I was in my vulnerable state. That was scary. You take the sight part out of it, and you feel present in your body. I should hangout naked without my glasses more often.
How did participating in this change how you perceive yourself?
I think a lot of the back and forth, telling me how to pose. I wonder what it looks like….I trust you…but having someone I’ve never met before telling me they love my body was a positive experience. Seeing you get excited about shots made me feel very, “Yes!”
What is your definition of beauty?
Beauty can kind of be something you put into the world. Being your true self without altering yourself for someone else’s perception of you.
Are you a feminist, if so why?
Yes! Why? Why wouldn’t I be?! When someone says, “I’m not a feminist but I believe in equality”….I’m just like, “You are a feminist…that’s what feminism is!” There is still a wage gap; misogyny is something I deal with on a daily basis.
At work, people will ask me questions, but if people ask me and a man is nearby they’ll go over and ask him as well. They won’t believe me.
How else has your life as a woman been affected by sexism?
There’s tons of examples. One thing that happens a lot, I’ll offer to help people load up their car. But people will go, “Oh no, let’s find a man” and I have pretty strong arms, so I can lift anything that the man they find can.
Let’s talk about benign sexism. People typically tell women that we should “just get used to it” or that “it’s the way it is”.
Yeah, like they say it’s “meant well” but not really…
Because they don’t understand.
And they don’t want to.
What is your favorite body part?
I have a love hate relationship with my arms. I have a lot of muscle in my arms but there is fat too. I like that they are strong. I’ll never have those thin arms that fit into a skin tight shirt.
Have you ever faced discrimination based on your body type?
Oh yeah. I was talking to this girl one day at work, she was talking about how there was this girl wearing skin tight jeans but “shouldn’t be” according to her. She said, “She looks like vacuum packed sausage in them. YOU know that YOU shouldn’t wear jeans like that…so you don’t.” The next day I put a pair on.
What instances of family critiquing your body have you encountered?
My sister wants to have this weight loss competition. She’s lost a lot of weight, and she’ll stand next to me and grab her belly saying she needs to work on her belly. I weigh sixty pounds more than her, and it makes me feel like shit.
Why does it make you feel that way?
I look at her and I wish I looked more like that. And then her criticizing her body, makes me look at mine in a horrible way.
A lot of people try to change themselves to become what they think other people want them to be.
Yes. You should only want to be, what you want to be. No one else should, key word should, want to weigh in on that decision.
I noticed you have some self-harm scars around your wrists, can you tell me what caused that?
It was my only coping mechanism, obviously not a healthy one. I couldn’t feel anything, I had become numb. I used it as a way to feel alive.
How do you feel about it now?
I wish they weren’t there, but at the same time I know I got through it and I’m still here.
Advice for those going through depression and possible self harm?
Find a creative outlet. Sounds easy, but isn’t really. Because there are some scars that are so deep I blacked out. It’s VERY easy to accidentally kill yourself. Even if you don’t mean to.
What do you do in general to increase your body positivity or what do you plan to do after this shoot?
Try not to judge myself so much, I’ve been trying.
What makes that hard for you?
Self-consciousness. One thing, I have been loosing a lot of weight. Before I started loosing weight my bf said I was beautiful and didn’t need to change. Six months later he’s telling me I’m so hot. It hurts my feelings because I think, “Was I perfect before or were you lying to me”?
Do you have any last words for the readers?
Just care about yourself. You’re the most important person for yourself at the end of the day. People don’t love themselves enough.