I look at my body sometimes and imagine myself thinner. I imagine my stretch marks disappearing, my stomach flattening out, and my tiny perky boobs coming back. Essentially, I envision myself as someone I’m not, nor will I be anytime soon. I change myself, to fit a mold that society has created for women. A mold of thin, but not too thin, perky breasted woman with a flat stomach. A mold of a body that exists but hardly ever does on the average everyday woman. A body that is worked hard for, dieted for, exercised for…religiously.
Other times, I look at my body and remember these few things.
#001: I cannot exercise most days, as I have no energy due to my fibromyalgia. My energy is limited, and I chose to use mine to run my business and take care of myself daily.
#002: I am on medication that causes weight gain. Medication that keeps me alive. Medicine that keeps me from being crippled, laid out in bed all day, energy-less.
#003: My stretch marks and my stomach and thighs and face weight are all battle scars from my war with depression and fibromyalgia.
And all of these things make me the person who I am; a person I am proud to be.
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/// BEFORE SHOOT ///
What’s your level of self esteem?
I think I high self esteem now. I like to, you know, think I’m an eight. I feel like I have good self-esteem because self-esteem doesn’t come down to physicality anymore. It depends on your definition of self-esteem. I think if it doesn’t come down to physicality or body image anymore then your self-esteem goes up.
Are you nervous?
I’m a little nervous, I don’t know why? Not nervous to show my body, I could care less. It’s just a different element.
Why did you want to participate?
I don’t think that self-esteem comes down to body image, I think you should appreciate your qualities and your things within yourself without looking in the mirror. I think a majority of people have bad self esteem because we are accustomed to looking in the mirror when we wake up. It’s social norm to have a mirror and worship vanity.
So you live life as if you don’t have a mirror?
I like to, I try to.
/// AFTER SHOOT ///
How is your self-esteem now?
The same. That’s the first time I was naked in front of people outside, I guess I feel better because I haven’t done that. I feel like I can go conquer the streets naked now!
What goes into your self-esteem?
The day I took my makeup off, was the day I felt better. I stopped focusing on that, or if my clothes matched, and focused on what I’m good at. People benefit from who I am, I believe my purpose is to make other people feel worthy of life and feel beautiful. So I have to practice that and believe in myself. Just like you taking your clothes off at the end and shooting with me and the other girls. I hope I can show people you can be beautiful without all that, my hair is in knots. You don’t need all that to be beautiful.
What is your religion?
I would consider myself a theist. I go between polytheism and polentheism.
Describe what those are.
Polytheism is the belief that there is more than one God, but the belief that God is everything. Polentheism is the belief in one higher power, but that God is in everything. It makes science and religion coexist instead of putting them on the opposite side of the spectrum.
Are you a feminist? Why or why not?
No. I think that if all people are equal, we don’t need to talk about it. I think it should just be, I think we should just treat each other this way. You have one extreme on one end, I think feminism is a bit extreme. It almost becomes narcissistic for a gender to feel owed something. We should be fighting the fight to be good people, not fighting a fight for everyone to come together as one for specific groups.
Tell me about the issues you struggle with your self-esteem?
I don’t think my self esteem came from phsyical things. It dropped based off of things that I went through in life. Not feeling worthy of life at one point in time, makes you feel not pretty.
What’s your story?
It wasn’t like I had self-esteem problems from looking at myself. It started with a death. They took their life, it made me feel like I didn’t do enough. I think grief and guilt are what make you feel ugliest. That’s when I started not liking myself internally, I felt like I failed. Like I didn’t save them. When I didn’t feel adequate of being here, I started picking myself apart mentally, physically, emotionally. It’s a domino effect where everything falls down until you’re looking at every little hair in your eyebrow.
What else makes you feel insecure about your body?
I wanna reach out to tall people. I feel like people who are tall, guy or girl. You’re always going to be a bigger size than your 5’4 friend when you’re 6’2.
I feel the same way as a tall person. Like, you’ll always be a size up and criticize yourself on that.
Exactly. Even when you’re super thin! I feel like only tall people will understand.
No, totally. When you wear a size up than your friends, but you’re just as thin, your bone structure has to be taken into account and most times we just think we’re fat.
How was middle school for you?
I tried to find myself, I got really weird and really expressive. I had to make a point to everyone. I think that was a little insecurity.
A way to cover it up?
I was masking myself, I feel like. A little bit.
Where you ever bullied?
No. I was never a bully either. I kind of was friends with everyone, floated.
You mentioned dealing with mental health issues?
It started with my boyfriend’s death, my first love. After that, I got into another long term relationship that was completely toxic. When you feel that low, you feel like you deserve that toxicity. I was with someone who put me down for how I looked, made fun of how skinny I was, and I feel like that’s where my physical insecurities came out. I never saw myself that way until he told me these things. I would even think I was chubby and he’d make fun or me for being thin.
What type of toxic interactions did you have with him?
He was a controlling person. I’m sure a lot of girls will relate to that. He was very good at convincing you that you’re never going to be good enough for anyone else.
How did he do that?
He would say it. To my face.
How long did it take for you to step up to that?
It took three years and by that point I was isolated from friends and family and I had nobody but him and myself.
Would you consider that mentally abusive?
It was emotionally, mentally abusive. Which is the worst kind of abuse because you feel like you’re crazy.
And it’s hard for family members to understand?
Those people are good manipulators so you can’t see it. So I denied it for a long time. I think it’s important to say too, that, when someone tells you they love you and put them down…you’re going to believe that more than a stranger. You’ll believe its the truth because you don’t think they’re lying to you. I don’t think it’s natural to not like yourself.
I just lost my best friend to a mentally abusive relationship.
Yeah, I think a lot of girls go through it. And you won’t see it until you have nothing. It took me losing my best friend and family to see it. You become accustomed, you become comfortable with the abuse. Because you don’t know anything else. It goes for guys too, not just girls. A lot of people don’t speak up, don’t tell their family.
Why didn’t you tell your family how bad it really was?
I was ashamed. I felt ashamed because I picked a person that did that to me.
You’re like, “I have to stick to my guns, hold my name up.”
Right. I felt like I failed again, after my first relationship. That I was the failure.
And how do you feel about that now?
I completely think I was naive. I realize that you can’t save someone else, you have to save yourself. And that’s kind of what this project is about for me. You have to love yourself, so you can be around people who love you too.
I tried to give my little sister advice one day, she was in her first abusive relationship. She looked at me and said, well who are you to talk? Look at your relationship. That’s what woke me up about it. No, she’s not my daughter but I wouldn’t want her to grow up that way. If I had a daughter, I wouldn’t want her to be in that relationship. She felt it was okay to be in that relationship because I was, and I had no room to help her because she thought it was normal. I just thought, I have to get out of this because she needs to see it isn’t supposed to be this way.
I wouldn’t be happy for anyone that was me a year ago.
Any last words for the readers?
I wanna tell everyone to go a week without looking in the mirror. If I could get that to happen that would be awesome. Don’t put makeup on. You’ll be surprised, after seven days, what you feel like. I won’t describe it, because you need to do it. And feel it.