Stripping it all back


heather standing with her back to the camera in a lace bra, white dress shirt and jeans

I'm not quite sure when I got the bright idea that it was time to do something bold but just like any seed of an idea, my mind began to water a thought of self empowerment that sprouted overnight. One that would make me look at myself in a new light and come to a state of neutrality surrounding my body.


Since moving away from everything that was familiar to me I also needed to move away from some toxic and too familiar ideas I had about myself. I had always held onto this idea that I needed to be anything other than what I currently was in order to be: accepted, loved, sexy, beautiful, fit...and sadly the list could continue. I had for too long carried this notion that I was not enough. That this body was not enough. This thinking hurt more than just myself. It hurt my marriage, my friendships, my sex life, my family. See, what I was unconsciously doing was telling other people I wasn't worthy. Which can often lead to others feeling that way about themselves. I would look at food and say "I can't eat that, it's bad" I would skip a workout from being too tired or sore and say it was a "cheat day". Or how about the line "I'm going to need to work this off tomorrow". These words inflict pain and for that I am so sorry. I am sorry to the little girl inside of me that always felt like she would never be as pretty as the other girls.


Over the year of living in NL I can say that I am truly on a journey to loving myself. This isn't the body positivity or body acceptance movement, which was and still is actually centered for Black women's bodies to be celebrates in all forms, but more of a new approach to the way I look and talk to myself.


It was with this in mind that I finally said F**K IT and booked my session with Amy Donovan, a local photographer. This session was about a month and a half away and automatically I started telling myself that I needed to tone up, slim down, eat more salad... shrink myself. This loop of thinking negatively was so routine to me and habitual practices are not easy to break. That said I did make a more conscious effort to workout but I refused for it to be about looking a certain way. I made it about my strength. My hopes for longer, harder hikes, for pushing the boundaries of my disability. The hopes that I could find a way to move my body that wasn't a punishment and instead a celebration. There was no miraculous body transformation instead it was all changing inside.


As I write this I am looking at my photos and I want to cry. I want to cry for that little girl who got picked on. For the little girl who couldn't find clothes long or big enough. For the woman who couldn't find a turtleneck in any store last year that would actually fit over my chest and arms. It was because of all of this that I was worried about what I would wear to my shoot. I ordered a few items online and when they didn't arrive in time I thought maybe I should just cancel. Instead I pushed my shoot time to the afternoon and booked it to the closest La Vie En Rose (who now carries 40DD) to find something, really anything, to wear.


When I got home I tried it all on and stared at myself in the mirror. I shook and spun around to inspect myself. All the stretchmarks, dimples, bruises and scars were no longer hidden, instead they were celebrated, or at least ok. The day of the shoot Amy and the makeup artist Heidi instantly made me feel comfortable. I showed them the outfits and we decided together.


After several poses standing up it was time to lie down... but what about my tummy, well it was still there and wasn't going anywhere. Though some of the poses were a little awkward to maneuver into or stay in, overall I knew I was safe in Amy's hands. She made me feel comforted, relaxed and above all beautiful throughout the whole process.


A few weeks later we met to look through her selection and on the way I had a very deep conversation with myself. I told myself, out loud, that I was going to be kind. That I wasn't going to cut myself up, that I would love my body. That I would respect everything it has done for me. It has survived, it has nourished, it has triumphed, it has endured, it has walked me down the aisle and carried me through sickness. My body deserved to rejoice in all that it was and is currently.


The meeting was wonderful. We chatted of course about the photos and I ultimately chose 10 to keep. But we also talked about ourselves and some of the torment we had endured and the celebration of where we are now.


It took me stripping down in front of a stranger and a camera for me to really see my body and myself as a strong, beautiful, and sexy woman who deserves every joy.

 

If you at all like tik tok you have likely seen the "shave your head videos" where a woman is telling you to just do it. Well the same audio can be said for a boudoir shoot. JUST DO IT. Find a photographer that you feel comfortable with and do it for you. Do it to show yourself how proud you are of your body. That it is enough and more. That you deserve it all.