This! Seriously, THIS is where my heart is.
When I discovered the Beauty Revealed Project, I knew I had to be a part of it. On paper, it is a collection of photographs intended to educate others on the beauty of the postpartum body; in my soul, it is so much more than that. My heart throbbed reading some of the raw, personal, deeply intimate stories these women shared. Tears welled in my eyes over the pain society has inflicted on mothers everywhere. Why have we let the media define “beauty?” Why has it come to the point that ideas like plastic surgery, eating disorders, self mutilation, reclusion, and even suicide have slithered their way into our minds? I for one have had enough! I am doing my part to reeducate the system by sharing these photos and stories for the world to see. I am putting my foot down and declaring that THIS is what beauty is. Mothers who are real. Mothers who are changed. Mothers who are scarred. Mothers who are forever marked for conquering the most beautiful thing of all—creating life. What could possibly be more beautiful than growing, sustaining, and nourishing another life with your own body?
I know that this project has already changed many mothers’ lives. Participation, and even just viewing other mothers’ roles in this, have helped them overcome some of the self-hate they have been feeling. Normally, this is where I would give you a rundown of how, where, and when the photo session took place. However, that is not what I want to do with this particular project. Instead, I am including a few “takeaways” from the ladies who were featured in round one. I want you all to read the account of the Beauty Revealed Project from their perspective and how it has affected them personally. I hope you all can see the same piercing exquisiteness and grace that I see in these women.
“’Finding beauty in everything you see.’ That is the script I had tattooed down my left shoulder. I got it to be an angel on my shoulder telling me to stay positive. When I was faced with negativity, and doubt all I had to do was look down for some reinforcement. Now it means so much more.
When Nancy was shooting the photos for this project I was unsure of what to expect. I stood with Pancake on my hip in my underwear on a public beach feeling very conflicted. I’ll admit it, I am a vain person, but only when it comes to my own body. I find my flaws like flashing neon signs in the mirror. But I am an advocate for loving your body. Feeling beautiful is a very special form of happiness, and everyone should feel it. So, by participating in this project I was hoping to find mine. I expected Cake to get pretty clingy by the time we were done, and right on cue for my turn to be photographed he became attached to my hip. I didn’t mind though, he and his brother play the largest role in the reason my body is now this different kind of beautiful.
I looked up to see Nancy smiling telling me that she was planning on capturing a cute baby bum on top of stretch marks so it was perfect that I had him there on me. Hearing the words “stretch marks” made my heart race, they were the reason I was there doing the photoshoot but I still panicked a little. Cake shifted, and put his small hand on my beating heart. With his eyes never leaving mine he reached in my bra and began his raccoon rummage for my breast, smiling when he found it. I shifted him lower and he latched on like the pro that he is.
With that simple act that has played out several different times a day, everyday for me since my first birth, I was star struck. There was this gorgeous child that I grew within me still finding his nourishment in our bond. I was suddenly floored by the power of my body. Inside my body I had willed life to grow from the love I share with my husband. A love so powerful that it had created a heart and soul of its own. Not once but twice, and if we are being honest, hopefully a few more times too. So what if my body has scars from those transformations. They are only further proof that it happened.
Now mirrors aren’t as scary, still a little bit, but it’s easier to look and find beauty when I can easily see it in my boys.”–D.W.
“The time shooting for BRP was an amazing experience. When asked to write about it, all I wanted to say was how fun it was. Between the laughs exchanged with friends and how empowering it was, it was incredible! Getting the photos back was a great reminder of how strong I am and how brave! Not just to have had the photos taken but to completely disregard what others think when it comes to how I look because there is nothing wrong with our bodies! They work and wonderfully. And after they’d been posted publicly and seeing how many comments of empowerment it encouraged was also completely worth doing this. So many more women coming out to say ‘hey I look like that too!’ and making them feel good about their bodies.”–C.S.
“I almost didn’t participate in the project. Up until the moment I had my pictures done, I was making excuses as to why I should not be there. All of the other ladies who are going are thin. All of the other ladies have no reason not to embrace their bodies. I should just wait until I lose a bit more weight. I do NOT need to be showing off my body. This is going to be humiliating. Maybe the baby will have a melt down, and I can just go home. In the end I realized these thoughts are exactly why this project is so important. Yes, I am big. Yes, my body has flaws. No, that does not mean it is imperfect. My scars, my marks, my curves, they all tell a story. They tell who I am and where I’ve come from. I left this project knowing that we all have our insecurities, and that’s okay. We all have pasts, some we may not be proud of. We all have moments where we wish we could change SOMETHING, even if others think we are perfect just as we are. All of this is fine, it’s natural. We just can’t let it stop us from living and celebrating our lives. I left this project determined to be kinder to myself and to be more mindful of the fact that everyone struggles. I hope others look at what is happening here and come to a similar place.”–K.S.
“I’m not exactly sure where to begin. Participating in the Beauty Revealed Project has made me feel… a million different adjectives. Among them are words like confident, emotional, beloved, beautiful, elegant, appreciated, and honest. That last one is a big one. You see, before the BRP, I had never fully admitted to ANYONE EVER that I struggled with eating disorders and a diet pill addiction for a large portion of my life. With a lot of prayer and self-discipline, I finally overcame it all about 5 years ago, but it was something that had been a part of my life off and on since around 5th grade. I was dying to eventually tell someone the full truth about that part of my life, because I still carry heavy guilt from the lies I had to tell to cover up a life of hiding, sneaking, closed doors, closely-held purses, and constant weight loss. When you’re that form of sick, you’ll do just about anything to camouflage it. Sadly, it’s something I am so sensitive about I had, until recently, never fully disclosed it all to my husband. Not because he wouldn’t understand—he would, or because he would think less of me—he wouldn’t, but because I was embarrassed that I cared that much about how my body looked. I cared enough that I almost died—literally. Even on the verge of death when I decided to stop taking diet pills (for the third and final quit), it wasn’t because I realized what I was doing was wrong, (I did, but that didn’t inspire me enough to stop). The reason I finally quit was because I was scared that if I died, they would find my stash of diet pills and know that I had been lying about having an eating disorder. I. Felt. Pathetic. I decided I HAD to learn how to be healthy, because I couldn’t continue to live like I had been (again, literally). I began eating right and exercising. These actions eventually resulted in a body with a glorious six pack and some rockin’ thighs. I was so proud of myself for overcoming that with which so many people struggle. Then, I got pregnant. I was scared. I had experienced two ectopic pregnancies and three miscarriages before, so there were rational fears. However, there were also irrational fears. I felt those fears of fat creeping back into my mind. I was terrified of the mark pregnancy would leave on me. I just KNEW I was going to end up in a size 20 after giving birth. If you have ever struggled with anorexia, I’m sure you understand. Something happened though. The pregnancy was growing in the right spot, and I was feeling amazing. I ended up gaining 80 pounds with the pregnancy (don’t judge me), but it all melted off within a matter of months after I gave birth to my beautiful, smart, loving, reason to never have an eating disorder again, son. I was left with a body that houses a myriad of stretchmarks, and a fair amount of squish on top of that same six pack, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Those things remind me that my son is more important than any body image issue I have. I said all that to say this: Being a part of the BRP gave me courage to finally let out the ghost of guilt that lingered around haunting me. After reading the other stories and talking with the other ladies, I realized I wasn’t alone. I was able to muster the backbone to share all of the aforementioned confession with one other lady involved in the project. Now here I am today—I’m sharing it with you. This project is like Red Bull without all the crazy chemicals—it gives you wings.”–H.C.
There are many more Beauty Revealed Project sessions to come. Please, if you, or a woman you know, feel like you could gain even an inkling of self-appreciation and love from this, contact me. Even if you’re not ready to participate yourself, you could tag along to watch a session in hopes of gaining the courage to get behind the lens yourself. For more on the Beauty Revealed Project, please visit Daisy Jean Photography on Facebook. You can also find these ladies’ personal stories there. Warning: You may need a tissue for some of them.
Until then, respect yourself, find beauty in yourself, and most importantly, LOVE YOURSELF because you are AMAZING.