As the Beauty Revealed Project reaches its one year anniversary, we proudly reflect on the progress this project has made. Over 30 photographers in 17 states who have reached countless amount of women! It has been increasingly brought to our attention that most of our participants have carried the weight of society’s standards long before they became mothers.So as we have reflected on what we have seen and learned this past year, we have decided to open Beauty Revealed Project sessions to ALL women, not just mothers, to support women from all walks of life as we defy the unrealistic expectations of feminine beauty. We realize that all women need to realize that they are beautiful-before and after bringing a child into the world. Looking towards the second year of the Beauty Revealed Project, we are hoping to grow even more and be able to reach more women than ever before! If you are interested in participating in a Beauty Revealed Project session, here is the link to find a photographer near you! http://www.beautyrevealedproject.com/find-a-photographer/ And if you are a photographer interested in joining the project, please submit your application to us through this link, http://www.beautyrevealedproject.com/become-a-brp-photographer/ We are very excited for these changes coming to the Beauty Revealed Project and we hope you are too!
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.
Looking in the mirror I sigh and turn to look at my butt in the new (to me) shorts I just put on. They are my favorite ones. Bright turquoise and black making them look like they are made of lace, and they are the really cute super high waisted (which I love on my body).
But they are really short.
I mean super-duper short singing “we wear short shorts” kind of short. But they make me feel fun and pretty. I am so torn on wearing them. These are youthful shorts, ones you wear before babies and still are a single entity.But I love them.
But society has taught me that unless I bought them is a size XXS I can’t wear them and pull them off.
BUT I LOVE THEM!
Theo wanders in to ask for my help to put on his shirt and looks at me in my new shorts. “OOOH MAMA! These are cool.” He says fingers playing with the hem line on my thigh. His smiling face looks up and me and I know he only sees beauty.
I ask him, “How do I look?”
“Beautiful.” Is his reply.
So I’ve decided to try and view my body through my child’s eyes. Not society’s. He sees me as strong and beautiful. I didn’t wear the shorts that day but I’ve been learning to put my best effort into finding beauty in my after-babies body.
With this effort I decided to take part of the Beauty Revealed Project. Its a project that was made to highlight and embrace women’s bodies after a pregnancy and birth. It shows the beauty of what our society has labeled as flaws.
Four other mamas and myself stripped down to our undies and embraced our beautiful bodies in front of a camera.
It was scary, surprisingly enthralling, and fun. Our kids played in the sand. We joked and laughed while we took our turns posing in front of the camera wielding goddess Nancy from Daisy Jean Photography.
Here is a sneak peek of my photos and my explanations. (I’m not sharing anyone else’s because I don’t have their permission to do so here. But go like Daisy Jean and see the other photos from this shoot).
I think we can all agree that it is pretty easy to feel bad about your own body. Your clothes don’t fit right, your hair isn’t falling how it is supposed to, your skin is dull, you just don’t feel pretty. I am all too guilty of the self sabotage that goes into feeling bad about my body. What is harder to do is to get yourself to feel like the beautiful person you are.
I really had to dig deep to figure out what is going on in my life when I feel absolutely drop dead sexy. I am pretty lucky in the fact that I actually feel knock-out gorgeous a lot in my life. A lot of that has to do with my wonderful husband who tells me how sexy he thinks I am on a regular basis, but it also has a lot to do with me. I have to allow myself to believe him. I have to allow myself to know that it is not vain to accept a compliment. I have to realize that he does not see my stretch marks as hideous but as just part of who I am now. A person who is a mom and a person he loves despite of and because of those scars.
My body is a map of where my life has been. I used to have a scar (it has since faded) of where I tripped over a lunchbox and cut open my knee. I was maybe 8 years old when this happened. I was not an extremely adventerous child so I was very proud of that scar. If I can be proud of a scar obtained from something so silly as tripping over a lunchbox I should definitely be proud of every single scar I obtained on my way to becoming a mother.
Another thing that makes me feel beautiful is just snuggling up next to my baby. If I allow myself to stop what I’m doing, turn off the world and just enjoy how she still fits perfectly next to my body I feel this incredible surge of positive energy. I see the beautiful shape our curved bodies make and how comfortable we are together. When my husband joins, and makes a mommy sandwich, I feel at total peace. Every part of my body feels beautiful when we are together as a family like this.
Yoga is another thing that helps me to feel good in my body. After a long, hard yoga series I feel so relaxed, strong, tall and beautiful. I don’t exercise as regularly or as often as I (or my physician) would like but, physical activity does make me feel strong and beautiful. I also take the time during any workout to be grateful for what my body can do. I am lucky enough to be able to do nearly anything I want with my body. I would need to train quite a bit if I ever wanted to climb Everest, but I know when my daughter is old enough to play sports or dance or sprint from me in a moment of defiance I can keep up with her.
So these are the things I do to feel good about my body. I realize now they all involve taking the time to be at peace with myself and allow for reflection. It’s not always easy and I am still guilty of feeling like my thighs are too big, my stomach not quite flat enough, and my breasts way too saggy to ever be considered beautiful, but I am more than just a sum of my parts. Those parts simply remind me of where I have been.
So tell me, what do you do to feel good in your body?
We are honored to be able to share with you a brave testimony from a guest blogger. She shares the story of her struggle with Anorexia Nervosa. I am so glad this woman was brave enough to share her story. My young neighbor has been struggling with anorexia for a while now. Since learning more about how she lives with her eating disorder I’ve also learned that there are way too many girls like her out there. It is only through talking about eating disorders and gaining knowledge that we can help people struggling with them. Every person’s struggle with an eating disorder is unique and personal so I will not say anything more in introduction other than once again “thank you” to this brave woman for sharing and joining in the fight to help others.
A few months ago I found myself struggling with a demon that I had not fought since my teen years. My husband had been deployed for a month, and I was watching my world crumble around me. This was our first deployment; our once unshakable marriage had been rocked to the core. I felt depression slowly creep over me as the days passed. Balancing full-time school, various volunteer activities, and a wonderfully willful toddler had proven challenging with the support of my wonderful husband. Alone it felt impossible. This deployment was driving a wedge between my husband and me. That wedge brought on a level of abandonment and loneliness that broke me.
That is when It crept back into my life, slowly but forcefully. At first I just tried to ignore It. I contributed it to the developing depression. I was exhausted. I was overwhelmed. I was scared. A few missed meals were just a drop in the bucket compared with everything that was going on. I was barely sleeping at night; no wonder I did not have the energy to worry about eating. Overnight It seemed to morph into something much more insidious. Suddenly I was justifying skipping meals while bouncing back and forth between stress binging and fasting. That chocolate milkshake I had for breakfast? No big deal. That is about 1200 calories; I just don’t need to eat again today.
Nobody wants to admit when they are struggling. Nobody. As much as I wanted to tell myself that I was strong enough for this deployment, that I could keep my shit together, I couldn’t. I was struggling. I was drowning in pain and too scared to even admit it to myself.
That is when It moved in. It had taken ahold of me. No matter how hard I tried to ignore It, in the back of my mind I knew. Its claws were sinking in deeper and deeper. I knew this demon; Its name was Anorexia Nervosa.
So began my daily rituals. Every morning I greeted the scale with an anxious excitement. I had to weigh myself as soon as I woke up, no exceptions. If my daily weight did not register at least .5 pounds lighter than the day prior, guilt would torment me for the rest of the day. Calorie counting was more than a chore or a habit; it was a necessity. I NEEDED to know how much I was taking in so I could know how much to limit myself after I inevitably stress binged.
At first glance, this may look like just another strict diet. Unfortunately, for those who suffer from eating disorders it is so much more than that. Eating disorders are NOT some new fad low calorie diet. They become an obsession. They become something that weights on your mind every second of every day. You start to contemplate how long you can put off eating before you get too dizzy to get off the couch. You start to panic when you reach the point that you know you will end up wandering into the kitchen to stuff your face; so you try to find ways to distract yourself just to put it off for a few more hours. You begin to dread spending time with friends and family because you know you will only have two options. Eat so they don’t question you, or lie to placate them when they inevitably notice you aren’t eating. You begin to relish that skinny feeling when you are famished, and hate yourself for filling full. You wouldn’t even describe it as feeling full. You feel “stuffed” “bloated” or even nauseated because that salad filled your stomach a bit too much for comfort. In my lowest point, there was nothing more I hated (besides myself maybe) than feeling full.
This is where things start to get a little better. I started seeing a counselor the week prior to my husband leaving. This deployment was going to be hard. Not only did I know I would need the help, but I wanted it. Several weeks after Anorexia intruded back into my life, I finally worked up the courage to admit what was happening to my counselor (and myself). I didn’t just cry, I bawled. I huffed and sobbed then huffed and sobbed some more. Anorexia had taken ahold of me, but it wasn’t strong enough to stop me from seeking help. More accurately, I was strong enough to seek help. That didn’t mean it hurt any less to admit I was so screwed up. At least that’s how I felt, like a screw up and a failure.
That day my counselor asked me why I was having such strong urges to fast… Why… I don’t know why… Am I supposed to know? Not only was I screwed up, but I didn’t even know myself well enough to explain why! So I bawled some more as I repeated over and over again, I don’t know.
Still I do not have an exact answer as to why Anorexia, after years, regained such a strong hold me. For people struggling with eating disorders it is not always just the desire to be thin. I am very thin, and I know that. So why?
I may not be ready to understand the answer to that question. However, after weeks of reflection, I understand why I felt so lost and hopeless for those few months. Control: My husband was gone, my marriage was in ruins, and all of my self-worth had been stomped into dust and blown away with his departing plane. All I wanted to do was fix things. I wanted to make everything better by sheer force of will, and I refused to accept that I could not do that thousands of miles separated. I had seemingly lost all control over everything in my life that was most dear to me. Doubt: There was this malicious voice in the back of my mind that scorned me after every fight between my husband and me. This was only my fault. If I was strong enough, this wouldn’t be happening. If I was strong enough, I could make everything right. Self-hate: When it came down to it, I hated myself. I wasn’t good enough in any facet of my life. I wasn’t a good enough wife, mother, friend, daughter. So many times I thought to myself; no wonder nobody loves me, I don’t even love me.
Sometimes when I’m reflecting on everything, I allow myself to wonder if Anorexia had somehow become a cure for all of that. Those thoughts scare me.
One night, I reached my lowest low. I was scared for myself and of myself. I was scared I would leave my son alone. I was scared I would abandon all my family and friends because I did not feel worthy to be a part of their lives. I did not even sleep that night.
The next morning, I got into the doctor and started anti-depressants. At that visit he also did a full blood panel to see if anything was contributing to the depression. The next day he called me and said my potassium was dangerously low. If I felt any heart palpations I needed to call 911 immediately. I cried not because I could die, but because I didn’t want to leave my son. Starting with a banana, I forced myself to eat regularly again.
Eventually eating felt more normal, and not strained. I am comfortable feeling full. I do not bounce from stress binging on junk food to fasting. I am not scared anymore. I have come to accept that I could always be recovering, and never fully healed. I am ok with that.
Talking about eating disorders is HARD. For those who are just learning about eating disorders, this topic is uncomfortable and ugly. For those that have witnessed someone suffer, I am so sorry for the fear and pain you have endured. For those who have suffered through this, I know how much it hurts to be this vulnerable. However, please keep this conversation going. The more we talk about, the more we learn and grow. We can overcome all of the advertising and unattainable standards we are bombarded with every day. We can make things better for our children and our grandchildren. First, we need to move past our discomfort and face eating disorders head on. Just keep talking about it. If our conversation can even save one life, it is so worth it.