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Accepting myself as I am

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So I did a thing recently. A self portrait session to learn to accept myself as I am and here is what I learned.

One day I was cleaning the studio, you know, hair in a pony tail, simply dressed, just a regular day… actually I didn’t even brush my hair that day but just put it out of my face. Then after the cleaning was done I sat there to rest a minute. I looked at the studio shooting area and an idea sparkled for me to do a self portrait. I wanted to do this for the longest time, I confess: it has been years, but I either was busy or occasionally unmotivated, down and not feeling all that pretty. I have done boudoir photos with other photographers before but a self portrait with the goal to see myself, this was the very first time. But this day, it was a day that I didn’t plan for it, I just felt compelled to do a self portrait and went for it. I didn’t have any makeup, no styling, not even the clothes that I would want so I just decided to photograph mostly nude, or use some fabric or items that I have at the studio closet. I thought “so what? nobody was going to see these anyways, it is just for fun”.

I didn’t even have a tripod at the studio that day, I just improvised propping the camera on a stepping stool and used a trigger to set a sequence of shots. Obviously a lot of them didn’t even have me in the frame, it was kind crazy funny running back and forth from camera to subject position, don’t forget I was naked lol.

Anyways, it started as a fun thing but later on that day I loaded the images into my computer and the real work on myself started as I was observing me trash talk myself. It was like there was two versions of me there, I was watching my mind really just loathe myself as each picture flashed on the screen.

I called myself many things that I never let my clients call themselves… but I did.. I called myself fat, old, ugly. Judged my “fat bits”, I judged my tummy area, my butt as not round and plump, my boobs not perky as before, my cellulite, how my hair was flat and wimp. It was a huge self hate viewing session. At the same time that I was happy that I did it, I was also deflated and disappointed thinking that things were worse than I’m used to seeing in the mirror. I started thinking of how much I wish I had the body of years ago. I’m 48 years old now and for a moment I thought about my body of when I was in my 20’s. And then made me remember that I use to complain about my body then too. That sense of not ever being happy with my body stayed with me for the next few days.

I put this whole thing on my back burner but never deleted the photos. I just left them there in my desktop in a folder named “Alice Self”.

Then, after a couple of weeks I went back and looked at them again. At that time I was a bit more motivated and actually was able to sort of like a couple of photos. I thought: “if I retouch them they will shine”. But again, that was not what I wanted originally. I wanted for me to like myself as I am and be able to see myself with acceptance. Understand the “perceived flaws” but like myself anyways. Well, on that second viewing I still couldn’t like them as they were. My urge was to retouch it. So I did. I retouched one of them and yes, I liked it now, but inside I felt so phony for not being able to simply accept them as they were.

Fastfoward another few weeks, I was able to tell 2 friends about them. I actually briefly showed one or two photos. My friend encouraged me that they were awesome. Well, I did think the concept was awesome but all I could see was what I perceived as flaws, my aging 48 years old body. I kept comparing myself to past versions of me, the younger me. I also compared myself to other woman, my friends, my clients, people on tv. Like that would set a value for me and my body.

This is what we do, we compare ourselves to others. A race that we can NEVER win. It’s unrealistic and futile. I kept just observing myself, seeing my mind playing these games and how I felt along the way. Digging deeper as of why I was comparing and measuring myself to others , why I needed to fit in, why the measuring up was so important to me?

I’m still working on this but I came to many conclusions, part of it took place in my childhood, part of it was imposed by society and part of it I already knew but keep perpetuating this wrong behavior. Its almost like, as a woman I complain about my body, you will relate to me and we bond over self loathing. I even understood why we do this… If I complain about my body and you relate, I’d feel part of something, I’d feel more accepted and that would be ok to exist as I am.

We women became the accomplice to each other getting sympathy for our self loathe. An infinite cycle that won’t make any of us really feel better or resolve the problem of us learning how to see, accept and love ourselves as we are.

So how do we really solve this? I came to the conclusion that we can only compare ourselves to ourselves of today and from that, strive to be better but most importantly accept where you are today. You can’t change something if you don’t acknowledge where you are. Any improvement can only be built upon the assessment of reality.

On this experiment I started to make a real effort to accept myself fully as I was on the photos, as I’m today and the funniest thing happen. A few days after that decision and changing my mind set I actually started looking at the same photos, without retouching, with more excitement. I actually learned to appreciate them more. I might say that some of them, I actually love a lot now and I’m excited to do this experiment again more often. Anyways, this experiment showed me that is only when we change our minds allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, stepping outside of our comfort zone, in a process of self observation combined with self compassion we can actually move thru our self sabotage and raise our self esteem. If I don’t learn to love myself how can I set a standard on how others should treat and love me? All starts with me!

All photos displayed here on this blog post don’t have any retouching or photoshop done to them, the only change I made was to crop and convert to black & white. Some of the photos I actually don’t quite like yet but they are growing on me every time I look at them. I’m committed to showing them so you can see that I’m a woman just like you, some of the photos could have been posed better if I was behind the camera coaching myself, which is actually a forte of my skills as a photographer. You will see I had bruises on my leg, cellulite, my rolls and tummy, my wrinkles and my messy undone hair, no makeup at all. Its all good! I own my beauty on them and also what someone would consider as “flaws”.

Do you think we could learn to see ourselves beautiful as we are today? Can we stop comparing ourselves to others or even to a prior version of ourselves? Can we put judgment aside and focus on all aspects of ourselves with love? Can we work on training our eye, point of view and attitude to embrace ourselves with more compassion and appreciation?

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