As I unwrap my towel and reach for my PJs I catch a glance of my body in the full body mirror leaning against the wall, once again surprised to see such a large round front-side. I pause for a moment to assess the changes in my body…hmm that looks like a new stretch mark, no…my back is now joining in the pregnancy!, is that more cellulite I see back there?… but before I let myself finish I take a deep breath and look away. Then I look back.
This time I coach myself through the thoughts, doing my best to focus on the positive…the beauty of these newly acquired curves (because they are giving life), the gorgeous shine of my hair and the fact that (oh so thankfully) my wrists and ankles have managed to maintain their usual size.
It isn’t easy for women in today’s world to love our bodies…pregnant or not. We are surrounded by unrealistic expectations and unhealthy standards of how we should look. We have been trained to constantly compare our bodies to a very small group of seemingly perfect women (thanks to Photoshop), and we criticize ourselves harshly when we don’t measure up.
(photographs taken from Google…not photographed by Unveil by Alumbra)
Remember that Dove print campaign a few years back? It featured real women of all shapes, ages, colors and sizes? Remember how much we loved it? I think it’s because someone finally (finally!) gave us permission to embrace our imperfections and uniqueness. It seemed so easy for us to applaud them and affirm how brave and beautiful those women are, yet we somehow still fail to see in ourselves what others see in us.
I have the incredible honor of photographing women…of all shapes, ages, colors and sizes. And you know the amazing thing? Every single one of them is beautiful.
When they step in front of my lens, nervous and vulnerable, I see radiance and beauty. In the curves (or lack of curves), the freckles, the wrinkles, the flat hair, stretch marks, cellulite and laundry list of other flaws most women list off just before the camera appears. I see a woman…uniquely created and perfect in the eyes of her Creator.
Along my journey in women’s portraiture the past 3 years I have learned so much about myself. I found myself affirming other women every day and still finding flaws to criticize in myself. Then finally it began to sink in. I was doing exactly what I was begging my clients not to do…always focusing on the negatives and never allowing myself to see and embrace the qualities that make me who I am.
So I decided to stop and change. To spend an extra minute in front of that full length mirror and appreciate what God has given me…2 legs that can walk and even run (not the set of thunder thighs that don’t fit in most jean shorts that I used to see), 2 strong arms that will soon lift my baby girl out of her cradle (not the flabby attachments I used to hide under sleeves), 2 eyes that see and appreciate the world we live in…and the list goes on. It hasn’t been an overnight change nor have I perfected this new habit but the way I look in the mirror continues to change as I daily make a conscious decision to see beauty not flaws; and to be thankful.
Bringing this new perspective into pregnancy has been an incredible gift. While I still struggle at times (like every other female living in Western Culture) to embrace my body, I am grateful to finally be able to stop myself mid-critique and see the beauty and miracle that is my body…especially as it gives life to a little girl.
Ladies, let’s change the way our culture defines beauty for the sake of our daughters. Let’s stop our friends mid-complaint and give them sincere compliments that build one another up. Let’s focus on uniqueness and gratitude for having incredible, capable bodies. Because until we make that change in ourselves and have friends (and strangers) that help us along the way, the media will continue to sell us Barbie-shaped standards.
Will you join me?
In a moment of full disclosure: when I first received a sneak peek of my maternity photographs (by the amazing Whitney Neal Photography) my first instinct was to pop them into photoshop, and reshape the extra curves of my arms and hips. But I stopped myself, because the truth is they are as much a part of this season of pregnancy as my rounded belly.