When I first decided to do this venture into women's portraiture and boudoir in Montreal, I was compelled by my love for the female form. Soft curves and luminous skin. My inspiration comes from the paintings of women during the renaissance. When I began this journey I was expecting soft and delicate, the play of light and shadow, the rounded curves of a woman's body, and celebrating it all with my camera. I was instead enchanted by the life and heart within these women, amazed with the inner and outer strength, and especially the way when I was able to get her completely comfortable in her skin, she would just shine.
I was also surprised by other things, some not so good things. I had one client proudly use one of her images as a profile picture and she received a message from a man in her friends list saying that was very vain of her to do that. Why is that vain? Why shouldn't she be proud to show a beautiful photograph of herself? It blew me away that a man, or any person really, would take time out of his day to belittle and judge this woman for posting a photograph of her smiling confidently into the camera.
It reminded me of how I was told as a child that I was selfish. I was told that so often that it made me into a walking doormat as a young adult. I had no spine because I was so worried about making sure I was the antithesis of selfishness. People either took advantage of me, or they didn't respect me. I couldn't understand why I couldn't be friends with people I obviously had so much in common with, until I realized that what was probably turning them off was my quest to be unselfish. It came across as desperate, dishonest, and untrustworthy. I wasn't being generous for the sake of being generous, I was practically begging them to acknowledge how I wasn't a selfish person. But no one could truly tell me that until I believed it myself. I had to realize I had nothing to prove. I am a generous and kind and loving person. I am not what other people call me, but only what I am at the core.
So when I think about that, I also consider, is that what we are doing as women? Are we working so damn hard to prove we are not vain that we are slowly disappearing? Are we fading into the background asking people to acknowledge how un-vain we are? Are we self-deprecating because it's funny? Or because it is safer to be that way than to be called "full of yourself." Are we looking into the mirror and training ourselves to hate what we see, because liking it would mean we are egotistical? Are we downplaying our accomplishments in life because we don't want to seem like we are bragging?
And what if you aren't actually a vain person? What if you can love and celebrate yourself, and accept your body, because that is who you are? What if you don't have to prove anything anymore, and instead just accept who you are and just be? Would that mean you would have to stop hating what you see in your reflection? Does that mean you would have to stop disappearing?
I think that it's about time to stop letting other people's opinions direct how we feel about ourselves. It truly is a matter of hurt people hurting people. And you do not need to adopt their pain, just because they are loud, consistent and forceful with their opinion. We are gifted as humans with these wonderful things we call blinders. We put "blinders" on as protection so that we can focus on what is important, and what is important is that we celebrate and recognize that we are works in progress but still enough, that we are the best versions of ourselves, or working towards that, and then all their loud and forceful and mean opinions can just become white noise in the background, where they belong.
And it is very scary to switch your way of thinking, to stop disappearing and start existing fully in your life. It takes bravery and determination and faith in yourself. So my question to you is this - do you think you can do that? Do you think you can finally acknowledge that you are not what other people call you, but only what you call yourself?