*one non-naked photo from the shoot
What do you do when you find things hard to write? You write the truth.
“Live outside of your comfort zone” is a quote we all see on Pinterest, hanging in friends hallways, in episodes of Girls. We’ve been told it’s where the magic happens. It is the cringe inspirational quote that I actually do think about, daily. But those things that are outside your comfort zone are different for everyone. Some people are scared of spiders. Some people are scared of relationships. Some people are scared of being alone, for some, it’s crowded rooms. For me, it’s having to looking at a naked photo of myself.
As a strong believer of body confidence, I was actually a big phoney. How can I parade around preaching body confidence when I had none myself? I used to work for Dove, for goodness sake, I work for an empowering women’s magazine, and yet I found myself terrified at the thought of showing all the bits I don’t like, and letting people see it, and/or judge it. The thought of having to properly look at my own body properly freaked me out.
So this post is quite important for me. It might not seem huge, but for me, it’s something I’ve put on hold for a long time.
So let me tell the full story of how I got here. A few months ago I went to the pub with Laura and Megan, my two friends who also blog, write and put themselves out there. We’ve always had stuff in the common, frequently asking the same questions, feeling the same positive (and negative) feelings, all armed with an equally long self-inflicted to-do list of things we want to achieve in and outside of work. So we went for a drink and a brain download.
We were chatting about Laura’s recent naked photo shoot. I leaned in with my glass of prosecco, wide-eyed and utterly utterly in awe. You stripped off all your clothes, had yourself photographed, and are getting them framed? So that everyone could see? She was naked, in a field, to celebrate her body. For herself. I gulped on my drink, sat back and knew full well that I could never do that. I would be terrified. I’ve never seen a photo of myself like before. Wasn’t it awkward? Weren’t you afraid? Weren’t you worried about what you might see? Weren’t you worried about what people might think of you?
These shouldn’t have been my immediate reactions from someone who claimed to be ‘body confident’. These photos are beautiful, and they were art. But the truth was, my reaction to Laura’s photo shoot made me realise: I was terrified of the idea.
The story behind Laura’s photo-shoot is an inspiring one. It was to celebrate her hard-earned body transformation. She decided to go on a mission to change her lifestyle and in the process, she inevitably lost some pounds along the way. Day by day, Laura was focused, determined, happy – and it was infectious. She became the fairy godmother of getting shit done, inspiring other people, doing things for herself and having a rock solid attitude that was as hard as a brick wall.
To celebrate this new sense of self, and body-shape, Laura booked in her friend, a lady named Alexandra Cameron (a brilliantly talented photographer) to document this stage of her life as part of a #StrongAndSexy campaign. It was a milestone, and what’s better than taking seductive photos with a professional photographer to mark the occasion? Shortly after, Megan, to celebrate her 25th birthday, did the same. She stripped off and celebrated her body. She arranged for a similar type of shoot. She too, was nervous. It was a ripple effect, Laura’s shoot had been infectious, why shouldn’t we embrace our body, feel confident, and get over our niggling feelings of body perception? It appeared that facing your fears actually works.
This weekend I went to Laura’s house. Alex was there, and she had her camera. I realised that I actually deep-down wanted nothing more than to be part of the #StrongAndSexy campaign and whilst boiling the kettle I got over the fear and said I should do it. Have my picture taken. Be brave. Do the bungee jump. This wasn’t about doing a ‘sexy photo-shoot’, or being posey, or cringe or tacky. This was for me, to have naked photos of myself. And to celebrate my body so that in 50 years I can look back and think YOU LOOK ALRIGHT ACTUALLY.
This was also about saying a big EFF YOU to the beauty industry – the industry that seeps into us all from childhood. The industry that makes us feel that we don’t have the permission to be the way we are. And that we are silly or self-indulgent or ‘asking for it’ if we decide to celebrate it. I could just cover myself up and continue reading the magazines and wishing I looked different. But I know something for sure: that would be a waste.
So, the shoot itself: I felt ridiculous. Hilarious. Awkward. I am no model. I was sat on the bed wearing an over-sized t-shirt that Laura had bought from the charity shop next door for £1, taking off my bra (pants stayed on). I put it on, taking off my bra and thinking…what am I doing! I had been inspired enough to get that far, to want to join the conversation of removing the stigma attached to celebrating your body yet I was acting as if someone had asked me to dive with sharks. I didn’t have a CLUE how to pose, or act, or behave. Alex was amazing, telling me where to put my head, where to look, we chatted about other stuff whilst I was naked and I started to calm down a bit.
When I saw the photos, I felt a bit emotional. I looked…good. I’ve always been so terrified to actually embrace my whole body as it is and learn to love it. It’s strange to say, but I guess I’d never properly seen it before. I just put my clothes on each day. After seeing Alex’s photos I felt like I was letting out a big pent-up sigh of relief, and thought “you know what. This is what I’ve got. And actually I’m darn happy with it.”
In this world of the #Fappening, mobile hacking, J-Law leaked nude pics, it being REVOLUTIONARY that Lena Dunham got naked on TV I wanted to make a point. What happens if you want to celebrate yourself, for YOURSELF? What happens if it is posted out there, into a public forum, and it all goes tits up (mind the pun?) It’s OK to share them. I’ve got the pictures on my desktop. And for me, that in itself is f*cking terrifying. But won’t stop me from having them.
I decided to not post the revealing ones on here. I was going to. But actually, on reflection, they genuinely were just for myself. I will get them printed on big paper. Just having them stored somewhere I know will make me feel good. I like looking at them. This whole experience made me realise that I don’t want to be scared of being myself, or at looking at my own body. It’s all about what you feel at the end of the day.
And if you ever come to my house, I’m sure I’ll get them out and bore you with them whilst you have a cup of tea.
If you’re interested in having this same experience (which I MASSIVELY recommend) – it’s terrifying yes, but it’s empowering doing it for YOURSELF – the shoots start from less than £100 and Alex’s contact details are here).