Grow – A Self-Portrait Series

I love my body.

But like most people, that was not always the case.

Recently for one of my multimedia classes we were assigned to shoot a sequence of photographs that either told a story or defined a space. To try to push myself to create better content, I wanted to shoot a story that revolved around something that related to me. This allowed for me to become more passionate about my project. I decided on a subject that I have been dealing with since day one: my body! Below is my self-portrait sequence that tells my story.

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Disconnect

Through the majority of my life, I struggled with feeling comfortable in my own skin and my journey to self-acceptance has not been an easy one. I was an independent kid from the get-go, which during grade school sometimes doesn’t make you as many friends as would be ideal. I was bullied throughout elementary and middle school, and this made me less inclined to engage in the sports that my mum encouraged me to participate in. The bullying added to the stresses of my parents divorce, and my natural sweet tooth did not make for a great combination. I found comfort in food and would binge eat when I was sad or lonely, which was (since we’re being honest) most of the time. During middle school, I felt separated from lots of girls in my grade due to my independent nature and also my size. Due to this separation and bullying, I learned to fake confidence so that I could save face among my classmates. I developed an “I don’t care” attitude just for the purpose of trying to gain some respect and thwarting negative comments. Although I appeared to have confidence on the outside, I was still struggling with being happy with my appearance. Luckily, this strong backbone (which I very much still have) got me through some very low points during my childhood.

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Discovery

When I ended up moving to Nova Scotia for high school, the possibility of having a fresh start sparked a transition from my fake confidence into genuine confidence. This is why I fully support the “Fake it ‘till you make it” mantra. At the time my mum wanted to get in shape, so she convinced me to join a local gym and get a personal trainer. I lost 40 pounds over four months but eventually gained it back (and more) when my family was going through a personal crisis in my final year of high school. At this time, I was aware of how unhealthy I was, but owing to the seriousness of my family situation as well as worrying about post-secondary, it was not what I needed to focus on at the time. I maintained that weight (my heaviest) for my one year of community college. I was by no means happy with my body, but I wasn’t engaging in the self-destructive thoughts that frequented my mind through grade school.

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Comfort

During that year, I had made the decision to move to McMaster University in Ontario. This was my light at the end of the tunnel. My family was (and still is) dealing with the aftermath of our difficulties, so I was looking forward to leaving the mess and building a life for myself. On a whim, with the future as my motivation, I made the decision to start running daily. It became my meditation. I ran and counted calories every day for my entire summer leading up to my move to Ontario. I began to fall in love with my body for the first time in my life. I was shedding weight and gaining confidence. I felt sexy and desirable. Forty pounds lighter, I was ready to start a new chapter and moved across Canada to my new home. Like many others, my first year at Mac had its ups but I was able to keep at the same weight. This was something I was proud of because I experienced heavy depression in my second semester. I had joined a pole dancing studio and took sexy confidence-based fitness classes for fun and to keep feeling fabulous through those times. I bought and rocked my first bikini in the summer without ever doubting my body. I live what I would consider to be a well-balanced lifestyle and it’s working for me. Since starting my second year, I’ve managed to lose 10 pounds bringing me to a total of 50 pounds down since my heaviest weight. I am by no means at my lightest, but I have never felt more confident and happy with my body and myself.

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Realization

Loving my body did not come easy. Although my weight loss did have a significant effect on my confidence, a lot of that body-positivity came from accepting myself and my journey. Society having a new-found acceptance for women of size has contributed to knowing that I’m allowed to be happy with myself even when there is room for improvement. There are many arguments against promoting larger people within the media, and while I agree that society should be encouraging healthy living, I think that can go hand in hand with showing body diversity. I believe that plus size models, curvy Barbies and body accepting people are important to showcase to younger people for the purpose of showing that we are allowed to love our bodies, no matter the size. Being told that you are not supposed to love your body is a horrible. Your body is the only place that is truly yours and no one should have to tell you how to feel about it. Self-love is the first step to living a healthy lifestyle as when you love your body you want to work to improve and nourish the place where you live.
I accept my stretch marks, my belly, my thick thighs, my tits and my big ass. Just because there’s more of me, doesn’t mean I’m less of a person. Although I’m not the healthiest I can be, that doesn’t mean I can’t have an appreciation for my body while striving to make positive changes.

It’s not perfect but it’s mine.

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Acceptance

3 Replies to “Grow – A Self-Portrait Series”

  1. *heart eyes* I don’t know which is more beautiful, your story or your photos! Love the flowering theme- gorgeous and meaningful.

  2. As a 47 years old woman who is still struggling (and losing the battle) with self acceptance, I value this text as pure gold. I hope writing it helped you as much as you are helping others.

    And those pictures! the one with the mirror could be a painting by Tiziano (Venus with the mirror, if you haven’t seen this painting, you should).

    A huge hug to you and your gorgeous body.

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