Anyone who comes to us for a session is asked if they are happy for us to share their images. This client has chosen to share anonymous images only, but would like to share her 'Embrace Your Body' experience with you.
What prompted you to want to take part in our ‘Embrace Your Body’ project?
"I'm reaching the 50 year-milestone this year and have spent most of life being critical of and unhappy with my body. Even though I understand this is mostly due to societal expectations and how I was raised, it's hard to shake off the deep conditioning of feeling ugly and inadequate.
Although I did dance and performed when I was younger and have always been physically active, developing various chronic health issues over the past 15+ years has further knocked my self-confidence. Unfortunately, people often judge mental and physical health based on what they see. For example, no one sees me when I'm feeling my worst (at home) so people usually only see the "well (enough)" me; as people also tend to have specific ideas about what sick people should look like, having "invisible" illnesses means I'm often disbelieved or dismissed - which makes things worse.
As a survivor of complex trauma, I learned to hide my inner self by trying to fit into people's expectations of me.
As a minority woman in this country, I'm also frequently treated as a stereotype where I'm either exoticised or ignored - making me feel even more unattractive as myself.
Growing older and becoming increasingly ill, it felt like my own body was betraying me. But over the past few years, I've been discovering how much my body has actually helped me survive. I've learned how powerful and resilient my body has been, and how it's continuing to teach me about my long-neglected needs and desires, about my authentic self. It's been a tough, painful road - which is far from over - but I decided to apply to the "Embrace Your Body" project as a way to honour and connect with my body, in whatever form or state it's in today."
How did you feel about the session itself on the day?
"I was both anxious and excited. I enjoy fashion so knew I had some nice jackets and jewellery to try, but no one has seen me in underwear for longer than I can remember!
I had strong ideas about the look I wanted but was also nervous I would look ridiculous or too chunky to pull it off.
Unfortunately, experiencing lots of new health symptoms recently didn't help my frustration and insecurity that I wasn't physically at my best that day. But Robin and Kristina were professional and supportive and made me feel it was ok to try new/different outfits and poses - including the (arty) nude shots!
The photo shoot itself was quite fast-paced so felt a bit like a whirlwind - but a fun and affirming one."
How did you feel about coming back to see your photos?
"Doing something out of my comfort zone like this, I felt mentally and emotionally drained afterwards - not to mention the aches and pains from all that stretching and arching!
It was less than a week after the photo session so I was still processing the experience and all my self-doubts.
Robin had shown me some images during the session so I was hopeful there was at least one photo I would like, but I was nevertheless apprehensive, with all the "should"s swirling around in my head (I should've worn something else, I should've toned up better, I should've waited until I'd lost more weight, etc. etc. etc.)"
How are you feeling about yourself now that you've seen your photos?
"It's still sinking in that these rather fabulous photos are of me and that I was actually brave enough to do the nudes. In fact, I've ended up liking more of the ones of me in the buff!
I've got a couple of the photos propped up in my bedroom so I can keep glancing at them - and hopefully the critical voice will quieten over time so I can be proud of and enjoy my achievement more fully!"
Is there anything else you could say to someone who's feeling apprehensive coming along for their own session?
"Our bodies are so incredible and we often only pay attention to them when something hurts or doesn't seem to work "properly" or look "right". But actually our bodies do so much automatically to protect us, to signal when we need to take better care of ourselves, to help us understand how valuable and precious and deserving we are of care and compassion.
Whatever your relationship is with your body, I'd encourage you to consider signing up for a session. Anna, Robin, and Kristina are such a great team and will do everything to help you feel comfortable and ready to take on the challenge!
It might feel strange or surreal, but it will be fun and respectful, celebratory and affirming - and unforgettable, for all the right reasons!"
The Embrace Your Body Project is all about empowering women to love themselves and their bodies, as they are, right now.
It's about embracing our bodies, whatever flaws we may think we have, and accepting ourselves.
It's about showing that nobody is perfect, but that we are all beautiful in our imperfections.
And it's about sharing that experience with other women, to help them on their journey to body confidence.