Archives for posts with tag: self image

©Jade Beall Photography Charity, mother of 3

Jade posted on FB the other day about a photo shoot she had with a lovely mother of 3, Charity.

Women feeling dissatisfied with our own bodies is nothing new.  The movement toward self acceptance and self love is a challenge for many. The fact that our bodies are constantly changing, especially when we have children, doesn’t help. We have to constantly learn to love and accept differences that weren’t there before.

I know our acceptance of ourselves is affected by external influences and something Charity said to Jade showed me just how important the attitudes of those around us are as we develop our views about our own bodies and those of others.

I also grew up with veiny women in my family and my dad actually has gnarly variscosities in his legs too. When I was a kid, I thought it was normal and liked the way they felt like worms under the skin. My mom and grandma never took measures to hide their veins and no one really talked about them being unsightly, so I guess I just accepted them as normal.  ~ Charity

via Jade Beall Photography.  Click the link to read the entire interview.

“I just accepted them as normal.” Normal, not something to be ashamed of or to hide. Just a normal thing that occurs to varying degrees in many bodies, both male and female. No big deal. It just is.

Just think about the difference that belief makes. No pressure, no feeling bad, no hiding. It’s freeing, it’s empowering.

Think about the influence we as adults have on children. Our actions and our words that we use with little thought are moulding the beliefs and attitudes our children will hold about themselves and others as they grow up.

“If only I could lose five pounds.”

“Why doesn’t she take care of herself?”

“Did you see the size of Mildred’s veins?”

“I’ll just have salad, want to watch my girlish figure.”

“Ah she knows I fell for her long legs.”

“I’d never stay with a woman who let herself go like that.”

“Short hair on a woman is too masculine.”

Laughable except that I’ve heard every one of those things recently said in front of children.

Charity’s family helped her develop a sense of body image that has helped her find an inner security many would envy. Her attitude is evident as she speaks about her pregnancy.

Pregnancy is one of those states of being that changes our anatomy and I’m just so grateful for the gift of bearing this child that I see all these changes to my body as a small price to pay. ~ Charity

As a mother with that kind of attitude, I have a feeling Charity’s children will grow up feeling empowered and learning how to love themselves unconditionally right from the start.

Thank you Jade and Charity for sharing such a wonderful lesson.

Jade is also working on a new project to develop a Beautiful Body Project Multi-Media Story Website.

We are currently building a dynamic digital-newspaper-style website which will be the global media platform to showcase the videos images and stories of the women these photographers & videographers find in each of their countries, forming a cohesive yet diverse body of work unlike any existing media platform available today, dedicated to truthful images and inspiring stories of women about topics that aren’t often explored in mainstream media: birth, breast-feeding, living with cancer, miscarriage, loss, eating disorders, self-harm, sexual abuse, and beyond as a way to illuminate hope with the larger goal of building healthy self-esteem in current and future generations of women!  ~ Jade Beall

If that’s a project you see the value in follow the link to see how you can be a part of making the vision a reality.

©2015 JFries/Rise Like Air

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Image from PopSugar

Image from PopSugar

 

Sharon Silver wrote a great article on PopSugar in March. The subject certainly isn’t new. We as humans, have a penchant to label. It makes us feel  knowledgeable, organized, and mainly, in control. We go happily along each day judging things, places and especially people, including ourselves. Let’s be clear, you can’t label anything unless you first judge it, form an opinion and then voila!  Affix a label and life is suddenly ordered, we can breath a sigh of relief. But that label, often tells a very incomplete story. By affixing that label, we may have unwittingly changed the story, and not necessarily in a positive way.

Words are so powerful, and we wield their sharp edges without a second thought for where the blade may land or the damage it may inflict.

Silver shares a story about an encounter she witnessed while shopping.  Unfortunately it isn’t a unique case and what’s even more unfortunate, is that all too often, the person honestly thinks they’re doing the right thing, the best for their child.

I was in line at the grocery store when I heard a mom very calmly and very firmly whisper to her son, “Are you an awful boy?” The little one tried to pull his body away from his mom, as if to escape the sting of his beloved mother’s words, but he couldn’t. He very sadly dropped his head and said, “Yes.”

This little one’s face told the whole story. It was obvious this was not the first time mom had said those words to him. You could literally see the effects of his mom’s words being accepted by his emotional self. You could see the words becoming part of how he will define himself, now, and in the future — I am an awful person.

via How to Talk to Kids When They Misbehave | POPSUGAR Moms.

I don’t know why this is such a hard lesson for so many of us to learn.  Words that motivate, encourage when used with guidance and caring consistently provide better results in improving behaviours and overall success.

Too many people equate this approach with being “soft” or “settling for less”.  That is definitely not the case.  Discipline, expectations and assistance are all still part of the picture.

Most of us have experienced people who have been cruel to us with their words at some point in our lives. We know how it makes us feel. Most of us have managed to “put it behind us” and have moved on. Yet, as adults we tend to fall back on methods that we’ve experienced, even when, if we’re honest with ourselves, we know didn’t work well for us.  But somehow, we suddenly think, “but that must be the way it’s done”.

It’s not easy to change our habits, it’s even harder when we feel pressured, under stress, short tempered, lacking sleep or simply busy. But when we see the changes that our efforts result in, it doesn’t take long to realize that the effort is more than worth it.

I like Sharon Silver’s suggestions for dealing with misbehaviour, 3 good questions.

  • Was what you did safe?
  • Was it respectful?
  • Was it kind?

That’s a pretty impressive starting point. You see, we usually don’t have to use hurtful words to get the message across.  As a matter of fact, using words that hurt simply put the other person on the defensive and removes the focus from the issue and the solution. These questions let the other person gain understanding themselves. For most people, that’s enough to start a change in behaviour.

Labelling people, even with “positive” labels stunts growth as surely as a plant is if you put a pot over it and keep it in the dark. Instead be the sunshine and rain that let’s that flower grow and bloom brilliantly.

The change starts with us. It starts now. Listen to yourself, listen to your family, listen to your children’s teachers.  Start using language that actually has a positive impact and you will be astounded at the changes you begin to see.  The sparkle in your child’s eye and their desire to please and do well will likely grow visibly, right before your very eyes.

 

©2015 JFries/Rise Like Air

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Eating Disorder Services: "MIRROR" Print Ad by Clemenger BBDO Wellington

Eating Disorder Services: “MIRROR” Print Ad by Clemenger BBDO Wellington 

Believing is Seeing.  What are your beliefs showing you?

A quiet killer, often hidden by baggy clothes and popularly supported in the dark recesses of the internet.  An addiction to being thin at any cost, even their lives.  When the line to good judgement has been blurred, the spiral begins.  This is an illness that has created a community that doesn’t help each other get better.  Instead, they help each other get sicker.

Antonia Eriksson has traveled this path herself and is recovering.  Her opinion of thinsperational accounts is clear.

“They’re really dangerous,” she says.  Eriksson is now in recovery from anorexia, and runs an Instagram account and blog focused on fitness and healthy eating. But back then, she was easily triggered into unhealthy behaviour by those images. “It would help me in my eating disorder, like in the most negative way… It would keep me sick,” she says.

via Pro-anorexia, bulimia communities thriving online – Health – CBC News.

I’d like to say this trend comes as a surprise, or that I’d never even heard of such a thing but of course that’s not the case.    I worry about my own children and their self image and how these sites and associated hashtags influence them. Trying on a pair of skinny jeans the other day my daughter lamented, “But my calves are too fat!”   She is in perfect physical shape and size for her body.  I reminded her that she’s just fine.  The jeans were just made for a different body.  Let’s face it the very nature of skinny jeans is a challenge.  It was obvious her first thought wasn’t that the jeans were wrong, it was that her body was wrong.

On one hand, when it comes to “thinspiration”,   it seems obvious that anyone with “half a brain” would “know better”.  But that’s not really what it’s all about after all. Whether a person is spiralling into a gloomy pit from an eating disorder, depression, anxiety, OCD, schizophrenia, PTSD or abuse there is one thing that everyone has in common.  They’ve crossed a line from the reality of  “normal” most of us know to a reality the rest of us don’t share. You would think they should be able to simply step back over that line but it doesn’t work that way.  Slipping over the line to illness seems so easy, but taking that one step back sometimes feels impossible.  Spoiler alert – it might be the biggest challenge you face in life but it isn’t impossible.

These thinspo accounts are like putting a line of coke in front of an addict, it’s fills the need and there is almost no way that the addict will be able to resist on their own, at least not for long. In my opinion this is like an unrecovered alcoholic being the sponsor for another alcoholic.  Pretty much doomed to failure.  Instead of helping each other they are actually encouraging and empowering each other to continue the spiral into the disease.

The good news is that I see more and more sites and resources that are dealing with recovery, self care and hope. Healthy is in, skinny is out.  Unless of course you are naturally skinny, which some people are.  Then rock it and love it.

I’m glad that many social media sites are trying to make things better.

Tumblr, Facebook and Pinterest have also attempted to circumvent users’ access to material that promotes self-harm. -CBC article

Dr. Rebecka Peebles, co-director of the Eating Disorder Assessment and Treatment Program at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia… found that nearly 40 per cent of the sites included pro-recovery information. Many of the troubling Instagram posts also include pro-recovery tags: #EDrecovery, #ANAwarrior, #BeatANA.  She believes that reflects the nature of the disease. “Part of you wants to get better, and part of you wants to stay sick.” – CBC Article

We all know that there are different body types.  Within each type there is an infinite number of slightly different shapes and sizes.  They are normal.  They are healthy.  They are beautiful.  Instead of embracing this fact, we watch the photoshopped ads, the models that have countless groomers and preeners fawning over them, that have been selected because they have this very specific body type.  And don’t kid yourself, even though they are “perfect” in our eyes, the industry tells them they aren’t quite good enough, they have the same qualms and self doubts as all of us “average” girls (and guys) out there.

Don’t ever fool yourself that any of these images are put out there because big business really cares about you.  They care almost exclusively about making money.  Really, most of them don’t care at all about you.  I mean honestly, not at all.  Those ads with all those beautiful people are meant to do one thing.  Get money from you.  Period.  They don’t care if you become prettier, smarter, fatter, skinnier, healthier even if their fake smiles seem to say otherwise.

We all have our moments, or maybe lifetimes, of wishing “something” was different about us or our lives.  No one is completely immune.  Unless.

Unless you make the conscious choice to begin loving yourself AS YOU ARE TODAY.  With all your perfection and all your flaws (which by the way, are almost always your own opinion).

We are all perfectly imperfect.  Quit fighting it!  It’s a battle you will never win, and were never meant to.

No matter what you do, unless you can love yourself (or at least like yourself) as you are, nothing you do will satisfy you for long.  You will always come from a place of lack.  You don’t have to.  Just start seeing your own good, your own beauty little by little.  Trust that it’s there and you’ll find it.

I really do recommend taking time every single day to look at yourself and tell yourself you love you!  Find the little things that you can love.  Maybe it’s your smile, or a dimple, or the way your one eyebrow raises when you smile. Maybe it’s how you can make your mother laugh or your little sister asks for your help.

Like any addict, or someone with a habit that needs breaking, do it one step at a time.  And don’t beat yourself up for every single little misstep.  Work to stop following the propaganda and start following things that inspire you and give you hope to be all you can really be.  Ask for help.  Then ask again, and again and again.  Do not give up.  Be kind to yourself and others.  It’s a start, and that’s what has to happen first.  A start.  A very simple start.

Life and love are so much more than thigh gap, or protruding bones, or the vision of outer beauty.  

If that’s all you can focus on right now you are missing out on so much, actually all the wonderful awesome stuff. Need help?  That’s ok.  Recognizing it is the first step.  We all need help for something at sometime.  Don’t give up.  Keep looking, keep trying.

If you are overweight an unhealthy amount, and I do mean unhealthy, not your own jaded opinion, then yes, do something positive and constructive to move yourself to a place of health.  But do it because you love yourself and you are worth it.  And if you don’t believe that right now it’s ok.  Believe me.  You are worth it.  Change your focus from one of controlling yourself and your weight to one of loving yourself and working together with your body towards wonderful health.

If you still need some convincing, I encourage you to listen to Maya Angelou explain and read her poem “Still I Rise”. Never doubt, that you too can say, “Still I rise.”

Eriksson was once an #ANAwarrior. She started an Instagram account, which has since grown to nearly 40,000 followers, the day before she was hospitalized to document her six-week in-hospital treatment and recovery.

What she calls her Instagram family helped motivate her recovery. “I wanted to show them that it was possible,” she says. “So I just kept fighting it.” – CBC article

As Eriksson reminds us,  it is possible.  Don’t give up.

© 2015 JFries / Rise Like Air

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Are you tired of hearing what you should wear or shouldn’t wear because of your age?  Well so is Michelle Combs, a blogger on Huffington Post.

She has some pretty great advice about how we should dress.  Personally, I think most of the advice applies to all ages, but I agree, once you’ve hit 50 you most definitely should be following her lead.

This is fashion everyone should be flaunting no matter the season.  Take a few enjoyable minutes and let Michelle explain 6 valuable tips that should guide your fashion plans for this season.

You are over 50 for fuck’s sake. Wear whatever you want. If you’ve made it to 50 and still need to consult articles on how to dress appropriately then you are so missing out on one of the best things about being over 50. One of the best things about getting older is realizing that we don’t have to spend our energy worrying what other people think and we get to be comfortable in our own skin with our own freak flags.

Still, there are a few things that women over 50 really shouldn’t wear. ~ Michelle Combs

You will be amazed at how inexpensive and liberating her recommendations are.   I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure you’ll be the envy of everyone you know.  At the very least, you’re going to feel better than ever this season.  Like you have a new lease on life.

© 2015 JFries / Rise Like Air

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Image from CNN.com article Santa, Don’t Pigeonhole My Kid

Things worth seriously considering when deciding what to give impressionable young ones.  What message does our selection send?  Are there options available that convey our sentiment and still get the reaction we all want to see on Christmas morning – or for that matter, birthday or any other occasion where you sweat over choosing that perfect “something” and then stand in line waiting to pay while you second guess yourself?

As a mother, I’ve been surprised as my children have grown that gender specific toys seem to have become more prevalent rather than less so.  For all the discussion about gender equality and gender neutrality I had assumed hoped that the toy manufactures, like Lego, would have been more in tune with the times.

This article on CNN.com by Katia Hetter explores her own experience during a gift shopping excursion for her children.

“I don’t think any parent wants to limit their children now, and I think all of us know that our kids — boys and girls — need skills in both construction and care-taking to be successful adults,” said Orenstein.¹ “So during the holidays, I’d try to think creatively on a number of fronts: where gender is concerned broadening (your child’s) concept of what it might mean to be female or male where and when you can.” Katia Hetter

via Santa, don’t pigeonhole my kid – CNN.com.

¹ Peggy Orenstein, author of “Cinderella Ate My Daughter”

Here are some other gift giving related blogs I’ve recently posted.

Zen Pencils A Zen Approach To Gift Giving

Yellowberry Yellowberry – They Have You Covered

©2014 Rise Like Air  J. Fries

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image from imglove.com

image from imglove.com

The Huffington Post shared a great article called 11 Signs Of A Genuine Friendship.  Our relationships are such a huge part of our lives. They can either support us or derail us, make us smile or make us want to run away.  Too many of us don’t give enough thought or action to our friendships considering the impact they can have on our lives.  If you think about it, doesn’t it make sense to ensure we surround ourselves with people that will enrich our lives?  Are you a person who truly enriches your friends’ lives?  

The 11 Signs according to author Lindsay Holmes

They encourage self acceptance

They let you know when you’ve screwed up

They’re actually there, and like put their phones away!

They listen to what you say

They’re there when times get tough

They help us stay balanced and calmer

They keep our ego in check

They can be counted on when you really need them the most

They put friendship on their priority list

They actually are forgiving

They make you want to step up your game, be a better person

So how did you and your friends do?  No one’s perfect, but the people I want in my life definitely need to be on this list.  I deserve that much.  You do too.

A single rose can be my garden, a single friend my world.   -Leo Buscaglia

©2014 Rise Like Air  J. Fries

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Before and after from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine photo by Sarah Brimley

When life is busy sometimes you find things that “annoy” you or you think are going in the wrong direction, but you just don’t have or don’t take the time to do something about it.  You keep noticing it though and finally, finally you have to say something. Today.  Is.  That.  Day.

I like looking my best – at least when it’s feasible.  Sometimes cleaning out the barn… looking your best takes on a whole new meaning with those fashionable barn boots, coveralls, leather work gloves and of course the most important accessories… ball cap and pitch fork.  Now that’s a picture worth saving.  Ok.  No.

For years it has bothered me that we women are made to feel that we are less by just being who we are, looking like we do.  Like something was wrong with how we were originally made and it has to be changed for us to be “ok”.  After all, isn’t that what our entire focus is supposed to be around?  I mean we are just meant to look good for someone else aren’t we?  Ok.  No.

It has taken me years, but I am finally ok with how I look for the most part. Sure I like to wear makeup when I go out, I prefer to be in better shape than in worse, I like my clothes to do me justice instead of hanging off me.  But I realize fully that’s just some wrapping.  And I’m ok with what’s underneath the wrapping.  It’s good.  It’s me.  Don’t like it?  Then kindly shove off.  Thank you.

But then I had kids.  A boy and a girl.  And I started to see the messages that they are getting about their bodies and I realized that it hasn’t gotten better.  It’s gotten worse.  Constant pressure from all side to be something we’re not.  I really started to realize that was a key – “they” are trying to turn us into something, not even into someone!  I am not a thing to be toyed with or reinvented by anyone else.

We are creatures that tend to believe what we see.  When we are brought up with images in our faces all day everyday that are fictional but are not obviously identified as such what do we think our children, young adults and even older adults start to believe?  Most people refer to this as “advertising”.  I call it legal brainwashing.  Legal propaganda that is promoted in larger than life images and messages day in day out everywhere we look.

Women have been dealing with this for generations.  I keep hoping that slowly we’re making headway.  Truthfully I don’t think we are yet.  For every step we take in the right direction some other message or technique comes into play to drag us down again.  Are your pores fine enough?  Do you have a blemish – the word alone says UGLY.

Almost all of us get wrinkles, change weight, get zits, go grey – it’s normal – but OMG we can not allow ourselves to be NORMAL!  What was I thinking?!

The one thing that I always clung to in a strange way was that men hadn’t fallen for this idiocy yet… but even they have become the unsuspecting victims of the assumed male dominated industry of reinventing women.  Now we must reinvent men who are obviously too hairy, have dry skin, need eyes that look fresher.  The Dove ad for men is only one example.

When I saw the first ads for the men skin care products I laughed and thought thank whatever that they’ll be smarter than that… um no.  While sales aren’t at the level that women’s products are…. there are still enough men who now believe that to be attractive to women they have to be something they aren’t.  After watching The Hunger Games again I realized that we might just be headed for a society that looks like that one day sooner than later – not necessarily throwing our children into a ring to fight till the death but the fashion and opulance doesn’t seem as fictional as I’d like it to be.

Please guys – let your chests and legs be hairy, let your eyes do their thing, and if you have dry skin, just use a plain simple moisturizer please.  If that’s all a woman cares about you she’s not the one for you.  No more than if a guy just can’t stand your little protruding belly or varicose veins or your giggle or whatever, he’s not the guy for you.  Trust me on this one.  If we can’t like or love each other the way we are time to look elsewhere.  Now, let me interject here to say that I’m not advocating just letting it all hang out slovenly like.  Huge difference between embracing who you really are inside and out and using it for an excuse to be a slovenly jerk “cause that’s just the way I am take it or leave it”.

An excellent article in the BBC this morning called What Does It Feel Like To Be Airbrushed by Tulip Mazumdar (what a great name).  Personally I used to love playing dress up, make up all that stuff.  I have no problem with it.  But I knew up front that it was “art”  It wasn’t me.  It was like the icing on the cake – sweet and fluffy – but it wasn’t the cake.  I’d love to see every picture that is airbrushed have to have a disclaimer right underneath it or larger than life on the first page of magazines.  “WARNING:  Images in the magazine have been airbrushed.  They are an artist’s interpretation of the image and should not be mistaken for reality.  Viewing these images may cause self conscious feelings or even self loathing.”

So the journalist wanted to know what it felt like to have her image airbrushed to “perfection”.  However, intentionally or not one of her comments jumped right out

I wasn’t brave enough to be photographed with no make-up so I had a base layer of foundation and powder as well as minimal eye make-up and some blusher and lip-gloss.

Now I admit that at one time it would have taken a lot of me to take my make up off.  I was, and still am, self conscious about my complexion.  The difference is that now I can accept that my skin is what it is – and I’ve discovered that there are volumes of us with similar skin and you know what?  We’re still cute, we’re still beautiful.  I also admit that I look in the mirror and wish I still had my face at 20, and wish I would have appreciated my looks at 20 instead of seeing everything the magazines said I should be that I wasn’t.    Time has also shown me that when I’m 70 I’ll look back at 50 and go, wow, you looked good!  So, long ago I decided to use my future wisdom in the present.  Why wait?  I found it interesting, though, that even for an article about air brushing, that the journalist was not comfortable without just a little makeup to protect herself.

The photographer airbrushed the photos more than she normally would she said, other than celebrities who apparently regularly ask to be made into their fantasy shapes and sizes (has anyone ever heard of saying, um, “No.”?).  So Sarah gave Tulip the celebrity treatment.   Tulip’s reaction?

Suddenly the original images that I was quite happy with at the start, looked old, tired and a bit chubby.

Now maybe it’s just me, but after looking at both images, I honestly preferred the original.  If both women walked in and sat down, I honestly think I would naturally have felt more comfortable with the first image – given everything else about the interaction was equal.  No matter what, I honestly believe both images are beautiful, and I don’t think the second image is more beautiful, it’s just different.

I believe we should all do things that make us feel GOOD about ourselves, not because it makes someone else feel better about how we look.  If we put on makeup it should make us smile because we like it, not because we are thankful that it is hiding all our horrible flaws.

Let me be clear here.

THEY ARE NOT FLAWS.  THEY ARE A PART OF WHO YOU ARE.  YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.

Who decided what a flaw is and what it isn’t? Who gave them the right to decide if I’m ok or not?  A zit is a zit – but oh no, it’s a BLEMISH.  The very word makes me feel like I’m less, I’m broken, flawed, somethings wrong with me.  Oh poppycock.

Society’s view of beauty has become more and more narrow as time goes on.  These issues aren’t new to this generation or this century.  It’s been going on for a long time, maybe forever, but it’s time we stand up and say “No More”.  It’s time we work harder at liking who we are as we are instead of wasting valuable time trying to be someone or something we’re not.  Work with yourself instead of against yourself.  Stop being afraid of allowing yourself to see your own beauty just as you are, instead of relying on someone else’s definition of what they think beauty is.  Let’s be real here.  The people who are defining beauty and selling the image are the ones who are making gazzillions of dollars off our insecurity.  And they are laughing all the way to the bank.  And don’t doubt that they’ve also bought into their own story.

I know that I have only so much time in this particular life on this earth – and I have decided that I am not going to waste it trying to conform to someone else’s idea of beauty.  That doesn’t mean I won’t wear make up or have a mole removed or buy a fashion design or have a facial.  It does mean I’m working hard to keep it in perspective and when I do choose to do something I’m doing it for me, not because it determines my value or my beauty in someone else’s opinion.  I’ve learned that the people I know who have successfully done this seem to be a whole lot happier with themselves and life in general and I’m all for being happy.  How about you?

Truth:  We are all beautiful, every single one of us.

Dare:  Find the physical beauty in every single person you meet today.  Start with yourself.

Ok, having a hard time with this challenge?  I’ll give you a leg up.  Start small, because let’s face it, our definition of beauty tends to be narrow.   Maybe it’s a smile; maybe it’s the way a strand of hair falls across a face; eyes, ears, hands, nails, skin tone.  I don’t care how “ugly” by standard definition a person may appear.  Take the challenge – find the beauty.  It is there.

So remember people…. just be yourself, inside and out… ok?  Unsung Lilly knows all about it.

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This blog is ©J. Fries/Rise Like Air 2013

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The Huffington Post featured a great piece by Emma Mustich About a photo project started rather accidentally by photographer and mother, Jade Beall. The project focuses on the celebration and empowerment of mothers and their postpartum bodies. What started out as a healing process for herself, has turned into a healing joyful process for many others.

Babies. Fresh innocence. Toothless grins filled with wonder and joy. The sweet smell of baby wipes or talcum powder. The awe of what two people have managed to create – a brand new life – that is TOTALLY DEPENDENT ON YOU! OMG what have we done! As much as we love them, even when we’ve planned the whole thing out, that thought usually crosses a new parent’s mind at least once, even if it’s fleetingly. For most of us, it’s fleeting, we jump right in and within days can’t believe that our house was ever a home without this bundle of baby that just seems to trust us so easily. We put them first, ‘I’ just doesn’t seem so important, at least for a while.

And then, eventually, through all the diapers, spit up and drool (hugs, kisses, cuddles and snuggles too) we mom’s finally get a shower and look in the mirror. Most of us, no matter how beautiful we know we are, or others know we are, have to admit – we don’t look quite the same. Regardless of what the differences are, most of us do find differences. Whether it’s stretch marks, sagging or lopsided sore breasts, wider hips or bags under our eyes, we now need to reacquaint ourselves with our own bodies.

Some mothers are totally comfortable with the changes, others not so much. Some changes are more dramatic than others for moms. Some get off “easy” – they bounce back to their former selves, but a huge percentage of us don’t. Sometimes we put the pressure on ourselves, sometimes we perceive that pressure coming from our partner or from society around us. After all, in today’s society, we’re all supposed to be super moms.

I remember after I had my children that I was a little annoyed for all the reading I’d done, all the questions I’d asked, little was ever really said about what to expect from your own body. It was touched on but the theory of the day was – your breasts won’t sag, you don’t have to have stretch marks, your body can bounce back with little effort. Now maybe it was because I had my first child at 34 but, my body didn’t bounce back – it was decidedly different. People commented that I looked great after kids, how I’d lost my baby weight. I did look good, I was “lucky” – but my body wasn’t the same body it had been 9 months before. After my second baby 2 years later, it changed more. I’m not trying to say any of this is a bad thing – it’s part of the process of life, and truthfully, bodies change with or without babies helping them along. But regardless, my body was different and I needed to get used to that, I needed to learn to love my body the way it was now.  I needed to love myself including my body, and that was much easier said than done.

What struck me about the pictures that Jade Beall has taken is the natural everyday beauty of every subject who has and is experiencing life. It’s a beauty that goes far deeper than the exterior, the changes in the body. I finally realized that the beauty is blossoming from within and is visible in the joy in their eyes, their posture and the way they embrace their children.

I think the photos are beautiful, the women are beautiful, and Jade Beall’s approach and process is beautiful too. Watching Jade on the video interview from Huffington Post Live I felt her passion and sincerity.

It’s no wonder that she has us Rising Like Air and Seeing Beautiful all at once.

Jade has also posted some video about the project.

When asked if her project was in response to the many comments and judgements made about celebrities bodies during and after pregnancy, she replied,

“I’m not one who needs to point fingers, I just want to empower what I like to call my sisters, other women to feel authentically irreplaceable.” Like yes there are millions of beautiful women and I love to page through Vogue, it’s gorgeous, and I also feel like I have a right to feel beautiful even though I have acne, even though I’m a plus size…. I too have a right to feel beautiful.”

Wow, not worrying about pointing fingers, focusing on the beauty in all it’s forms and letting the rest take care of itself. I love how Jade can balance the fashion style of beauty and the natural style of beauty effortlessly.

If that isn’t enough to make a person feel like smiling she takes these beautiful portraits free of charge. It all started with one picture, one story and it has evolved into many wonderful, beautiful, inspiring stories captured in a portrait.

Jade Beall and her subjects gently challenge us to see beauty, motherhood, femininity and our bodies as they truly are – truly beautiful; even if these bodies may never grace the covers of a magazine like Vogue. Then again who knows for sure. Maybe one day they will. I hope so. It would be nice to think that society may embrace beauty that is real and natural rather than giving such importance to an ideal beauty that is for the most part elusive and quite often simply fantasy. I have no problem with fantasy, but I don’t want it to hide the beautiful reality that is right in front of me either.

Sadly, not everyone is able to embrace their own beauty or others. Jade blogged on July 18th that one of her beautiful subject’s own mother was unable to see not only her own beauty, but that of her daughter. Thankfully her daughter can see their beauty and is surrounded by other supportive people who can as well. I truly hope that Jade’s book project A Beautiful Body, helps people see the real beauty around them, in all it’s wondrous, miraculous and different forms.

We are all beautiful, we just have to choose to see it.

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