The more women I speak to, work with, and love, the more I see a collective vein of pain that runs through us.
It’s an idea that’s all-pervasive – it seems to affect every woman, regardless of her age, race, height, size or skin colour.
It’s an issue that keeps us playing small, hiding ourselves away, and locking inside acidic feelings of cruelty, insecurity and shame.
We share it with other women like a badge of honour; a subject we can all relate to. Like talking about the weather, it’s a constant we come up against every day.
I hear it in the panicked voices of women who are desperate to ‘slim down’ in time for their photos. Who request extra airbrushing of their skin and hair and faces. Who are terrified at the prospect of actually, finally, ‘being seen’.
This pain is held inside our bodies. It arrives in our heads and hearts when we look in a mirror; despair at our bathroom scales; cry silently in a dressing room.
This pain is called Shame. It’s called Hatred. Non-acceptance. Judgement.
In my work, I am privileged to bear witness to women unfolding themselves into their own sense of beauty. As we spend time together, they gently and almost imperceptibly relax.
It is in those moments – when a woman forgets she is ‘trying to be’ and just ‘is’ – that I am able to capture her true essence; the light that shines inside her when walls and boundaries and self-protection have dropped away.
Sometimes that chink in the armour lasts for only a few seconds. Yet these photos are the ones that bring tears and tingles when revealed. They are the pictures that remind my clients who they truly are; the ones that are powerful in and of themselves.
Because the more I use my camera to connect to the magic of this life, the more I learn to SEE.
And what I see is…
Beauty. Beauty everywhere. There is beauty in the tiny buds of Spring, waiting to unfurl with fury. There is beauty in the dusky splendour of a post-rain sunset.
And there is beauty in you.
Like it or not, you are made of stars. You are made of the same dust that creates trees, oceans and mountains. The wind knows how it feels to caress your shoulders and the sun knows what it is to kiss your face.
There is no escaping the truth – if you can find beauty in the world around you, you can find beauty in yourself.
And this beauty does not reside in magazines. It does not reside in an airbrusher’s cursor, or a marketing director’s corner office. It does not reside in the snide comments your ego spews when it deems you or someone else ‘not good enough’.
This beauty resides in your unending heart. In the crinkles around your eyes from a hundred thousand smiles. In the arms you’ve embraced life and love with. In the belly you’ve born children into this world, or the legs you’ve walked a thousand miles with.
I know you can feel and see it in others. Because you are able to love your mother, sister, daughter or best friend with complete devotion. You can access a level of compassion and forgiveness for strangers that others cannot even countenance.
And yet you cannot give this same love to yourself.
So, today, I ask one question of you –
What could we achieve – collectively as women on this earth right here and now – if we just… stopped?
If we stopped hating, judging, criticizing, lamenting, guilt-tripping, belittling, shaming, lacerating, comparing?
If we took all of the time, energy and emotion we waste on this as a global force – and focussed it elsewhere?
Who would we be without this ugly stain? What could we let go of? And what could we become? What world could we create for our daughters – and our sons – to step into?
All it takes is a small decision, each day.
A decision to tell a better-feeling story. A decision to look at ourselves, our bodies, and each other with love, rather than fear.
We do not have to live this way any longer. Stand with me now – because we can change this.
We are all beautiful. And when you are ready to step into your own beauty, I will be here to capture it.
All my love,
P.S. If there’s someone else in your life that needs to hear this today, please share it with them.