Time for a bedtime story! (Lue suomeksi täällä)
Once upon a time there was a girl, who time and time again felt disappointed when looking in the mirror – her wishes still hadn’t been answered, she still looked the same. Her legs were nowhere near the same as the model’s, her face still had the same flaws and her hair hadn’t changed one bit either. “When is it my turn to be beautiful?”, she thought.
Days went by and turned into weeks, months, years – and before she knew it, the girl had become a woman and the disappointment had become a monster.
Every day that same monster would appear in front of the mirror and belittle the woman. The only difference was that it wasn’t as painful as before because it had turned into a habit. The monster had relocated itself to live inside the woman and was now a part of her.
The monster had also successfully convinced the woman that this was part of a normal life and you can’t, nor should you, live without it. It also often plays the solidarity card, reminding the woman of how every woman has their own monster (apparently they have an annual strategical planning convention, where they determine how they go more effectively below the belt in the upcoming year) and she couldn’t possibly be the only one without one.
And so she decides to keep going and the vicious circle keeps going.
Who’s the fairest of them all – the distortion of reality
This monster can also be found in this woman – Lois. You probably wouldn’t think that she battles with just about anything, let alone with the way she looks.
Upon meeting her, she told me how uncomfortable she is in front of the camera. This included all cameras, all lenses, every time. Even when she’s with her husband or close friends. So yes, also selfies, including silly ones.
She also dislikes the photographs that are the result of those uncomfortable situations.
So she avoids being photographed. At all cost.
This is directly related to how she feels about herself.
And we all also know it has nothing to do with reality.
When we criticise ourselves, nothing in our appearance can ever be right or enough. Because the criticism comes from pain, learned habits, distorted self-image and sense of reality. And when we decide to look at the world, and ourselves, through those lenses, through the eyes of the monster, our concept of reality changes accordingly.
But it doesn’t have to be so.
Lois and the jump to the unknown
And so decided Lois.
I’ve gotta tell you, it took some time before we managed to set a date for the photoshoot. Lois told me after the photoshoot part of the reason was her nervousness about the photoshoot.
But the photoshoot went really well and after the initial discomfort, Lois turned out to be a natural! It was a pleasure to witness and such an honour to photograph.
Taking this type of a step, being photographed when it’s clearly outside of her comfort zone, shows courage and determination. Lois decided that she wants to challenge herself and change those old thought patterns. And that she did!
Lois’ experience, in her own words
Lois turned her experience into a glorious piece of writing which she allowed me to share with you fine folks today.
“When I first looked at the pictures I had two thoughts.
First I thought “yes, this is me”: I was recognising the body I’ve known so well for almost 30 years, the face, the expressions, my hair, my eyes. A second later I thought “I wish I could look at myself like this everyday”: not even a minute had passed and I was confronted with the fact that on a daily basis I fail to look at myself in a fair way.
I met Erika last spring. We had a fairly long conversation over a tea, one of those magic moments of connection between women where you open up almost immediately and talk about every thing imaginable. She contacted me afterwards for doing a photo shoot and we finally met again a couple of weeks ago. We spent two hours in the park; it was fantastic. My cheeks hurt from laughing, we didn’t stop talking the whole time, and it took only five minutes for me to be completely comfortable. Not only that but also, I had a blast, I was at peace, at ease, with someone photographing me. I was enjoying it so much.
For many, many of us, looking at ourselves in the mirror can be an act of violence towards our bodies and faces. For many of us, looking at the mirror means scrutinising what we call “flaws” until exhaustion, comparing our bodies to ridiculous standards. Many of us look at the mirror not see what we are, but to see what we are not, what we are missing, what we still need to achieve in order to be something we never were in the first place. For many of us, the trivial act of looking in the mirror before leaving the house in the morning is the act that sets the agenda for the rest of the day, the act that keeps our chin down, reminding us of something we insist calling “imperfections”.
Having these pictures taken was an act of defiance; looking at them afterwards was an act of nurturing; doing this with a woman photographer was an unforgettable act of sisterhood. I know my body so well, I know my face and my smile and my serious expressions so well, I know the way my hair makes these mischievous waves when there’s wind, I know every single one of the tiny dots I have on my skin. I needed to find again the voice that loves every single detail of my body. I didn’t need to create that voice, because it does exist, I needed to give it the space to talk loud when I look at myself in the mirror. Hearing this nurturing loving voice is a journey that has started already few years ago and that still has a few kilometres to travel. On the way, there was this amazing woman who takes pictures of other woman, in the revolutionary act of confronting them with their own beauty, a visual encounter with my own self I will always be grateful for.
Thank you Erika, not only for the pictures but for the whole experience. We are taught to constantly criticise our bodies and we are taught to keep silent about it. Thank you Erika for creating a space of sisterhood where we speak about these things and throw that criticism to the trash where it belongs. Thanks for helping us in the most important life journey, the journey of loving ourselves.”
Her writing, its vulnerability, openness and honesty, makes one go quiet – doesn’t it?
Thanks to Lois herself for this courageous jump and openness. These personal stories, experiences and emotions are those that we need to speak of more, because they open up the doors of love between people and within ourselves. They open up the possibility for others to talk about their own challenges and experiences in life. Because we all have those.
Thank you Lois, for being an exceptional human being.
And thank you, for allowing me to photograph you.
How many of you can relate to this? What kind of things do you battle with and what are you going to do about it? Answer in the comments below!
Until next time lovelies,