Just full disclosure right off the bat, here, this post is going to have a lot of photos of me in lingerie. So, do what you will with that information going forward.
All photos in this post were taken by Kinzie Ferguson.
I don’t remember a specific moment when I stopped loving my body but I remember the moment when I took a gigantic, unexpected hard, beautiful tumble toward falling in love with her.
It was just a few weeks ago. I was on my lunch break from my shift at the book store and starting a Skype session with Kinzie Ferguson, the Empowerment Photographer, who had taken photos of me in my underwear a few weeks prior. We were having our viewing session–the part where I got to see all the gorgeous images that we created together.
Before she showed me anything, Kinzie made a point to tell me, “Okay, now, remember that you’re used to seeing yourself from the front for the most part. So it might be startling seeing yourself from all these new angles.” I hadn’t thought about it before but she’s right! I only see myself from the front. Mirrors, selfies, this is the majority of how I’m ever seeing myself. Maybe that’s the reason that we’re forget to style the back of our hair or we are so quick to untag photos of ourselves taken from behind. At any rate, this was just another example of Kinzie knowing just the right thing to do or say to make me feel comfortable and safe before I even knew I needed that feeling (more on this incredible skill next week).
So Kinzie got me prepared for potential discomfort simply because I’m about to look at photos of myself, not only from different angles but also in lingerie and in positions that, frankly, I’ve never been in before in my whole life.
She started the slideshow and I was struck speechless at the very first image.
There I was, laying across a bed on my back. My tummy just out there for the whole world to see. No hands covering it, no strategically placed fabric. Just me. Totally uncovered and… dare I say gorgeous?
This photo has a lot of things in it that challenge me but the reason that this photo is my most favorite is because, while I do see those things, they aren’t the first things I see. I see that smile. I see the light laying across my skin the way it lays across every other beautiful thing in the whole world. I see those legs that my partner loves and I can even see what he likes about them.
I do see the other things. Those things I’ve been at war with—sometimes a violent and bloody war. And I’m so filled up from the incredible beauty and strength that I saw first that those other things don’t bother me. What used to be a weapon was now just a soft, harmless piece of me begging to not be ignored. They’re there—they’re not bad.
This was the exact moment when I fell in love.
I don’t know if Kinzie knew how this photo would affect me and that’s why she selected it to be the first one in the slideshow or if that’s just how it turned out but I loved this photo so much, I bought it to hang on my own wall. Yeah, I have only a few walls in this tiny apartment and one of them is going to be devoted to my own ½ naked body.
Let’s back up a little bit because this is kind of the middle of the story.
I met Kinzie, @empowermentphotographer, on Instagram maybe a year ago or more and then I joined her Facebook Group (which you should totally join). I started following her just because I liked her photographic style but over time I realized that her work goes a lot deeper than that. Kinzie wants everyone to recognize their own intrinsic strength. And when I say everyone I mean everyone. She believes in the intersections that all sorts of people live with and she’s pumped to explore the different parts that you want to present.
Like, when I told Kinzie that I don’t always feel my sexiest or in touch with myself when I’m all femmed up, she was so down. I wanted to explore my queerness just a little bit. I brought in my TomboyX bra and trunks set and she was psyched. We’re both so down with their business model and I can’t get over their tagline, “Underwear that’s not for everybody but it is for any body.” There’s no men’s section and women’s section. There’s just clothes that everyone needs.
Getting to know Kinzie through this whole experience has been kind of like finding a type of soul mate. I mean, you go through your whole life wondering if anyone really gets you and resonates with the things that light you up and then you just happen upon someone and it clicks together super well. We both just want you to feel as strong and powerful as you can.
I think there’s a big difference between Self Love and Body Positivity. A lot of the time, these terms get used interchangeably without much thought but it’s important to recognize the difference. Body Positivity says “all bodies are good bodies”. And in that way we stand up for the representation and accessibility for everyone’s different body. Self Love says, “my body is a good body.” Both are crucial. I don’t know why but for a lot of people, body positivity is a stepping stone towards self love. That’s how it’s been for me anyway. It’s so much easier to see the inherent worthiness of other people and to fight for them than it is to fight for myself. There’s a lot of reasons for that. For me, if I’m getting really vulnerable with you (and why not just go all in on this one), I don’t want to be seen as a whiner. I don’t want people to think that I’m ungrateful for the privileges that I do have if I’m talking about the things that aren’t available to me on a systemic level. That’s why I started out standing up and advocating for other people. That’s when I was able to finally speak up for myself, too. When I do that, I speak up for other people who have some of the same intersections as me.
There’s this idea out there in the world that if we all just see ourselves as beautiful and believe in ourselves for once in our lives then the whole world will change and everything’s fine (I’m looking at you, I Feel Pretty). I’m not here for that message, really. I am not going to sit here and tell you that if you finally accept that you’re pretty, and fall in love with your cellulite, all your problems will disappear. The problems in the world don’t live inside of our heads. Whether you and I accept our bodies as powerful and incredible or not, the pay gap still exists, people are still being trafficked like commodities, and a woman is being killed by an intimate partner as you read this.
Though, when we find and stand in our strength, we shore up the resources to fight. Empowered women empower women and with an army of empowered women, what could stand against us?
So I clicked through the rest of these photos of myself, falling deeper and deeper in love. As that was happening, something else was going on. It unlocked a new door inside of me. I can’t believe there are so many doors inside of me to open and discover. I love that feeling of surprising myself with my own newness. This new door led me to a place where, when I’m safe and secure in myself I have the space and refreshed energy to reach out on behalf of others.
I don’t think I have reached the end of my self-love journey. Oh! If only it could be that easy. But I feel like I leveled up and that excites me. It definitely revived me.
Next week I’m going to write a little more about my experience with the Empowerment Photographer—something a little more practical; A bit of a What To Expect When You’re Expecting (Your First Empowerment Session) type of post. So with that in mind, I want to hear your questions. Are you interested but holding back for one reason or another? Let’s get real about it! Leave your questions or thoughts in the comments (or DM or email) and I’ll happily, happily address them.