I have known Samantha ever since that first day in kindergarten when we looked at one another and just decided to be friends. She always seemed so strong and confident to me so it was a shock to read her story. I never knew that she struggled back then, and that's just it- we ALL struggle with body image issues, some of us are just better at hiding it. The stories women are telling me are all so different...and yet so similar. I guess the moral of these is to be kind to one another, and to teach your children to be kind, because this world is hard enough without body shaming added to the mix.
Samantha came in for a session this summer and wanted to shoot both inside and out. I think the images turned out wonderfully!
Here are her words and a few of her images-
Growing up, I had what felt like a very healthy relationship with my body. I have always had a more “athletic” shape, and I loved what I could make it do, I loved seeing the limits I could push with it. My family always praised my good looks and athleticism, and I believed them.
As with many young women, my insecurities started along with the arrival of middle school, and it's hyper-critical nature. I started questioning my athletic legs, my muscular calves and thighs in particular, that I had earned from years of hard work ice skating and playing softball. Why did I have such large “manly” legs when many girls my age (and the models of the early 2000’s) had sticks that sprouted out of their back? Why couldn't I comfortably wear those short shorts without my thighs rubbing together in pain? Why couldn't the new trend of knee high boots zip up over my legs? I started to wonder if maybe my “manly” legs weren't so awesome after all. And so my self doubt sprouted it's first seed.
Middle school through it's trials and tribulations brought on another challenge in my life. I was diagnosed with psoriasis, a common autoimmune disorder that manifests as patches of dry, scaly skin on various parts of your body. Mine had reared its ugly head on my lovely calves that I had grown to be insecure about, with a couple patches on my arms. My classmates and friends would question the areas, pointing and turning up their noses, not wanting to come near me. It took me years to get over some of the hurtful things people said during that time.
After finding out there was no cure for my illness, I decided to embrace what made me different. I decided to flaunt the areas that had previously been points of negativity and disappointment; I was now showing off my powerful legs and booty instead of trying to hide them. I decided to accept myself, and that I feel like was the best thing I could've done from that young age. I had started dating a young man (who I married! Because you don't let the kind of people who lift you up leave your life!) Who encouraged me to leave my comfort zone and who supported me. Who PRAISED me for my “manly” legs, whose shape made him run wild. He told me I was beautiful, and I believed him. And after I heard it from those around me, I started telling it to myself, believing myself.
And though I still have trouble with myself now and again (hello pregnancy), I feel whole, I feel beautiful and empowered because of the support I have been shown from my partner, my friends, and my family.