Tag Archives: Inner Beauty

I Woke Up Like This

Last Spring, a friend brought to my attention the existence of a photography project called I Woke Up Like This and suggested that I consider participating in it. Conducting some research, I learned that the mission of the project is to remove criticism from the perception of our bodies by witnessing the vulnerability, beauty and imperfections of other bodies. As a social experiment, the project strives to weave individual stories with the narratives of these photographs, connecting viewers and participants on a mutual journey to find empathy, self-awareness and self-love.

I was happy to discover that Jillian Powers, the project’s creator, was traveling to Denver to meet participants who were willing to strip naked and expose their most vulnerable selves, sans makeup or fancy hairdos, for the camera. Of course, I immediately expressed my interest. A chance to further the fat-positive cause AND be a part of a social project pioneered by an award-winning portrait photographer? Yes, please! Where do I sign up?

I knew that by participating, it would mean removing all of my clothing in front of strangers. I also knew that there would be conversations surrounding body image and self-esteem. What I didn’t anticipate from the experience was having to face my own vulnerability; I am imperfect, I am fat, I am covered in stretch marks and cellulite and dimpled body parts. Being stark naked in a photo shoot with doors and windows wide open and strangers nearby managed to push a few unexpected insecurities to the surface.

Yet, despite those fleeting thoughts of self-doubt, I remained positive and uplifted. I gleaned something extremely valuable from that afternoon spent in front of Jillian’s professional camera lens: the realization that I am, without apology, a perfectly imperfect human being. Every single one of us is. And it’s crucial, absolutely crucial, that we remember that.

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Interview with Jillian Powers

/// BEFORE SHOOT ///

What level is your self-esteem at from 1-10?
Nine.

That’s awesome!
I worked to get here.  It didn’t come easily.

Are you nervous?
Not as nervous as I thought I’d be. I was more nervous thinking about coming here, then I got here and it feels more exciting. More exciting than nervous.

Why did you want to participate in this project?
It’s an important project. I believe in positive body image, spreading the word of respecting yourself and loving yourself. That includes me. I’m still a work in progress myself. This project is an opportunity to be a part of a bigger picture. To be able to spread this message to the world.

With all the blogs, social media interaction, and so on…body positivity is important to me.

/// AFTER THE SHOOT ///

What is your self-esteem level now?
Nine point five.

How did the shoot affect your self-esteem?
It definitely lifted it, because I don’t look at pictures of myself naked. I don’t even own a full-length mirror. I’m not afraid to be naked, or see myself naked. It’s just fascinating to see myself through your lens.

How has your body affected your self-esteem throughout your life?
By third grade, I was wearing a bra – not because I wanted to, but because I needed to. No one else in my grade was wearing a bra at that point.

How did that make you feel?
Very self-conscious. I felt like a bit of a freak. I definitely felt fat. I was already getting the curvy hips, the belly. And most of my friends were thin. Limber. Athletic. All my friends could do cartwheels. Everything I tried to do in respect to that with my body just wasn’t on the same page. My body was holding me back from doing physical things.

What did that teach you about being fat when you were little?
I started finding other parts of satisfaction in my life. I turned to creative paths, things that didn’t require my physical body to be limber and fit and accomplishing physical tasks. This doesn’t mean that I wasn’t active; I participated in physical games and sports and ran around with friends. I was a very active kid. I just always felt like I couldn’t get to that level of athleticism that others could reach.

How old where you when you first began negative self-talk?
I would say sixth grade, eleven or twelve year old. It was my first year attending public school, and I didn’t have to wear a uniform. I felt out of place. I didn’t know how to dress right. I wasn’t popular. Boys only liked me because of my boobs. Girls didn’t like me because of my boobs. It was the first year I experienced bullying.

You run a body positivity blog, tell me how that began?
I went through a divorce about five years ago now, and my marriage had been very emotionally damaging to me. When I finally made the decision to get out of the marriage, I found a renewed sense of self that I had not experienced for decades, and I wanted to express that.

What caused that new sense of self?
When I was married, my husband was a negative, dominating personality in the relationship. Emotionally, he was overbearing, belittled me, made me feel stupid. Verbally, he made little jabs that consistently put me down. He never outright complained about my weight, but we did not have a close, intimate relationship like a husband and wife should have. It wasn’t satisfying, and it wasn’t loving. He didn’t treat me like he desired me, there was no romance between us. Eventually, the verbal and emotional abuse wore me down.

How did that make you feel about your body?
Prior to the divorce, I did not like my body. I liked myself as a person but I was ashamed of my body. I sort of retreated into myself, wore baggy clothing to hide all the rolls and the curves. I just didn’t want to acknowledge my own body. When I left the marriage, I realized that I wasn’t actually the person he’d manipulated me into believing I was. I was better than that. And I knew that I could love my whole self, body and all.

Do you have children?
Yes, I have a son, he’s sixteen. Before this project, I sat down and told him what it entails – that it’s going to be online, in a book, etc. The first thing he said to me was, “GOOD! We need more of that.”

What is the biggest struggle you’ve faced in your life thus far?
Being comfortable in my own skin. I think I’m almost there. My biggest hope is to inspire people to be comfortable in their own skin. It opens up a whole other pathway to happiness. Discovering your own inner and outer beauty is the key. I’ve had many friends through the years tell me they look up to me because I don’t come off as someone with low self-esteem. I don’t worry about what other people think about me, for the most part. I don’t make decisions based on what other people might think of me.

Are you a feminist, and why?
Yes. I know that there are a lot of women who claim not to be feminists because there can be negative attitude surrounding it – that feminists are aggressive, man-hating, don’t want to be mothers, etc., and I don’t think that’s it at all. It’s making sure that all women are seen as vital people in this world. Women have just as big a part in this world as men do. I’m not a man hater, and I’m not afraid of being sexual. Femininity to me is being strong with who you are, embracing who you are. It’s being a mother, it’s being a businessperson, it’s being whatever you wanna be. Whoever you wanna be. Not letting anyone tell you you’re not good enough or don’t have the right skills or that you’re not smart enough because of your gender.

Any last words for the readers?
My mantra is that I try to live an extraordinary life, even through ordinary circumstances.

 

For more information on I Woke Up Like This or to participate in the project, visit http://www.iwultproject.com/join-the-movement/

 

 

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I Am Not Fat, I Am Me

Call me delusional, or call me in denial, but I do not think of myself as fat.

Of course, I AM fat. I wear a dress size that can’t be found in most specialty boutiques or clothing stores. I have folds of flesh that encircle my body – a mid-section that’s hefty, breasts that are heavy, arms that are flabby, hips that are beefy. I have flesh-colored stretch marks that arc across my belly and ripples of cellulite that dimple my thighs and buttocks. I sport a double-chin and chubby cheeks and a body shaped like an apple. When I bend over to pull weeds or work on something at ground-level, I often find it difficult to breathe because my belly pushes up against my breasts, which push against my diaphragm, which cuts off my oxygen intake. Sometimes, my back hurts. Sometimes, the pain is in my feet or my ankles or my hips. I’m not always 100% comfortable, even in my sleep. Although this can be attributed to my weight, it can also be attributed to physical exertion and the slow aging of my body, which is inevitably creeping up on me.

But still, I do not think of myself as fat. Let me rephrase: I do not think of myself as ONLY fat.

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In my every day life, being overweight is irrelevant. I am an active, involved, fully capable woman who chooses activity over laziness (except for those moments when I’m feeling lazy, and then I indulge in that laziness, because I can, and I have a right to.) I work full-time at a rather demanding job, raise a teenage son, tend to a house and a yard, go to arts and cultural events, find interest in the creative endeavors of others, participate in social gatherings, visit with friends, explore the city where I live and get involved in the community when I can. I also spend quality time nurturing and caring for my interpersonal relationships and showering my partner with lots of love and sex.

Recently, I overheard a woman at work complaining about her personal weight gain and how life has become more difficult and uncomfortable for her, because she can’t find any clothes that fit right in her closet, and drinking a beverage while sitting in a recliner is even a challenge now because her breasts get in the way. In her griping, she said, “I don’t know how Holly does it.” Meaning, me.

My immediate, though unspoken, response was: “I just do it.”

No one can call me a couch potato. It’s rare that you’ll even find the television on in my house. Yet strangely, I experience frequent twinges of guilt when I do sit quietly with a notebook or my computer, because I feel that I should be up and about, cleaning, gardening, walking, being productive in a more physical, tangible way. As a result, I don’t write or post blogs often enough, and my creativity suffers. For instance, right now, as I type this, my mind is thinking of a dozen other things I should be attending to – a dozen other things more important than this, which is false.

So, you see, I don’t think of myself as fat. I am much more than that. I am the woman with a body and a mind that allow her to  accomplish tremendous feats, even in the everyday – planting perennials, visiting galleries, writing poetry, taking walks, cooking meals, indulging in sensual pleasures.

My daily mantra has always been this:

“to live an extraordinary life, even through ordinary circumstances” 

So you see… I don’t have time to ponder my weight.

How would I get anything done?

 

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Not For The Shape of Your Vessel

“You are not your bra-size, nor are you the width of your waist, nor are you the slenderness of your calves. You are not your hair color, your skin color, nor are you a shade of lipstick. Your shoe-size is of no consequence. You are not defined by the amount of attention you get from males, females, or any combination thereof. You are not the number of sit-ups you can do, nor are you the number of calories in a day. You are not your mustache. You are not the hair on your legs. You are not a little red dress.
You are no amalgam of these things.
You are the content of your character. You are the ambitions that drive you. You are the goals that you set. You are the things that you laugh at and the words that you say. You are the thoughts you think and the things you wonder. You are beautiful and desirable not for the clique you attend, but for the spark of life within you that compels you to make your life a full and meaningful one.
You are beautiful not for the shape of the vessel, but for the volume of the soul it carries.”
~ Michael Wriston 

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A Woman’s Worth

“When a woman has owned her passionate nature, allowing love to flood her heart, her thoughts grow wild and fierce and beautiful.  Her juices flow.  Her heart expands.  She has thrown off crutch and compromise.  She has glimpsed the enchanted kingdom, the vast and magical realms of the goodness that lies within her.  Here, all things are transformed.  And there is a purpose to this: that the world might be mothered back to a great and glorious state.  When a woman conceives her true self, a miracle occurs and life around her begins again.”

~Marianne Williamson

 

Flamenco Woman ~ Richard Young

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A Painting Inspires A Conversation

Earlier today, I had an interesting chat with an old acquaintance of mine. He and I have not seen each other in almost 20 years. Recently, we befriended one another on that popular social media site that everyone belongs to, and over the course of a few months briefly conversed in chats online that were, for the most part, very topical: “How have you been? What have you been up to?”

This afternoon, however, was refreshingly different. 

At the moment, my profile picture on this popular social media site is of a painting by German artist Caroline Westerhout, entitled ‘Jalousy’.

What is portrayed in this enchanting piece? A young woman peacefully asleep in an armchair? Or a scantily-clothed temptress? 

The dychotomy of the subject is captivating ~ innocence and sensuality all rolled into one.

Needless to say, I am in love with this painting, on many levels. It captured my affection the moment I saw it.

Apparently, I am not the only one. This afternoon, my male friend appeared  online to inquire if that was me in the painting. I replied, “I wish! I would LOVE for someone to paint me.” Which is true ~ I think it would be the ultimate compliment, the ultimate perpetuity of my existence. And if the painting was done in colorful Klimt-like style such as the above-mentioned ‘Jalousy’, I’d be eternally enamored. 

In response to this, my male friend, kind as he is, offered to paint me… with finger paints. All over. Which started a very different kind of conversation.

(I should insert here that as a woman who is very comfortable with her sexuality, I am not easily embarrassed or reserved when suggestive comments are made. Flirting and conversations regarding carnal possibilities are occasionally embraced with amicability, so long as the participating parties remain on a positive, healthy level and ideas are mutually shared.)

Finger paints across the flesh…? Well, why not…?

Cool and moist to begin with, dry and taut on the skin in the end…

But I digress.

In continuation, my male friend proceeded to inform me that, although he’d been attracted to me back in my more youthful, thinner days (and believe me, I was never thin), he was even more  attracted to me now ~ because of my extra curviness. Apparently, he appreciates “having something to hold onto” and has many close friends who agree that a full-figure form is preferable.

It was extremely pleasing to hear. And I hear it more often than one might think.

Although the theory is far from prevalent, and the media shuns it, I am consistently presented with uplifting stories and opinions which solidify my belief that a full-figured body is, indeed, desirable.   

Kudos to my online friend for reaffirming it.  

And kudos to Caroline Westerhout for creating such a beautiful work of art which inspired a delightful conversation.

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Female Perception and Visual Delights

Bottoms Up Reprised ~ Juan Alcantara

Possessing a creative spirit, I am constantly captivated by rich, evocative imagery. This exquisite painting by Juan Alcantara represents the essence of my blog ~ beauty, sensuality and an appreciation for the zaftig female form.
 
Tell me… when you viewed this painting on my header or in this post for the first time, what impression did it make upon you? Did you think to yourself…   
  • It’s stunning
  • It’s stunning but I’m uncomfortable with it
  • It’s erotic
  • It’s obscene
  • It’s disgusting
  • It’s beautiful
?
 
I read an interesting blog once about a full-figured woman who was on a quest to significantly lose weight. As a means to chronicle her journey, she volunteered to model for an art class. When she stood at the front of the class and disrobed, she anticipated shock or disgust from the roomful of students, but what she received was absolute exuberance. Immediately, the students began to draw her with enthusiasm and passion. Viewing the results of their work after, the woman was surprised to see her “overweight” body transformed into something curvaceous, vivacious and beautiful.
 
A time later, once shedding the weight, the woman returned to the class to model for the art students once more. This time, though, instead of exuberance, the students drew her to paper sluggishly, as though bored with their topic. Viewing the work afterwards, the now “skinny” woman was disheartened by the results: the drawings of her were lifeless, dull, her body portrayed as a stick figure with sharp lines and edges. The first drawings were beautiful… the latter ones felt empty.
 
An interesting thought, wouldn’t you agree? It’s a concept which leaves one questioning what is truly considered desirable ~ the woman with curves or the emaciated figure?
 
Why does society ~ the media ~ try to convince us it’s only one way?
 
Throughout my blog here, I intend to investigate and negate the argument that emaciated is better than full-figured, and also that, whether they are willing to admit it or not, deep down inside, men appreciate women who A.) are comfortable in their own skin and B.) possess curvaceous assets to hold onto.

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What makes a woman beautiful…?

… her femininity? her prowess? the color of her eyes? the style of her clothing?

What makes a woman beautiful?

… her accomplishments? the way she walks? the sound of her laughter? the content of her mind?

What makes a woman beautiful?

… her nurturing spirit? her inner strength? the way she smiles? the scent of her skin?

What makes a woman beautiful?

… her confidence? her sensuality? the size of her figure? the texture of her hair?

What makes a woman beautiful?

It is a question that resides, just behind the eyes, when we look out at our surroundings and see a profusion of corporations attempting to establish and dictate a code of acceptable beauty. 

It is a question that pokes and prods and insists upon attention until we find ourselves peeking at our reflections and fretting over what is presented there: “…am I beautiful…?”

The uncertainty emerges in waves – arriving and departing at will, rising buoyantly to the surface at times we least expect it. It is then that we feel paralyzed –  imprisoned and incapable – quick to dismiss our attributes as things which are ugly and worthless.

But they are not ugly. Nor worthless.

They are extraordinary.

So what really makes a woman beautiful…? 

E* V* E* R* Y* T* H* I* N* G*

All that she has to offer.  

Her heart, her soul, her desires, her fears, her accomplishments, her failures.

Everything, inside and out.

Not what is falsely dictated or insinuated or anticipated, but rather what is true: the beauty which lies in the unique spirit she possesses, exuding from within her like sweet, sun-touched gold.  

Color Me Mardi Gras ~ Valerie Aune

©2011 Enchanted Zaftig

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