My Own Before & After

"I want you to know: Your weight is the least interesting thing about you... [T]hat's not what you see when you look at someone you love.  That's your partner, your child, your parents, your best friend. You are not the size of your jeans, you are the love you have for others, the love that comes straight out of your eyes. [Y]ou are the laughter you bring, the comfort in your voice the nurturing in your hands, the patience in your listening, the warmth in your hug and the trust and knowing that you are part of my life and I am part of yours."     -Sue Bryce

It's sometimes hard to understand these words while you put on a pair of jeans that used to be in your 'fat' pile and pull them up snuggly over your muffin top, or when you look at photos of yourself and feel disgust.  For anyone who has ever struggled with their weight or some other physical imperfection, this is for you (so I think that pretty much means all of us).  While I've gotten better at putting myself in front of the camera, I don't believe I have improved much in the way of sharing photographs of myself, even if I like them.  Clicking the 'post' button is excruciating.  I am surrounded by supportive family and friends, and always receive positive feedback, but it remains difficult to put myself under the scrutiny of others.  That being said, I'm determined to to be an example.  We should learn to stamp out the voices of self hate (that sometimes drown out any positivity), and exist in beautiful photographs.  Yes, like many things in our lives, we should do it for our children, for our loved ones, to preserve ourselves forever for them.  But darn it....(and this one is much harder to accept for me), we DESERVE to have a photograph of ourselves that we LOVE.  So even on those difficult days (or weeks/months) we can glance at that photograph and be reminded of how much our inner beauty really radiates outward.  It's much more than the hair and the makeup.  It's a glimpse of you at your best - the way you look in the mirror when you're all dressed up and happy, the way your loved ones see you.  It's capturing the beauty that you radiate in that moment. 

I decided to do my own 'before and after' photographs, just to show that anyone can do this, regardless of body type, age, or skin condition.  After gaining a bit of weight over the past 18 months and suffering from terrible acne, I haven't wanted to be photographed until I lost the weight.  But it is my hope that we can accept and love and value ourselves as we are, even if we do want to change things.  A huge part of moving forward with change is acceptance.  We can stop waiting to be perfect, because we will never find that perfection.

And so, I give you my BEFORE:

And my AFTER:

Yes I am wearing makeup and yes I've gently retouched my skin to remove the imperfections that really bother me.  I have set up the lighting (natural light) and the posing so that my best features are emphasized and my own shortcomings (my weight) are downplayed.  I love this photograph.  

We are not defined by our imperfections - they just become all we see - and the reason we shy away from the camera.  We deserve more.  We are all beautiful.  If I can quiet the voice of self-hate long enough to create a portrait of myself that I love, and even go a step further and SHARE it with all of you, anyone can.  #existinphotos