I actually really hate what I look like in pictures. I haven't changed my profile picture on Facebook in 2 years-my fiancé is in it, I was skinner then, and I happen to be wearing makeup. Why disrupt a good thing?
Signing up for a boudoir shoot was a crazy idea. It was meant to be a wedding gift for my fiancé-he was always telling me how beautiful I am, even if I rolled my eyes every time he said it. Beautiful after working for 8 hours? Beautiful after spending 4 hours a day commuting? Sweatpants, hair tie, chillin' with no makeup on... beautiful? No. Not quite.
I appreciated the love and compliments, but it was hard to believe him most days. I knew he thought I was perfect, but what was he seeing that I couldn't see? A boudoir shoot would blow his mind. He would never expect it. I could do this for him..I think. I never expected to feel immediate doubt. WHAT was I thinking? Scheduling a boudoir shoot? In front of strangers no less?
I wasn't a sexy person-I knew next to nothing about what looked sexy on me. I had never even seen a garter belt in person. Those could stay with the Victoria's Secret models. I went to my closest friends for support. But all I got in reply was absolute shock. "You're doing WHAT...?" "You're brave." "I could never do that…”
Doubt and anxiety echoed back at me. Never do that? But why not? Why never? My friends are stunning, but I couldn't convince them otherwise. Is that what I was doing to myself without even realizing it? Was I looking down on myself instead of loving myself? If I could build my friends up, shouldn't I be loving myself in the same way? The world makes it so easy to for us, as women, to focus on our imperfections--to focus on all of our flaws. Society presents us with the "perfect" woman on billboards, on the tv, on the internet. I wasn't ever going to be that girl. But I sure as hell could try. Right..?
I prepared for my boudoir shoot as much as I could, checking off all of the things on my list to buy and do to make myself look like a better version of myself. Nails and toes done?-check. Hey, ladies, ever had a Brazilian wax?-painful check. Go to Victoria's Secret and have the sales associate get over the headset to everyone in the entire store to announce a bride was headed to the fitting room for a boudoir shoot? And then having the thrilled woman in charge of the fitting room exclaim that I must show her once I had the lingerie on?-Embarrassing check.
Then it was here--Boudoir Shoot Day. I shuffled into the studio wearing leggings and an oversized sweatshirt-and was immediately greeted by two friendly faces. I was trying to put on a brave face as I laid out my outfits for the day, all the while chatting with Rachel and Justin. I'm so out of my element, I thought. I'm not sexy. What if my fiancé doesn't like the pictures after all? I was whisked into the hair and makeup chair soon after.
"What look are we going for today?" Rachel asked me. "Well...I don't ever wear makeup. and I wear my glasses every day. So..." I was staring at myself in the mirror, the ring light highlighting the blemishes on my face. I didn't know how to reply. "Do you like curls?" I smiled. I loved when my hair was curled. I started to get more comfortable. While I was getting my hair and makeup done, Justin and Rachel were chatting with me about life, work, photography. I even made a joke about being half naked in front of a group of strangers-and they laughed! Maybe I can do this. Especially when I looked at myself in the mirror once I was done in the chair. I couldn't stop staring. Could I really look that pretty? I genuinely didn't recognize the woman in the mirror-the same mirror where I had just focused on the imperfections of my face. Why was I so obsessed with focusing on the negative?
It's really all about jumping off that cliff-even if you have a fear of heights. The cliff where all your insecurities hang out and whisper those non-truths into your soul. The cliff where you have never felt good enough. The cliff where we judge other women for what they look like. The cliff's edge that is too damn perfect to leave most days. But I was determined for today to not be that day. If I could jump out of a perfectly good airplane on my birthday, I could jump off this cliff of imperfection. The conservative, awkward nerd in glasses finally started coming out of her shell, slowly but surely.
"Look how stunning you are," Rachel rushed over to me while Justin show me a picture on the back of the camera. And I started to believe it. Even if I had to play, "Run the World (Girls) by Beyoncé in my head to hype me up in the beginning. Even if Rachel had to help me hook up my thigh-highs to the garter belt. Even when I couldn't relax the worry-wrinkles on my forchead. Even when I had to cling onto the egg chair for dear life as I flipped my hair. Even when I was laughing hysterically because the trying to maintain balance while posing and not falling over. Even when I laid down on the cold, bare floor to get the perfect shot. I finally let go I felt free.
I could have never imagined what the final product would be. You would never think that putting your clothes back on for the Reveal Session would actually be the most nerve-wracking moment of the day. I felt sexy, I felt confident, I felt beautiful. Would all that come through in the pictures?
Rachel and Justin showed me picture after picture -a girl I hardly recognized. "Is that me?! That's not me," I kept repeating. "Yes! That IS you!" they kept saying. I didn't focus on the flaws and imperfections that plagued my daily life. It was so liberating. For the very first time in my life, I genuinely didn't feel weighed down by those thoughts. Maybe it took Elevation’s perspective for me to see myself in a true light. I was speechless. That stunning woman in those pictures WAS me-looking completely and utterly flawless.
Flawless. Me. Used in the same sentence. (I get emotional just writing this.) I had never felt that way before. I felt like I was on top of the world. Is this what it felt like to see me through my fiance's eyes? Is this what it felt like to truly love yourself?
I knew that if I felt this way about myself, there was no way on earth he wouldn't be surprised. I decided to get a 'Naughty Magazine' for my fiancé-all my images on 36 glorious and glossy pages from the boudoir shoot that I flip through myself every chance I get. I think I look at them more than he does. It's a daily reminder that my self-image has completely changed after having my boudoir shoot. A new level of confidence and acceptance became a part of my every day life...all thanks to Justin and Rachel, two people who have the very special talent of finding beauty in everyone.
I feel empowered just being, well...me. I had realized in giving my fiancé this gift, I had unintentionally given myself the best gift of all.