A year after her photo session, I received an email. I can't not share it. I cried reading her words. And now, I share it with you in case you are out there and need to hear this. I give you permission to be scared. But do it anyway. Do this scared.
I'm pretty sure I drafted an e-mail to you very early last year and never sent it...mainly because I was having a hard time getting all of my thoughts together and would go on really long (and likely unnecessary) rants about all of my feelings and emotions related to my "just me" shoot. So, here I am trying to e-mail you yet again, almost a year later! (sorry in advance that I will likely rant again)...
I remember the day I did my photo shoot very well. While walking back to my car, I felt a sudden sense of relaxation and comfort in my own skin. I remember that I needed to go run a few errands on my way home. When I got to the grocery store and parked in the lot, I remember opening up my mirror and checking myself to make sure I "looked okay"...I guess "okay" enough to go into the grocery store. I remember having a moment where I suddenly didn't see all of the wrinkles, big pores, big nose, and all of the other insecurities and flaws I usually took note of right away. For the first time in a while, I just saw myself. I saw my imperfections but I didn't punish myself for them - instead, I told myself that they were the things that made me unique. I walked into the grocery store holding my head up slightly higher than I typically would have when walking around without any make-up on. It felt really great!!"
"When I got home, I called my mom and I told her all about the photo shoot. I was SO EXCITED. I then explained to her that once I got my collage of photos, she could pick some to buy if she wanted. Her immediate response was "why would I want a photo of you without any make-up on? I would rather have a photo of you all done up and looking nice!".................I remember feeling suuuuuper deflated and confused in that moment. It then struck me that my mom was likely the reason I always felt the need to wear make-up in the first place. During my entire childhood (and still to this day), my mom always made it a point to reference how horrible she looked if she wasn't wearing make-up. I couldn't dare take any photographs of her unless she had make-up on. She's still like that to this day...it's ridiculous. So yeah, it was all very interesting and something I hadn't realized was an issue (and likely led to my current insecurities) until after this phone interaction. I should also mention that once I posted one of my photos from your shoot on social media, my mom LOVED it and suddenly was all about my "no-makeup" look....ironic, huh?"
"Okay....so now I'm going to report to you from the present (2018). Somewhat recently, I started making small attempts here and there to not put make-up on...mostly on the weekends. I would usually just end up putting on some powder and a bit of mascara (typically, I also put on eyeliner and eyeshadow and lipstick and all that jazz). It felt pretty good! It also made me start to get used to looking at (and being okay with) my face in its more natural state. A few weekends ago, I didn't have any makeup for the day (it was a Saturday) and around 7 or 8pm that night, my boyfriend got a text from some friends who wanted to meet up in Ballard. I was wearing a hoodie, jeans and had no makeup on and I immediately started to panic about needing to make myself look "presentable" to go out on a Saturday night in Ballard. After a few minutes, I decided that I was just going to go out without make-up. I did it and guess what....nothing happened! Nobody commented on how I looked, nobody cared! I didn't care either! It was awesome! I was so empowered by that experience that I finally decided (for the first time) to not wear make-up to WORK. Crazy, right? That Monday, I showed up to work with just a little bit of mascara and some face powder. I was bracing myself for the "are you sick?" or "you look tired" comments that us women are so used to hearing when we suddenly are seen with less make-up. The opposite ended up happening...nobody said a word. In fact, the only person who did say something was one of my bosses and she actually said "you look REALLY pretty today. Your eyes are glowing! I really like the minimal make-up look on you!"......WWWWWHHHHAAAAATTTTT? I joked to one of my male coworkers about it (he wasn't at work that day) and he told me that he would likely make a rude comment about it if he were to have been there to see me. I went to work a week later with the same natural look and when I asked him what he thought, he said "I actually think you look better like this". So, yeah. It was all very eye-opening and sort of made me feel like my entire life has been a lie. I could've been wearing minimal make-up this entire time and people wouldn't have cared either way! So yeah, that being said, I'm going to continue to embrace my face in its more natural state and remind myself that I'm perfectly acceptable just the way I am."
"I guess the point of this whole long rant is to tell you that I truly feel that your photoshoot was what led me to all of these conclusions and all of this self-acceptance. It almost makes me want to do ANOTHER shoot because I feel like so much has changed within me in the past year. I feel so much stronger, more confident, more capable, in all aspects of my life (despite not really changing physically...I haven't lost any weight and I used to associate most of my self-worth with how much I weighed). So I'll just end with yet another THANK YOU. Thank you for what you did for us 104 ladies through your work."
You are beautiful. I saw your wrinkles and gravitated towards photographing them. I saw your nose and was reminded of my own. You thought you'd hate seeing your legs in these photographs, but I see strength, and they're actually pretty sexy. They carry you through life. You have so much to give to this world and I am thankful to be a part of your journey. You are a shining light of hope.
Thank you for your email. When I hear stories like yours, my heart is so full and makes me keep going. I love these photo sessions and when I started, I had no idea the impact it could make.
I'm sending you love.
Are you ready to experience this for yourself? It just might change your life.