How the Just Me project changed me

As I transition from the Just Me project to focus on creating the Just Me experience, I'm being asked frequently how the 1.5-year-long project changed who I am; Whether it has changed the way I view my body and myself. My answer, up until some recent deep-dive introspection, has been no. I still am not comfortable with my body and I still focus on my insecurities and what I hate. I'm susceptible to the messages that tell me I will never be enough, that I need to buy this or do this or eat this in order to be _____ (fill in the blank).

I knew that because of this project I was viewing other women and the world around me with less judgement and more love/understanding. This project has opened my eyes to all of the beauty and beautiful people that surround me every day. I am SO thankful for that. Why couldn't I give that same non-judgment and love to myself?

I didn't think I had changed much. With some tough love from friends and family, they have told me all the ways I have changed. Maybe I didn't want to accept it. Maybe I have not been ready to give myself permission to be happy with my body. Maybe I have been too close to it all, and couldn't SEE it happening. I was focused on the fact that my body has not changed. In fact, It's even be bigger than when I started this project. THAT'S what I have been focusing on. Playing on repeat this sad story that I am no longer the toned, skinny 20-year-old that I loved looking at in the mirror. I didn't want to accept that I will never be that girl again... and that crippled my ability to see the way I have changed for the better.

Here's what I've realized:

1) I am keeping myself in this negative state. I am the only one who can shift my perception. I decide how to describe myself, and it should not be ruled by comparison.

2) I am allowed to be unhappy with how I look, but no matter what I look like, I can still create beauty, spread goodness, and change the world (no matter how small of an action). That's an empowering thought.

3) Our bodies are incredible and allow us to experience LIFE to the FULLEST. Instead of focusing on what I hate, I should be doing activities I love. The universe will repay me with even more fulfilling opportunities when I open up and accept (the word of the day).

I have been stepping outside of my comfort zone more than I realized. I've been photographed three times (though I used to love being in front of the camera, I have taken a HUGE break from being photographed since my wedding 3.5 years ago), went shopping for two new outfits (it wasn't as scary as I built it up to be!), and have been making a big effort to initiate intimacy with my husband.

New people I meet tell me I am confident. My family and friends tell me I'm more confident than before. I haven't wanted to accept this compliment. I don't feel it. I'm an actress, after all! I can fake it 'til I make it. But you know what, I sat down and forced myself to accept it... 

I am more confident. Do you know why? The core reason of my shift towards confidence? YOU. The women I have met along the way. YOU have shown me that I have a purpose. There is a reason I am here and why I go through my own struggles. There is a reason I have put everything I have and everything I am into this photography business, and especially the Just Me project.

YOU stepped in front of my camera, bare, insecurities and all, told me your stories, and you have survived. Your stories of transformation have given me the permission to transform as well. I would not be who I am without this project. I have changed. I am new woman and am learning to accept this chapter. Thank you for being a part of my journey.

Sending you love.

-Amy

 Photo by Emily Keeney

Photo by Emily Keeney

Amy Paine