I have to say I truly love who I am today. I love the fact that I get to work with wonderful people and do what I love for a living. I get to be a successful professional and a wife and a mom to beautiful children. I feel like I am living the best years of my life and I'm finally fulfilling my purpose.
So you might think cool, your purpose is to snap portraits of people. Nope, wrong! A camera is my tool, lights are my tool. My purpose is about people. My purpose is helping people see themselves the way their loved ones see them. My purpose is to shut down the lies we tell ourselves about being ugly, unworthy, overweight or abnormal. My purpose is to find light in people and help bring it out for all to see.
When I was a little girl we didn't take many pictures. I remember taking one or two family pictures when the church was doing a directory. My family traveled during the summers to wonderful places all over the country but we never had any pictures. Why? Partly, because my mom didn't like how she looked and she didn't want to be photographed. My mother whom I love with my whole heart couldn't find the strength to love herself. I remember many times her being overwhelmingly upset with her physical appearance. She had bought into a lie. She bought into the lie that first off the outside is what people see. I know I never saw anything but love. Second she had convinced herself that she was not acceptably skinny by societies standards.
As I got older the lies my mother told herself became the lies I told myself. I am not pretty. I am not skinny. I am awkward. I need to hide. The lies became so loud in my head that by the age of eleven I was extremely depressed. At eleven I was at a new school, I was overweight, I had glasses for the first year and braces for the first year. Mainly I had zero confidence. I literally walked around looking at the ground all the time. If I could go back now. I would give that little girl a hug. I would tell her she is insanely beautiful and funny and sweet. I would remind her that she is a child of God and not a day goes by that she is not loved.
I would like to say that part of my life was a phase. I guess in some ways it was but it took up way too much of my life. I spent years self isolating, resenting "pretty" or "popular" people. After I got married and had children it seemed to snowball even more. I had my daughter at twenty three. I gained a lot of weight when I was pregnant. I remember the doctor telling me how morbidly obese I was literally every time I went for a prenatal visit. Everyone I saw in public seemed to think it ok to tell the pregnant lady how massive she was. As a young newly married woman, it crushed me! I felt hideous! I didn't take maternity portraits. Why would I? I was so ashamed. Then being a mother soon consumed me. I put myself last over and over again. Soon it seemed like being overweight and a constant hot mess was just my identity. I felt like I just had to accept I would never be beautiful. What a huge huge lie the devil was whispering in my ear. I listened. I listened to it louder than the voice of my loving husband who said you are beautiful and you are an amazing mother. I gave the lie power.
There is a famous quote "Nothing makes a woman more beautiful than the belief that she is beautiful" - Sophia Loren
Could I have convinced that young mom that she was beautiful? I don't know but I know that I would try if I could. I would have tried to find her light and show her how beautifully she shines.
As time went on I was working my photography business which wasn't going very well because all the woman seemed to think they were too fat or imperfect to take family portraits. Even though I didn't agree I understood their feeling so I would just quietly step aside. I was starting to read business books, self help books, talk to helpful mentors. I started to study people that I found to be absolutely captivating. I found that physically there was nothing different about these people. Their confidence and personalities where what was so intoxicating about them. I also went through a time where my faith in God got a lot stronger. I believe God took me through a period of time where he pulled everything else away so I could hear him better. I spent so much time thinking I was ugly and fat and unworthy. It wasn't until that I realized that was a MASSIVE LIE I was telling myself that I was able to change my life. Like a light switch, deciding I had value and worth changed my life!
So next time I went to talk to a woman about family portraits and she gave me the usual nonsense about needing to loose 10 lbs or fit into a dress better I didn't step aside. I stepped up! How can I step aside now? I KNOW for a fact that is the devil talking. I have experienced radical life change. Why would I let a fellow woman, friend, child of God believe that LIE! So my message became "You are beautiful". I know you don't hear me and you are blocking it out so let me say it again "YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!" From that point on my focus became building up women and girls. Do I believe guys need this message too? Absolutely YES! I know there are young men out there right now in school telling themselves they are ugly and unworthy. I want to give those kids a hug too.
Now from this story you may think I blame my mom for my thought process growing up. I don't blame her. She was doing the best she could. She probably heard the lies from her mother. I had to make a decision that those lies stopped with me. I will not pass it down to my daughter. I do not talk bad about myself in front of my daughter. I want my daughter to know I value her and I value myself. I want to lead by example. What does that mean for me? That means when I have put on a few extra pounds I still take the family picture. Because when it comes down to it, its not about me. It is about our family, our relationship and our connection. I also keep a portrait of myself on the wall. I would have made fun of myself so hard when I was younger for that. How vain, right?! No, I am showing my daughter, I am confident, I am strong, I am beautiful and here is my daily reminder. Like a visual positive affirmation.
Do I still use a camera? YES, but that is not my purpose. My purpose is to tear down the lies society tells us, the lies the devil tells us and the lies we tell ourselves. Now my question for you is, what do you tell yourself? Is the record in your head a positive one? How about your kids? How about your mom? If you could change someones life, really change their life to show them how amazing they are... would you? Would you do it for yourself?