I speak a lot about beauty; on this blog, on Instagram, in real life. A few years ago I launched a portrait project aimed at changing the way we see ourselves – and our flaws – and helping us to re-examine our own definitions of beauty. I carry the principles of the Beauty Collective with me daily and often talk about them with women during – or after – photo shoots. And yet. AND YET. Here I am, the lifter-upper-of others, the champion for self worth and self love, struggling with who I think I am based on what I look like. Not daily, but often enough. I am a walking contradiction. While I’m relentlessly championing others and helping to propel women to a place of acceptance – a place where they can honor their imperfections and put away their insecurities – I am here, quietly putting way too much value on my exterior. My cover. My dust-jacket. I place a pretty significant portion of my self worth on what my scale and my mirror collectively tell me, and as such the shape or softness of my body often leaves me feeling less than. Inadequate. Not enough.
A year ago I hired a fitness coach and embarked on a whirlwind, intense, life-changing fitness journey. My body changed. My mind changed. My self worth was on a roller-coaster of crazy and, despite my amazing coach, supportive friends and family, and my own best intentions, I lost control of what matters. Of what’s most important. Of the ability to see beyond my exterior – shiny or otherwise. I fell into a shame spiral and I’m finally – finally!- coming out the other side of it. In the process of doing so, I was presented with an incredible opportunity to collaborate with my dear friend Joanne and her friends over at BiffIt Gear to design a tank that reminds us all that we are beautiful.
#RelentlesslyBeautiful is a call to action for women to rise up and challenge society’s definition(s) of beauty. Joanne, BiffIt Gear, and I believe that it is our responsibility to continuously challenge one another as individuals, to push each other towards a better life, and to share our journeys with one another. The purpose of #relentlesslybeautiful is to continue a movement we have all been fighting – even though some of us maybe didn’t know or recognize it. It’s to become stronger – together – so that we can uplift, elevate, and empower each other. It isn’t just for – or about – grown women, but also for the generations we lead. It’s for the little women in our lives.
For those of you who know me, you know I’ve struggled – and still struggle – with depression, and it’s a story that is close to my girl, Joanne, too. Which is why I’m extra excited to announce that all proceeds from the sale of these shirts will be donated to the incredible movement and organization that is To Write Love On Her Arms. TWLOHA is dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression.
I don’t know if I’ll ever get to the place where self love and acceptance are easy, natural, and real. Where it is so much a part of me that it’s visceral. But I do know that I’m on that path. I’m putting one foot in front of the other and I am learning how to see myself differently, and to treat myself with grace and kindness. I’m a work in progress, but it’s work worth doing.
It’s true that through self-discovery we often uncover parts of ourselves we didn’t want to see – or believe – existed, and upon unearthing them we must face the challenges they bring. Some are more easily overcome than others, but there isn’t a mountain out there that isn’t worth climbing. The landscapes of our lives – and our bodies – are beautiful, and it’s up to us – it’s up to me, too – to embrace them. To tie our shoes and walk on. Forward.
Whoever “They” are – those endless voices that guide our lives, whisper relentlessly into our souls – wherever they reside and whatever their fleeting and false import, They dropped the ball recently. They missed the mark. They let me down. They’ve let us all down.
While I was growing my eldest womb fruit, and preparing to embark on the most daunting journey of my life, They told me how to diaper (disposables are for the lazy!) and feed (breast is best!) and sleep (baby loves her back!) and restrain (five point harness until they’re 20!), the growing human within me, once she finally made her debut into this world. They set me up for a few solid years of feeling like I was the worst mom ever. It was awesome. It was relentless. It was ruining me. But in their finite wisdom, They missed a few important things about what was about to happen to me.
They didn’t tell me that the love I had for my children would open me in such a beautiful and miraculous and essential way. That my heart would so often feel as though it was breaking in the most poetic and profound way. Not because it was being destroyed, no, but because it was growing. Shedding its old skin to make room for a newer, bigger version that would walk around outside of my body for the rest of my life. They didn’t tell me that I would forget who I was – that I would look in the mirror, scraggly hair and deep grooves in my forehead, and not recognize myself. They forget to mention that I would hate my post-baby body – the soft skin and saggy breasts – while simultaneously reveling in its strength and resilience. Or that I would only lose my identiy long enough to finally go out and find myself – the very self that I had been looking for the whole of my life but couldn’t ever reach because I didn’t yet know the story I was made to write with my life. They didn’t tell me that the guilt that accompanied motherhood would be crushing, no matter how tightly I screwed my head on, or how much wine I drank after bedtime. They failed to mention that it would encompass me, at times so wholly that I wouldn’t be able to see a way through it. That I would spend so much time reading blogs and staring at social media and never-quite-measuring-up to the ideals thrust upon me. She babywears; my kid hates the Ergo. She makes her own baby food; I’m fine with store bought because – sanity. She uses disposable diapers and has chickens and no TV in her house and her hair IS ALWAYS PERFECT AND OH MY GOD I’M THE WORST MOM EVER.
They didn’t tell me that I would never measure up, no matter how hard I tried, until I finally let go of all the bullshit noise that I was holding onto. Until I not only stopped judging other moms, but also stopped judging and berating and criticizing myself. I had to realize, once and for all, that just because another mom does something different than I would, or did, or could, she’s not by default a better mom than me. She’s simply different. The same way her kids are different than my kids and her life is different than my life. I had to tell myself, firmly, finally, that we are all in this together. This mom job can feel really isolating and lonely, but we aren’t islands. We are doing this alongside the strongest and most beautiful and powerful and wonderful women on the planet. Each of us convinced we are doing it wrong. So this year, for Valentine’s Day, I’m going to give myself the gift of love. Of acceptance. Of believing wholeheartedly and with a knowing so deep I can feel it in my bones that I am doing the best I can, and that is all I should ever expect of myself.
I don’t care what They say, or forgot to say, anymore. What matters is what’s real. What’s now. What’s true.The truth is that is that motherhood is the most wonderful and difficult and mind-numbing-and-blowing-all-at-the-same-time thing I have ever done with my wild and precious life. It’s not something I ever planned on – or life goaled for myself – but here, now, in the throes of a job I wasn’t even sure I wanted, I’m finding myself. The self I had no idea I had lost. A woman who is courageous and funny. Kind and stern. Comforting and nurturing and engaging and determined.
My kids didn’t teach me how to be a mom, that came as natural as breathing. What they’ve taught me is so much greater than that. Because of them I’ve finally learned how to be Athena.
No matter what They say, that is the true magic of parenthood.
It’s that time of year again — time for me to reflect on all that’s happened over the past twelve months. I’ve been dreading this post, actually. Which probably seems odd. But it means that this year is over. That it’s gone, folded into the pages of memory, and I’m not quite ready to let it go just yet. It was incredibly perfect. Everything I’ve been dreaming of since I launched this humble endeavor, and decided, once and for all to chase headlong into the chasm of dreaming-so-big-it’s-scary. This year has been – has meant – everything.
But much to my chagrin, and despite my resistance, the year is coming to a close. So it’s time to savor each and every moment I was able to spend with all of you. A walk down the aisle. A new baby. Friendship. Family. Joy. Your stories are my why, and every single time you step in front of my camera, with your heart full of trust and your eyes wide, I am thankful. I am humbled. I am amazed and awed and filled with overused adjectives that spill forth in a effort to express how I am so incessantly and constantly overwhelmed by how wonderful it is that I get to do this every day. That I get to stand alongside you as you etch your names onto the pages of your stories, your laugh lines and tears punctuating each paragraph, my photographs stuck in chapters, creased, but not worn. Steady. Timeless.
Thank you. Forever and always and more than these tiny words on a screen will ever be able to express. For your trust, and love, and kindness, and friendship. Most of all, thank you for extending the invitation to witness your stories unfold, and allowing me the opportunity to capture them – to document the beauty and imperfection and laughter and minutia – as authentically and honestly and beautifully as I can.