Healthy body image and self-confidence in children begin with those traits demonstrated by their parents. Historically, I've had a hard time with both. When Gates was born, I realized I needed to be a better role model. I began saying yes to opportunities that pushed me outside my comfort zone and exploring why loving myself, flaws and all, was so difficult for me.
I find I learn a lot about myself when I step out from behind a camera and in front of one instead. Having worked as a photographer, I'm versed in Photoshop enough to know how images are retouched. (I even have a plug in that applies a common definition of beauty, modifying facial structure to give perfect proportions.) Even though I know most images are artificial, I still want my untouched images to look similar and I have to resist the temptation to simply let the plug in do its thing. Because I struggle with this, I'm drawn to stories and songs of empowerment.
One song that I heard and was initially excited about was Meghan Trainor's single, All About the Bass (link to YouTube video). At first listen it's about body acceptance and celebrates bodies of all sizes and shapes. Now that it's on the radio, two more subtle messages, ones I'm not OK with, are noticeable. The first: embrace your curves because that's the body type boys really want. And the second: disparagement of skinny body types. Both of these subtle messages imply someone is not enough; someone is not perfect from their head to their toes. A message counter to the "I am imperfect. I am enough." message I've been working on internalizing since last Fall. As I made the drive from San Francisco to San Jose to attend BlogHer14, the world’s largest conference for women in social media, how we show women it's ok to embrace and to love our imperfections was on my mind.
Two experiences at BlogHer14 stood out for their contrast to the popular single. The first was my visit to the Flawed but Authentic Suite. The second was my second visit to The Mrs Band's booth on the expo floor manned by a friend I worked with when I lived in Austin. Both had attendees do something outside their comfort zone, step in front of a photographer with a camera and stand in front of a mirror and really look at one's self.
Flawed but Authentic
Of the suite parties, the Flawed by Authentic suite party had a few things going for it. Working A/C. Soothing music. Welcoming fragrances. (The others screamed Spring Break and not in a good way--hot, stuffy, loud, and in one, even the wall of frat boys you had to muscle your way through.) It was appropriate that Carly of Ever Clever Mom and I braved the crammed elevators between the parties together and had our portraits taken together.
Why? Because Carly was one of the people responsible for helping me see you only know if you've become who you want to be by letting go of past visions of yourself. Thanks to her I saw it's crucial as you grow to make sure you're seeing who you truly are (my A-Ha moment from Alt Summit Summer).
Unlike Alt where I am sure to have my hair done a day or two before leaving for Salt Lake City, I didn't do that for BlogHer14. Yet, the fact my hair wasn't done didn't affect my turning a camera phone on myself for a self-portrait (if you follow me on Instagram you saw a flood of self-portraits flood my feed), or stepping in front of a photographer's camera for a portrait. For once, I felt comfortable in my own skin. Comfortable owning who I am, frizzy hair and all--flawed but authentic. (If you're looking for tips on how to push yourself in front of a camera, I shared a few earlier this year when I started realizing photobooths were the perfect opportunity to practice confidence.)
As Carly and I listened to Amy Turn Sharp, Katie Gardner snapped our portraits for the Flawed but Authentic Portrait Project. The following are the tracks that we listened to while we had our portraits taken.
The other experience at BlogHer14 that hit home started with the mirror in our hotel room and ended with another mirror on the expo floor. The mirrors reminded me of an exercise Brene Brown had us do in her online workshop in conjunction with reading through her book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are (*affiliate link). Early in the workshop, she challenged us to write the following on our hands: "I am imperfect. I am enough." We were then to take a photo of ourselves with the phrases on our hands and share them. I almost didn't do it. But I did. In fact, I did it twice.
For the premiere of their single, Enough, The Mrs. Band, had us do two things: first snap a photo of ourselves with one of their mirror hearts. Our heart said, "You look amazing," but others also said, "You are enough."
On the show floor, we donned ear phones and stood in front of a floor length mirror. You'd think standing in front of a mirror about to be told what the mirror sees when it reflects you would be uncomfortable or make one self-conscious. And in the past it would have been. But standing there, I discovered that somewhere between getting on that first flight to Salt Lake City in 2013 for my first Alt Summit and that moment then--standing in front of a mirror at BlogHer--I had truly become comfortable with me.
The mirror spoke about my smile, my ability to look without flinching, my strength, and my confidence. As the words rolled over me it was hard not to cry. Tears of relief that I wasn't a victim any more threatened to spill. Tears of relief that my imperfections were my strength. Tears of relief that I would be a good role model for Gates--an attainable, authentic role model.
Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life. Portraits of Carly Lane Morgan of Ever Clever Mom and me were taken in the Flawed but Authentic Suite by Katie Gardner.
Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link followed by (*affiliate link). I feature products that I own or that I am considering purchasing; I own the book mentioned in this post. All opinions presented are my own.