"Be happy and love myself..."
Starting in my early teens, I became very depressed and critical of myself. My parents had gotten a divorce and my mom had just graduated with her masters degree so that we no longer had to struggle to survive. In order to keep a brave face for my younger siblings, I learned how to hide my emotions. I have felt not worthy of anything and often times settled for less than I deserved. This has been something that I have struggled with my entire life. A few years ago, I found a letter that I wrote myself when I was 18. It read "You are 18 years old today and you have all of these dreams for yourself. You need to work for them. You need to try everything in order to know what you want. Here is a list of things you need to accomplish or at least try: Audition for an acting job - anything, Graduate college, Get a job where you make a difference, Be happy, Learn to love yourself and follow your heart!" This really hit me hard. I was failing at my dreams from when I was 18.
I first started following Kelley and The Boudoir Belle in 2013, soon after my first major knee surgery. I saw a picture of a girl who looked so confident and happy with herself. I was so jealous of her. I wanted to be like her. I had just turned 30, was recently single and felt lost. Kelley always had such positive things to say about the women she photographed and the women on her page. I wanted to be like Kelley and one of the many of beautiful women she photographed. I wanted to know what their secret was in having confidence. In the course of the next 3 years I gained 45 pounds, had a partial knee replacement surgery and never felt worse about myself. In 2016, I decided to commit that if I lost 30 pounds then I would book a photoshoot with Kelley as a reward to myself. January 2017 came and I had only lost 5 pounds. I had recently felt betrayed by someone I cared about and I was extremely depressed. I saw Kelley write about how she was booking for the summer and I decided that it was time to do it. I wasn't getting any younger and needed to commit to something for myself. I was helping other people learn to love and improve themselves and now it was time to take my own advice. I sent the email, paid the retainer and it was booked for May of 2017. I had that date circled on my calendar with a countdown. I almost canceled 3 times because I started thinking about what my friends would think, what my family would think and what strangers might think. I was single female, not a size 4 and not doing this for my boyfriend/husband, my wedding, an anniversary, etc. I hadn't lost the weight I wanted. I felt like my stomach was too big, my knee scar was ugly, my butt was not toned, my thighs were too "cellulity" and I didn't need to scare people. I got so busy at work that I ended up not canceling because honestly I forgot. Lol! I am so happy that I did forget.
It was the day of the photo shoot. I didn't realize how much this day would mean to me. I had taken the day off of work and woke up feeling excited, scared, intimidated and nauseous. I went to the gym and then watched the clock. I showed up at the studio with my outfits, hair not done and no makeup. I met Lauren the Makeup and Hair Artist and thought man she's gorgeous. I hope I don't scare her with my face right now. Lauren was so sweet to me. She looked at my outfits and decided what to do with my makeup and hair. At first I was very quiet (which is very abnormal for me) but within 5 minutes she made me feel comfortable and we talked about anything and everything. I started showing off pictures of my dogs, family, etc. We even decided to play a "joke" and put my jeans and t-shirt out as my first outfit for Kelley to see when she got there. Kelley arrived and started to compliment me and talk to me about what I wanted out of the shoot. She then wanted to see the outfits. When she saw the first outfit she said "Okay we can make that work." She was a complete professional and ruined the joke - LOL! Kelley picked the best outfits for what I wanted and she fell in love with them just like I did. I put the first outfit on and she picked the shoes, then we went to the studio and started the shoot. She never made me feel self conscious, she complimented me on how great I was doing, she gave me directions on everything to do and told me that she loved my smile. She even caught some pictures of me laughing after I thought she was done taking pictures. I felt so comfortable that I never worried about what was hanging out, my scars, my cellulite, my butt, etc. I even decided to jump completely out of my comfort zone and take some pictures outside! On the way to the outside location, I told Kelley that I couldn't believe that I hadn't fallen yet since I was such an accident prone person and I don't wear heels. Well it was close to the last shot of the photo shoot, we were under the overpass and I definitely twisted my ankle and fell in slow motion. Kelley ran to make sure I was okay while I laughed uncontrollably and wished she had gotten it on film.
I left the shoot feeling like a million bucks! In the course of 5 hours, I went from feeling so depressed and self conscious about my face and body to really appreciating my "flaws". After my shoot, I started to tell everyone about my experience and how much of an amazing feeling I had when I left it. I became friends with Lauren, Kelley and Amber and continued to talk to them after my photo shoot. Fast forward to my Image Reveal. Kelley and I watched the photos pop up on her screen and tears started to come down my face. Was that really me? How much editing did she have to do to make me look like that? There is no way I look like that - it must be the makeup, the hair or the editing. Well that wasn't it, IT WAS ME! Lauren helped accentuate my best features with the makeup and hair and Kelley took photos at a perfect angle with minimal editing. She captured my personality and inner beauty in these pictures. I couldn't believe it and fell in love with all of them. I spent 3 hours there talking with Kelley, re-looking at photos and ordering EVERYTHING!
After my Image Reveal, I realized that I was given a gift on that day in May. I was given myself again. I made some new friends who I revealed so much of my soul to. I was reminded that I am beautiful and that all of my "flaws" make me who I am. I decided that I could share my experience to assist other women going through the same struggles as me. I still struggle every day with myself and my insecurities. People have made me feel unworthy of their attention and before I would just let them walk all over me. Because of this experience, I have cut those people out of my life and I hold my head up high while facing adversity. I can never fully express how thankful I am for this experience and I want everyone to have this feeling. I now have these photos to remind myself that I am worthy of the world. I am worthy of living a life to reach the goal I set for myself when I was 18. I am worthy to "Be happy and love myself"!