"Do I have to love myself?"
There’s a lot of intense pressure out in the world to conform - but in response to that, there’s a lot of pressure to love yourself. A lot of times, this comes with messages about loving your body, specifically to sell you products or services. It can be a lot, especially if you (like most people I know) have really struggled with body image and self-esteem. That doesn’t even touch the kinds of cruelties that our world heaps onto people who aren’t the “standard” size, age, race, gender, or sexuality as people held up as ideal.
You don’t have to love yourself. Or your body.
You straight up are not obligated to anyone to feel celebratory about yourself or your body. I believe in body liberation because I believe in making space for folks to both process difficult feelings about themselves and their bodies, and in body neutrality.
I speak strongly about love for all bodies; sometimes people mistake this for having only celebratory feelings for myself.
I’m like everyone else that exists in these horrible systems: I have days where I mourn being different in unchangeable ways. I have days where I’d rather hide than deal with people staring or laughing at me while I run errands. I have days where I desperately wish my body or mind could change in fundamental ways just to avoid all the pain that people throw at me for being different in ways they judge as both physical and moral failure.
I think it’s really important to connect with folks that make you feel heard and help you deal with all the difficult bologna that the world throws our way, in general and specifically about bodies and self-image. There are so many places and spaces that are being created to do that, which I am really happy about. It’s so important! Photography has helped me a lot when it comes to making a space for me to explore myself and my feelings about myself.
I believe in body liberation because it has room for every feeling on the spectrum. Feeling free to explore your feelings about your body and self is so, so important. Reaching out to people that you know both in your personal and professional life (because let’s be real, it blends together a lot) can be such a valuable tool in processing these feelings. I set a lot of boundaries in my personal life so that I have the power when I need it in my professional life:
As a photographer believing in body liberation, it’s part of my business to Witness you in a really intimate way. When I’m taking your picture, I welcome your feelings. I’m holding space for your insecurities, your grief, your neutrality, your power, your joy. All of it. I believe that giving yourself the freedom and space to really Feel your body and your self in photos is a pretty powerful tool towards acceptance and celebrating who you are now, even if you don’t feel love. There is space for you, and all the complicated wonders that make you. Think of it like a flower arrangement: you can use flowers, empty branches, leafy things, feathers. They’re all different and they all compliment each other in the hands of a skilled florist.
I’m not selling self-love in a photo. I’m offering a space that you fill with whoever you are right now. The photos are the vase - I’m the florist - you’re the flowers.