I joined this project because I believe whole-heartedly in the mission. I couldn't have anticipated the impact the project would have on my life. Reading story after story from women who have experienced loss, trauma, pain, and more but have learned to persevere and grow has been so unbelievable. These stories have brought me to tears and empowered me at the same time. I feel so lucky that these beautiful ladies trusted me with their vulnerabilities and to photograph them in such raw form. Below are the stories of each woman as well as a few photographs from her session. Each session is only minimally edited to ensure quality color and contrast. No skin or body retouching has been done.
My life started changing when I was 16, that's when my parents separated. When they separated my depression started kicking in, I started lashing out. I began smoking and drinking (no longer a smoker or drinker). I also had an eating disorder, I didn't feel beautiful. I was getting better, then all of a sudden my health began declining. I couldn't eat or barely drink I was loosing a lot of weight, people would say "You're to skinny!" And "You need to gain weight!" A few months later I was diagnosed with Gastroparesis at the age of 18. Two years later I'm healthy again! Gained the weight back that I lost! I love me, the chunky side of me! I love me for the way I am!
Growing up with abuse, living in foster and group homes. Age 16 ran away to Oregon from New Hampshire. This is where I made more mistakes and life altering my world again while affecting others. My life has had its challenges, it's who I am, every choice has a counter reaction, positive or negative. I am in process of loving me for me and no one else. I became blind to many things about me when separated after 20 yrs of marriage. My failures I have learnt by each of them. My bad health gotten in way of my life it damaged a lot. I am learning to accept what I can do and love me the entire ME!
When I think about my journey… it’s my on-going battle with anxiety; at times it is crippling. It’s been growing to love myself, despite battling inner demons on a daily basis…it is okay to take medication, and I am not a failure for having panic attacks. There is a stigma associated with mental illness, which makes it hard to be honest with people. However, starting counseling and hypnotherapy about 2 ½ years ago has allowed me to realize that I can be honest about my concerns, ask questions, and the level of anxiety in my everyday life has decreased tremendously. My support system is amazing as well. I went from 3-4 panic attacks a week, to maybe once a week or once every other week. I have anxiety, depression, am slightly agoraphobic and that’s okay! I am beautiful inside and out.
I am a young adventurous mom of 4 beautiful babies! I had my first child at 16 and my twins at 18. As a young mother I definitely had insecurities about my belly. I invested in a tummy tuck 5 years ago after having my last baby and she was a year old. I went through a divorce 2 years ago and gained 30lbs. I love my body and knew I had to take care of it. I began eating healthy and working out in June, I've lost 20lbs! I make these investments in myself and my body because I love my body not because I hate it! I want to stay strong and healthy so that i can raise strong and healthy children. Last year my New Years resolution was to love myself more. I can honestly say... I have done so. I am proud of my beautiful body that has carried & nourished 4 children. My body amazes me every day and for that I plan on taking care of it and never shaming it! I'm proud of every scar!
I've been considered either underweight or overweight most of my life. I'm sure there was a period when I was considered to be of "normal" weight, but it would have been short, and it doesn't stand out in my mind. When I graduated high school, I was a whopping 98 pounds. I remember the regular comments throughout my school years about how I was too skinny, needed to eat more, was SOO lucky, etc. For various reasons, however, I have spent most of my adult years at fluctuating weights that are all considered to be overweight. The huge change was hard for me to accept, but I now try to focus more on my health and less on what society's view on beauty is. I have stretch marks on my stomach from pregnancy and on my thighs and calves from weight gain, and while some dream of having large breasts, they sag; this is all OK. It's normal to have a certain body feature you aren't exactly thrilled about, but more than anything, I want my daughters to know that they don't have to wear makeup, spend hours on their hair, starve themselves, spend excessive amounts of money on beauty products, hide their "flaws", etc; they will always be beautiful. ~wife, mom, homemaker, Fibromyalgia fighter, OCD and anxiety survivor
This is my body. Every mole, roll and stretch mark. This body has survived abuse, from others and self inflicted. This body has helped me bring two beautiful souls into the world. In return, I have allowed myself to hate my body at times. I have let myself feel unworthy because of others opinions about MY body. I have let my anxieties destroy my self worth and I have made decisions that could harm MY body. The older I get the more I realize, this is the only body I have, and I intend to love it and nurture it the best I can. After all I've been through, I owe it to myself.
My journey to being happy with my body has been a long one. When I was young I thought I was to thin, after having my first two children I felt like I was way over weight, After lots of years of working on myself as a person I am finally comfortable with my body. After all every stretch mark is a reminder of how beautiful and powerful my body really is. Finally I have never been taught truer words beauty comes from what's in your heart not what you look like.
Throughout my entire life I have always been considered by other’s in society as small and underweight. The truth is, I am at a healthy weight for someone of my height, but trying to explain that to everyone else has always been a challenge. I remember when it started, I was in the 6th grade and just moved to a new home, in a new town and had to make new friends. Growing up I was always outgoing and found it easy to make friends and connect with others. One day, I was in PE class and a girl started making comments about my weight to me while I was stretching before class. I laughed it off and acted like it didn’t bother me. She then began to get louder and louder to where the whole class could hear her and she yelled “Look at your legs, what are you anorexic or something? Try eating a burger!”. I was mortified that someone could be so cruel. I ran into the bathroom and didn’t come out for the rest of the class. That’s when I started to see how some people could be so cruel about other’s weight; especially if they were uncomfortable in their own skin. There has always been this belief that only heavier girls get bullied. But in my life, that was not the case, in fact it was the other way around. Middle school was the start of it all, when girls bullied me because they were uncomfortable about themselves, their own weight issues or because I was friends with a guy they liked, etc. It didn't stop at school either, because of my body type people I meet are ALWAYS making comments too, "how do you stay so thin?", "you’re so lucky!", "do you have an eating disorder?", "why don’t you eat this or eat that?". Those comments have always made me feel very uncomfortable about myself. When I reached adult hood, that’s when I realized it didn’t matter what people said or thought. I have always found no matter what a girls weight is, beauty lies within one’s self by her actions, her words and her confidence and that is how I always strive to be. I am proud of my body and the blessed life I have. Because I have gone through my life with the ridicule of other’s in regards to my weight, it just has made me realize life is too short to focus on the negativity and harassment of others and to focus on the blessings and life I do have. And here I am 25 years old, crazy in love with my amazing husband, trying to start my family, have a career that I love and just love waking up every day as me. Love, Jayme
First off my participation in this wonderful event is dedicated to my amazing niece and my sons amazing girlfriend as well as all the other women and girls in my life who struggle to be OK.
My journey to loving who I am started when I met my children’s father, before then it was rough. I am covered with freckles and was always very embarrassed about it. When I was 15 I met the man I would have four beautiful sons with. I discovered when I was pregnant with my oldest son that the changes my body were going through were amazing. I started to be comfortable with myself more and more. Maybe the visits to the doctor and the people’s remarks about being a beautiful pregnant woman helped.
Along came son number two, and three and then finally four. All this time I watched in amazement how my body had changed. At the age of 23 I had all of my boys.
I had nursed my babies with warnings from my family that it would ruin my breasts, but I continued. This body I had was designed to nurture my babies and if I had to sacrifice my breasts then I was ok with it.
Once my youngest son was done with nursing the true test of what I would look like was upon me. I was nervous and excited all in the same moment. I lost all my baby weight and was back to the pre-pregnancy me. I wasn’t excited anymore, I seen the changes hadn’t been all that kind to me.
I am a small woman, 5’4” and typically weighed 115lbs. This was not a good weight for me anymore. This is where my struggle began. I had to keep weight on me, and I was chasing four boys. Boy was this challenging.
I would stand in the mirror and look at the stretch marks and where my breasts were supposed to be and was traumatized. I was only 23, and I had my mother’s body.
As time went on and I started my journey as a single mother with four boys I decided that I would have to refocus my energy and stop worrying about what I thought other people thought about my body. There was enough criticism for being 24 and having four kids and alone.
As I regrouped and started refocusing my energy the weight started to come back and I was starting to look at the differences a couple of pounds made. I did it! My breasts were fuller and my bum was plump and I was 145 lbs. A number that most women my size gasp about. I was thrilled, I was energized, I was motivated to see the other changes that could take place if I changed my mind.
As I sit here today, I weigh 147 lbs and I am thrilled, I am covered in freckles, red hair and stretch marks. I have the battle scars of life, the stories are in the lines in my face and the grey in my hair. They are the things that make me who I am.
I am successfully raising my sons, even though one of them is 20. I am still raising him, and without them I would be lost and nowhere near the woman I am today. Every day I look in the mirror and see a woman who has been through the struggles of life, teenage wife and mother, domestic violence, anorexia, depression and anxiety. And today I see an amazing caring and beautiful woman, and when I see the changes I have gone through I am proud.
I am comfortable in the skin I have, I am beautiful, and I am free.
It's difficult to write this because all of my life I've basically been taught by society that I have no right to feel uncomfortable about my body. I've struggled with gaining weight and because of my genes, I'm constantly being told the obvious "You're so short!". And to add to that, I look considerably younger than I am. It upsets me when I'm trying to have a professional conversation with people and I'm interrupted by "How tall are you?". I vividly remember being the center of a long joke around people I knew from a lady who thought it was funny to poke fun at the things that make me the most uncomfortable, "I thought I was walking a 9 year old to her car!", "Have you ever gotten pulled over because of how you look?", "You're fingers are so little!!", "You need to eat more."... I was too in shock to say anything considering these ladies were of a larger frame than I. And although I'm considered normal weight for my height, I still struggle with being extremely uncomfortable wearing bathing suits or even just spaghetti strapped shirts because of the comments I receive. But over the years I've learned to love my inner self even if I struggle with my outer appearance at times. God made us all beautiful and unique. Our outer body does not define what kind of daughter, mother, sister, friend, or even stranger we decide to be. So please, be kind to each other. Comment on how sweet someone is, how smart they are, how beautiful their eyes, hair, smile is. Don't state the obvious about someone's body, because you know someone has mentioned it to them before. I can't tell you how many women smile and appreciate when I just comment about their done up nails! So feel beautiful, because you ARE beautiful.
Love each other, because you have something unique that someone else wants to know about
Fourteen years later and still, it just happens. No matter where I am or what I am doing or what song is playing or what I am eating or what scent is in the air or who I am with, his words will visit me and I am right back there, with him. "You're a joke." "I can't believe I'm with someone so fat and ugly." "Why can't you ever do anything right?" "You made me do this." "You'll never find anyone else who wants you." "You're crazy." But the most hurtful? "You're the worst mother I've ever known." Slowly, but very surely, he changed me. When I met him I was strong and independent, vibrant and fun, outgoing and free. It didn't take long for me to become weak and dependent, dull and boring, introverted and trapped. The physical wounds always found a way to heal. They were either covered up with a vague story or hidden by a more painful emotional wound. This became my life, I accepted it. There was a point where I knew that the only way I could possibly escape would be to take my own life, if he didn't beat me to it. My poor children. Why did I choose a man like this? I must deserve this.
One day though, I woke up. I realized that I wasn't entirely gone. My life didn't need to be like this and no, I did not deserve this. There was enough of my spirit alive in me somewhere very deep inside that forced me to claw my way out. I made a plan, I very silently and very secretly stuck to it and I made it out, with my children. Alive.
Healing is a process and I am a process. I lead a very different life now and although I've been happily married to a real man for over ten years now, there are still times I struggle. I'm not perfect and I never will be, but I try my best to find positive ways of looking at myself to counter my negative feelings. I've stumbled along the way and I'm okay with being a work in progress. You will probably stumble too, but no matter how deeply your spirit has been changed, there is always a way out. You CAN heal and you can move on!
I am 45 years old, in that time my body has suffered abuse, illness, several miscarriages, divorce and having three amazing sons. My body has helped me work three jobs, get my masters, teach over 1,000 kids in my career and love so very many. My body has weathered so much and yet everytime I am beaten down it has helped me rise. Sometimes, I rose just out of stubborn pride because someone wanted to keep me down. My weight never stops me. My body and I always rise. On November 21, I have the honor of marrying a man who is truly my equal. I am proud of who I am and blessed to be joyfully marrying my best friend. I am wearing an orange gown because joy should shine. I will shine. My soon to be husband's eyes will shine with love. Size never matters when it comes to love.
Growing up, I was always confident and thin, I felt beautiful. When I was 16 I was diagnosed with bipolar 2 disorder. I began taking different medications for the disorder, and it caused me to gain 70 pounds. In about a year's time I went from a size 8 to a size 16. I still battle depression here and there, last year i hit an all time low. I got to a point that i really didnt care if i lived or not, I had no ambition, after a few months God sent me motivation and made me want to fight for myself and gave me reason to be strong, when I found out I was pregnant with my first born daughter Bailey Sue (pictured below). I am thankful for a I've been through, including the weight gain. It was all worth it. I am compassionate, understanding, and faithful. I have days that I struggle with my body image, but I'm grateful for what ive been through and confident in the woman I've become!
And a couple more of ladies who haven't shared their stories yet.