Being Seen: My Portrait Session

What if you had proof you were beautiful? Something you could look to every day to stop those negative thoughts in their tracks. You know the ones: I am not enough. If I lose weight I would be prettier. Who do I think I am? This proof would serve as a daily reminder of your worth and replace the old thoughts with new ones.

I wanted to know what other women felt when they came to me for a portrait so I booked a photo shoot with a fellow photographer. I wanted to be on the other side of the camera. I wanted to be pampered and gussied up and show another side of myself.  

I was really excited for my shoot. I picked out some cute tops and black lacy dresses and had my makeup done. I loved having my face touched and getting my hair fluffed. Then it was time to be in front of the camera. I was nervous. I felt self conscious and worried I wasn’t doing the poses right. But I’ve had my picture taken before so what was different about this shoot? 

I think as I get older I become more aware of my body changing, my hair greying, things shifting. To my fellow 40-something ladies, do you feel me? I wanted to see myself vibrant, sexy, happy and beautiful. I wanted to forget about my loose bits, my insecurities, my imperfections…all the shit that gets in the way of being the badass we know lives deep down inside. Am I right?   

During the shoot I found myself feeling vulnerable in front of another photographer’s camera. She was seeing my crooked teeth, my funny foot, my awkwardness but she kept telling me, I got you, and she did.  It was those feelings of judgement coming up all over again. If only I were more toned, less loose, more confident, less awkward, more beautiful. More.

A couple of days later I made a trip to Bloomingdales with my mom for some dress shopping. We plucked a couple of blingy dresses off the racks and shared a dressing room. As we changed I looked at my mom’s body. She is almost 70 years old and she’s had five children. Her body has changed over time but somehow she always looks amazing. I looked at her and saw myself and I felt a sense of calm. My wobbly skin is my mom’s wobbly skin. My curves are my mom’s curves. I love my mom just as she is. I love her because she makes me laugh trying to zip herself into a jumpsuit that’s complicated to maneuver. I love her and realize I would never talk to her the way I talk to myself about my own body. I feel compassion and love for my mom and suddenly I feel it for myself. 

Why are we so hard on ourselves? When did we begin to think the idea of perfection was success? What’s wrong with saying, ‘I love my curvy hips and greying hair, and I want to wear cropped tops despite a middle that continues to peek out.’ As I age I struggle with my body changing but I also try to remind myself it’s the only one I’ve got and I’m so grateful that it works and it’s healthy.

A week after my shoot I got to see my photographs. I see the proof that I am pretty, I am confident, I am brave. I see a woman who reflects light and so much more and I am proud of myself.

I am eternally grateful for this experience and the transforming of my heart and soul. Some may say having your portrait taken is vain or unnecessary, but I disagree. In a time when we are working harder, grasping for more time, and expecting so much more from ourselves, it’s important to celebrate how far we’ve come and where we’re at. A couple of years back I had a scare with a mammogram. It was a lot of back and forth, tests, and worried days, but fortunately all turned out fine. A moment like that can change your perspective in an instant and for the better.  

Take care of you. Stop the voices putting yourself and others down. Be kind to yourself. Celebrate. Every day. And if you need reminding of how great you are, book a portrait session. 

You are enough, and guess what, so am I.  

Special thanks and love to the incredibly talented Caroline Talbot for these wonderful reminders of a life well-lived, and to the illustrious Amanda McCarthy for my beautiful makeup.