If I told you I knew that I was beautiful, would you relate to me less than if I told I thought that I wasn’t?
There are mornings when I look in the mirror, and I think “WOW! That’s what I look like!” Other times when I think “Oh… that’s what I look like?” More often than not, I don’t believe that I am beautiful.
I can walk out the door feeling on fire, then see my reflection on a glass building and completely snuff it out. I will see photos of myself in a bikini, stunned by how much weight I’ve gained, feeling utterly depressed. Then a few days later I’ll see a different photo, stunned by how banging my body looks. Huh, I guess I’m not fat after all, I’ll think.
Often I wonder if I have any concept at all of what I even look like.
Consequently, many times I’ve allowed outside attention to become my barometer for how beautiful I am. If lots of men stare, that makes me beautiful. If women compliment me, that makes me beautiful. If someone tells me that I’m skinny, ok I’m skinny. If no one tells me anymore that I’m skinny, ok I guess I’m not skinny anymore.
And of course beauty in this case comes from the narrow definition defined by our society. A definition that no human could ever sustain.
I wonder if the same way we limit our ability to love by defining love, we limit our ability to feel beautiful by defining beauty. If we limit our ability to be sexual by defining sexuality.
As women we’re taught to control our sexuality and use it as a tool for manipulation. We withhold it and surrender it to get what we want. Culture tells us that while we can control others with our sexuality, our sexuality controls us, making us “crazy” and overly attached. If we allow ourselves to be sexual, culture tells us that we’re sluts. If we don’t allow ourselves to be sexual, culture tells us that we’re prudes. We can’t win.
All of these dramatic complications have become so undesirable to me that I’ve contained my sexual desires completely. I haven’t even been kissed in almost a year. Which hasn’t made me feel very beautiful.
Though I recognize that the key factor here isn’t my body or my hair or my skin or anything other than my perspective. I’ve started to realize that if I want to feel beautiful and sexy I need to spend less energy thinking about the best diets and workouts and more energy on shifting the way that I think.
With the intention of expanding my beliefs surrounding beauty and sexuality, a few days ago I decided to do something outside of my comfort zone. I booked a shoot with the Skin Deep Nomad, Sarah, who artistically photographs people stripped down naked in nature.
As I connected with Sarah and her camera lens on one of my favorite beaches in the entire world, all of the layers came off. I stripped down bare, I swam into the ocean, I rolled in the sand. I felt so free. I felt like a child and a woman. I felt spiritual and I felt sexual. I felt empowered and I had fun.
But when I saw the photos the next day my energy shifted entirely. I examined and judged myself. I looked through image after image, critiquing my body, my hair, my face. I knew that the photos were beautiful but I didn’t think that the woman was.
So I went back to connect with nature and I walked on the beach. I cleared my mind entirely and I listened to the waves.
When I came back home and looked at the photos again, I looked at them as an observer. Instead of critiquing myself, I looked in amazement at how beautiful this woman was.
Why was it so easy to think that she was beautiful but so hard to think that I was?
Is it because I think that if I’m not perfect in the eyes of everyone that I’m not allowed to believe that I’m beautiful? That if I don’t fit a certain ideal I’m supposed to judge and criticize myself for it? That I’m supposed to strive for something else rather than accept how beautiful I already am?
Or even if I do fit that ideal, am I supposed to still believe that I’m not good enough in order to be humble? Should I not embrace my beauty lest I make someone who didn’t fit that ideal feel bad about the fact that they don’t?
Can I not let myself be sexy because then all I am is sex? Then all I’m worth is sex? Then someone who doesn’t feel sexy feels even less sexy when I’m sexy?
If I don’t sound like Adele am I not supposed to sing? Am I supposed to be quiet to spare the world of my song?
Then if I did sound like Adele, should I silence myself and contain my vibration because sharing that talent is boastful? Would I make those with insecurities… insecure?
It’s so much more acceptable to celebrate someone else than it is to celebrate yourself. Yet when you don’t celebrate yourself, it’s impossible to celebrate anyone else.
Are we not allowed to own our beauty the same way we’re not allowed to own our brilliance? Are we not allowed to pursue that passion and create that thing that lights our soul on fire and changes the world because who are we to be so big?
Are we so scared of how stunning, how sexy, how powerful, how phenomenal we are that we make ourselves small?
When will we see that we are worthy of our greatness?
It’s time to celebrate our beauty. It’s time to celebrate our brilliance. Because I am beautiful and I am brilliant and I am everything. And so are you.
My light and my sparkle doesn’t diminish yours. Your light and your sparkle amplifies mine. Just like every animal, a lion, a panther, a gazelle, a flamingo, a butterfly, a beetle, we are all so different and we are all so beautiful.
When we expand our ideas of what beauty looks like, we can embrace all the beauty that already exists. We don’t have to hide our beauty and we don’t have to deny our beauty, because we see that beauty is not scarce, we all have it all of the time.
I’m working towards embracing the body that I live in. I’m thanking it for all that it gives me. I’m thanking it for allowing me to receive pleasure. I’m thanking it for allowing me to feel. I’m thanking it for being so beautiful.
Thank you body because you are mine.
If you’d like to arrange your own shoot, contact photographer Sarah Landolt through her website.