The Friend I Met On My Journey *Spotlight Appearance*
This is the first time I’ve ever had a spotlight appearance on my blog, and this story is one that deserves to be shared. It is written by one of my closest friends as she shares a struggle that most women can relate to; body image. She is no different than most women that judge and berates themselves for how they look, and yet, she decided to take a leap of faith to have a different experience and to see herself through different lenses. We both share this story with the hopes that it will touch other women that view themselves as ‘less than’, and remind them that they are beautiful exactly as they are, and it’s okay to challenge any mistaken beliefs that tell them otherwise. And… I wanted to share Deneise’s story because it deserves to be celebrated.
Without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to my dear friend, Deneise.
THE FRIEND I MET ON MY JOURNEY
– by Deneise Sherlock –
January 23, 2019
For virtually all of my adult life, I’ve hated my body. On hundreds of occasions I’ve tried to change it; shrink it; hide it; and above all, avoid looking at it – in the mirror; in the reflection of a shop window; and most especially, in photos. I’ve been ashamed and embarrassed of my flabby stomach, my big thighs, my fleshy arms.
At the beginning of 2015 my world was turned upside down. The life that I’d known and the future that I’d dreamed of were suddenly, irrevocably, ripped from my hands. I was plunged into a pit of despair, hopelessness and self-loathing. Three years later after relentless hard work and countless therapy sessions, I’d almost dug myself out of the pit, and although for the first time in my life I had learned to love the person who I was on the inside, I still couldn’t look in the mirror without those familiar and derogatory messages about my body, chanting in my head.
And thus began my project of learning to like all of me – inside and out – as I am right now. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life hating such an integral part of who I am! So I decided to try and change my internal dialogue, to learn how to appreciate this body that has faithfully carried and sustained me for all of these years. While “loving myself” seemed too foreign and unattainable a concept, “acceptance” seemed to be a goal I might eventually reach.
So I posted a poem about body image on my bathroom wall; I hung a sign above my mirror; I became very aware of the self-deprecating words I use on a daily basis; and I began to counter the familiar “Yuk” thoughts with “I’m so grateful for this body”. All of those little steps started to make a minor improvement in how I felt about myself.
And then one fateful day, my dear friend Arianne (who was well aware of my self-improvement project) offered me a voucher for a photo shoot with an amazing Calgary photographer, Laurie Brown. Suddenly my project was challenged to its limits. My immediate reaction was “Oh hell no! Why would I want to subject myself to that?!” I promptly started to list all the reasons why this was the worst idea EVER:
1) I hate to have my picture taken
2) I am not photogenic
3) I never smile naturally for the camera
4) I don’t need photographic evidence to support the belief that I am fat and unattractive
5) with a skilled aesthetician, an amazing photographer and the right lighting, anyone can look good – so you can’t trust the process; and finally
6) I would just be wasting Laurie’s time since there’s zero chance that I would actually buy even one photo of myself
My decision was made. It was a crazy idea. I wouldn’t give it another moment’s thought …
And yet I simply couldn’t stop thinking about it. As I lay in bed that night I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t being honest with myself. I’d been telling anyone who’d listen that I was on “a journey to improve my self-image” .. but when presented with an opportunity to see myself from a totally different perspective, I impulsively rejected the idea. I realized that that very reaction was reason enough to accept Arianne’s offer after all. Taking such a huge step was affirmation that I truly did want to change, and that I was willing to step WAY outside my comfort zone to do so.
On the day of the shoot, Laurie helped me to relax, have fun, and most of all to feel pretty. It was such a treat to be pampered, and to have the focus entirely on me (something I typically strenuously avoid). Then during the Reveal, with her encouragement and the support of my friend who’d accompanied me, I began to see the person that those who love me, have always seen. What a revelation! What a marvelous surprise! My body hadn’t changed since pre-shoot .. but my perception had begun to shift. And I decided at that moment to make an investment in me – by purchasing a few photos to remind myself of the experience and especially, of my journey towards self-acceptance.
I still have a long way to go; this change in lifelong beliefs will definitely take some time. The photos have become a touchstone for that change. I look at them often – especially on days when I’m having difficulty turning off the negative soundtrack. I remind myself that the beautiful woman in those photos is actually ME!
Lately I’ve been whispering to that woman: “I need to appreciate you more, to treat you better; you deserve to be adored”.
I am truly grateful for Arianne’s wisdom and devoted friendship, as well as for Laurie and the gifts she gave me – helping and encouraging me to feel comfortable enough to have my photo taken; capturing the true essence of me; and convincing me that I AM beautiful – inside and out – as I am right now.
Being brave enough to book the photo shoot was one of the kindest gifts I could have given myself. Becoming a friend to myself in the process was just a bonus.
To learn more about Laurie, the amazing photographer that helped Deneise (and many others, including myself) experience themselves through different lenses, please click here.
If you can relate to having body image issues, let us know! Share your story by commenting below, give yourself a voice and let the support happen now!
*all photos in this post were taken by Laurie Macbrown Photography, where she seriously helps women shine!