Insecurity. It drowns women around the world with the idea that they “aren’t enough.” We paste on a smile and hide our true emotions in the shells of our inner selves, afraid to show those emotions, afraid of rejection. Having planned hundreds of weddings and other occasions, I’ve seen how many women feel exposed and “less than” on camera, even on their wedding day. I believe empowerment is finding inner strength in changing the perspective of how we see ourselves.
During a recent photography shoot, the models were asked to name an insecurity they carried, and whether they felt comfortable being vulnerable revealing them. In sharing those self-doubts, we begin accepting the truth, finding courage to love ourselves and to be accepted just the way we are.
Kelly Greiner of Mountain Valley Moments Photographer agrees. “Feeling empowered builds confidence and becomes something beautiful. In the beginning of shooting this session the women were timid, shy and tense working outside their comfort zone. It was when they joined together in the group shots – that’s when I saw a light shine through their eyes.”
With so much emphasis on women’s empowerment, I wanted these women to share their stories of insecurity in a comfortable way. Beautiful Colleen admitted her biggest insecurity has always been her weight. Humor was her coping mechanism to survive being bullied. She acknowledged, “Growing up it was really hard being a dancer because everyone said, ‘You’ll never amount to anything being the “fat girl.”’ She succumbed to binge eating, and eventually stopped eating. “But I’ve come to realize that it’s not what is on the outside. It's about being kind to yourself and others, loving yourself no matter what anyone says. It takes practice to love yourself," added Colleen, "but over the years my insecurities have made me a stronger woman on the inside and outside.”
Sabrina admitted she has crippling anxiety about being skinny, remarking sadly, “It’s the first thing people see when they look at me.” The cruel comments she endured about her weight only deepened the pain she felt. “I just wish people would see the real me,” she sighed. Rachel confessed her fear of never being good enough, and her external insecurity about “the fat on my body,” particularly her arms and her discomfort about them. Fiery red-head Kyten divulged a scar that makes her self-conscious, “especially swimming in the summer.”
The experience was as much about taming the waves of our insecurities as it was in building up each other. Not a single woman on the team was devoid of insecurity. Every one was fighting her own battles and doing their best in a society that puts an emphasis on a certain definition of beauty.
Makeup artist Colleen Ray has an intimate relationship with the word “beauty.” She has witnessed how self-conscious and insecure women can be in every situation. “Beauty is a big word and is many things. It can be your attitude, personality, kindness, and actions. Most of what beauty is comes from the inside. It doesn’t matter what size, shape, race, or sexual orientation you are. Every woman is beautiful in her own way regardless of what ‘people’ say.”
These incredible women inspired me to display my own insecurity to the world. My bulky dancer thighs are my strength and my power, but they also make me frustrated and insecure. Sometimes I think it's the first thing people see; the first thing they judge. While they are a dancer’s powerhouse of energy, they make me feel ugly and unfeminine and I feel sinking self-doubt when looking in the mirror. Trusting Kelly and the women around me, the camera captured a beauty I didn’t know was there.
Sisterhood with these remarkable women in my community has given me strength. I look through the eyes of women who inspire me; their love strengthens me to fight my insecurities, to push forward in my goals. Everyone needs a cheerleader. The women in this shoot were mine. I’m trying and, for them, that was good enough. Now it’s good enough for me, too.