I am not particularly keen on looking at photographs of myself either. If anybody else criticised themselves as harshly as I criticise myself, I would tell them not to be so daft and concentrate on what is good rather than blowing what you perceive to be bad out of all proportion. I struggle to follow my own advice.
When my husband told me he had booked a Boudoir Photography Shoot for me, my first instinct was to panic. He did reassure me that if I felt uncomfortable about it I did not have to go through with it. I think it was the combination of his conviction that I should do it and the fact that he put no pressure on me to do it that made me think I could.
I did spend some time looking at my body in a full length mirror.
I was a chubby teenager. At my largest I was bursting out of my size 18 clothes and desperately unhappy about the way I looked. During my stressful divorce 6 years ago, my dress size dropped to an 8 which was the thinnest I've ever been. I looked terrible and couldn't get comfortable because of protruding bones. I had crossed the line between slim and skinny.
I am currently a size 10 having lost my baby weight through exercise, trying to eat in moderation and not beating myself up if I have bad day and overeat. I am reasonably happy with who I am and how I look. However, bearing all under unforgiving halogen lights was going to push me to the limits of my bravery.
As I looked at myself in my mirror, I reminded myself that I am forty seven years old and I have given birth to six children, two of them within the last few years. It would be unnatural for there to be no signs of wear and tear. I started to accept that this is me. My husband has no difficulty in accepting and loving all of me and even thinking I am beautiful (poor deluded soul!) and I should try to do the same.
My Boudoir Photo Shoot started to be less about pushing me to the limits of my bravery and more about celebrating who I am, completely.
I bought new underwear with the help of a delightfully funny shop assistant who made the whole experience one to smile about. I was confident that the bras would maximise whatever assets I have remaining after breastfeeding six children and they made me feel good. I also bought some sparkly new eyeshadow for an extra touch of glamour.
It was surprisingly easy to strip down to my new underwear and pose for the photographs.
The photographer was Midland based Nicola Gotts. The studio was built into her house which made it cosy and intimate. She was friendly and welcoming and very matter of fact about posing me and taking the pictures. I liked her experimental style and the way she found poses that worked for me. An hour flew by and before I knew it I was dressed, drinking a cup of coffee and viewing the digital images.
True to form, there were several images that could be rejected immediately because of face pulling and blinking but I was surprised at how many of the photographs I really liked. It was incredibly empowering to look at a picture of me and think I like that. I narrowed the selection down to a manageable amount and purchased my favourites. We talked about the possibility of improving the images with Photoshop techniques but I actually quite liked the tan lines, moles, wobbly bits and bruises because they were all part of what makes me me. I was starting to get really good at the whole accepting myself thing.
The photo shoot was at the end of October and the disc of photographs with some minor retouching arrived yesterday.
This was the hardest part of the whole process - putting the disc into my computer and opening the file. My "this is me" confidence seemed to have shrivelled like our sad looking Hallowe'en balloons. What was I thinking of - spending money on vanity shots of my middle aged wreck of a body? Madness!
I honestly felt quite unwell - clammy with nervousness - as I forced myself to look.
My immediate thought was that I should not have worried, they were lovely. I looked exactly how I wanted to look - glamorous, womanly, a bit sexy, sure of myself. Then the doubts crept in. My critical eye sought out every flaw and imperfection. So, I chastised myself for my negativity and chanted my new mantra - Be proud of who you are.
By the time my husband came home I had mostly convinced myself that the photos were at least OK.
He LOVED them.
He said they were worth every penny and he was so proud of me.
His enthusing silenced my damaging overly critical side. I am now planning which of the images I want as prints to hang in our bedroom. Now that is definitely a triumph in the battle of self-acceptance.
I would recommend this experience to anyone.