On self acceptance.

I’m going to get a little personal with you today.

As a photographer, I will never get used to hearing all of the unsettling, unhealthy opinions people have about the way they look. I can’t count the number of times I have heard “I hate my arms” “Can you photoshop me skinnier?” “I really don’t like my profile”, etc, etc, etc… I swear I could fill this entire post with the things people have told me they hate about themselves. Today I want to absolutely, whole heartedly admit to having those same feelings and insecurities about myself. Honestly, my insecurities have often been a major hang up in my life- at times making me decide to stay away from social events, hide from the camera, obsess over what clothes, hairstyles, etc, would be most flattering. We all focus so much on the things we don’t like about ourselves, that we fail to look in the mirror and see whole, interesting, beautiful people.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I’ve come to realize that the time we spend focusing on all the things we dislike about ourselves, prevents us from living in the now. How many of you have said “when I lose some weight” or “I used to be so much skinnier”? The truth is, when you were so much skinnier, how many of you felt skinny? I can bet most of you at that time had the same feelings about yourself that you do now. We are taught to never be happy with ourselves- always thinking we could be better than we are. Now, that’s not to say I think there’s anything wrong with self improvement, or with taking care of your body, I just wish that we could give ourselves a break. When you eat healthy, get done with a workout, take good care of your skin, or whatever little thing you’ve done to improve on yourself, take the time to appreciate it- appreciate not that you’re getting skinnier, or prettier, but that you’ve done something good for yourself.

I know so many people who absolutely will not allow their photo to be taken, simply because they can’t see the good in themselves. Not now. Not when my skin looks like this. Not with this extra weight. Later. Maybe next year. The truth is, when later comes around, do you think that attitude will have changed? Maybe you will lose the extra weight, but will you be happy? Happiness comes with self acceptance. When you look in the mirror and see everything that you are- I am a woman. A business owner. A daughter. A sister. A friend. I am 5’7 and 3/4″. I am a fake blonde. I love science fiction, and baking cookies, and listening to my boyfriend play guitar, and I am so many things that there is no way I could list them all, and everything that I am should give me the confidence to smile my often gummy smile, and to wrap my rather large arms around my amazing friends, and to walk with my head high, and wear cute shoes on my big feet, and not panic when someone has a camera. Because, you know what? If time goes by, and I live my life and try to hide who I am, I’m going to be dissapointed. There will be a time when I look back on the me of today and wish to be her again. I’ll tell myself that I would have lived differently, I would have been happier with who I was. I for one, don’t want to have those regrets. I’m working on it. I’m trying to accept every inch of my body as part of the whole of myself. Because the people around you, the people who love you, they don’t see the dimples in your thighs, or the scars on your face, they see you- their friend, their mother, their lover. You don’t have to change yourself for their love, and you shouldn’t have to change yourself for your own.

I’m writing this to you today because this weekend is my dear friend Colleen’s wedding. I am so honored that she has asked me to stand up beside her as a bridesmaid, and I’ll admit that while I am beyond excited about this, I also have been beyond anxious. I’m worried about my ghostly white legs and my chubby arms, and that I’ll have a double chin in her wedding photos, when I should be thinking about champagne and pedicures with the girls, not crying during my speech, and how perfectly happy and excited I see my friend get as the day get nearer!

I’ve made the decision to stop focusing on how I look, and to focus on enjoying myself. I’ve decided not to ask Stevie T to slim me down in photoshop, or to only get my good side 😉  I’m so excited to share these wedding photos with you when they’re ready, and I promise to try to only see the whole of me in them, and not to think about all the little things that could be better.

I hope that this post resonnates with you. I will end by saying that I know how helpful it can be to have beautiful photos of yourself to look at when you’re feeling maybe not so beautiful. Two years ago, (and I’ll admit a good 15 pounds ago) on my twenty fifth birthday, I treated myself to a glamorous photoshoot with Miss Ksenija Savic. I spent a long time planning for this shoot, and had certainly been working hard on myself for the months leading up to it, but even the day of I woke up wondering if  I should have waited longer. I hadn’t quite reached my weight loss goal, I hadn’t had time to get my eyebrows done, my skin wasn’t in the best shape because of stress… Instead, I fought back the fear and insecurities, put on a confident front, and let Ksenija work her magic. I wanted to share a few of the photos she took of me, and the emotion that these images bring up for me.

I’ll start with my favorite. I cried a little when I saw this image. I never, ever thought I could look this beautiful.

I am ending with this one because I remember when Ksenija set this up. I remember thinking it was an unflattering angle on me, and how I was sure I wasn’t going to like it but I didn’t want to hurt her feelings… Let me just say that I LOVE this image. I love the light, the colors, and I love my big, real smile. I never love my big real smile 🙂

I want each one of you to know how beautiful you are.  The experience of having these photos taken was such a wake up call for me. It showed me the woman I know the people who love me see every day. It also was a lesson in how good anyone can look with an amazing make up artist, hairstylist and photographer- good gracious! No wonder celebrities always look good! 😉   Ksenija was not only my amazing photographer, but also did my make up for the shoot, and my hair was styled by past client, and hair stylist extraordinairre Adrienne Conner.  I can’t thank these two women enough.

And thank You, friends, for listening to me today.

07/29/2010 - 5:14 pm

kat foley beautiful.

07/29/2010 - 5:18 pm

Katie Niki, Let me just start off with saying that I LOVE YOU! You are so talented and wonderful. I am so lucky to know such an amazing person. This post made me teary eyed (I held them back since I read it at work!). I think that you are beautiful in so many ways. Please don’t stop being you 🙂

07/29/2010 - 5:18 pm

Alex Hear, hear.

(I love the third picture, you’re adorable 🙂 Have fun bridesmaiding, I’m sure Stevie will do you justice. And congrats, Colleen! Who I am pretty sure I’ve met like, once or twice, probably.)

07/29/2010 - 5:21 pm

Samantha Cover Nicole – You are beautiful! As in a photographer would LOVE to shoot you beautiful! You have pretty big eyes and yes, a wonderful smile 🙂 I (and most women) know how you feel. It is funny, I swear one of the benefits of being a photographer is that I am always on the other side of the camera. As I watch my children grow, I realize that the very few (and I mean VERY few) family photos that we have of us together (actually none with Elea in them)…anyways the few photos that I have of me, Brian and Jett are my favorite photos of me because of the enormous smiles I have looking at Jett. You are right, REAL smiles are wonderful……and pretty…and do a great job at distracting from fat arms and double chins 😉

07/29/2010 - 6:35 pm

Andrea Thanks Nicole, I need to hear this today. I was just looking at my wedding photos because our anniversary just past and I was wishing I could have that body back but then I look at my beautiful boy and know it well worth the strech marks.

07/29/2010 - 7:39 pm

martha Chiplis You are an amazing women! Thank you for sharing….it made my day!

07/29/2010 - 10:38 pm

mom 🙂 you are such a smart and beautiful daughter 🙂

07/29/2010 - 10:54 pm

Kate (O’Toole) Kastl Nicole, I was a bride who adored my talented photographer (you!) and also could not believe how beautiful I felt once you posted my preview, so I know how you feel… but let me just tell you that while those photos of you are simply stunning, I found your sincerity and kind smile to be the features that make you a knock-out. 😉

08/02/2010 - 4:27 am

Chrissy Nicole, this is a beautifully honest post about something we all struggle with, and you’ve gotten it completely right: years from now we’ll all look back and say, “I was so damn cute, why didn’t I know it?!” Insecurities should be cast off and we should be able to just live freely. I’m glad you’ve reached this conclusion and I hope you continue to keep up this level of awesomeness. I’m glad you wrote this post (in fact, would you mind if I shared it on my body-acceptance blog?), and I wholeheartedly agree with you.

08/02/2010 - 9:32 pm

nicoleladonne I’d be honored, Chrissy. Thanks so much for the comment. I was of course nervous about opening up so much, but have gotten such beautiful responses that I am so happy I did.

08/07/2010 - 11:08 pm

ksen 🙂 Nicole,,, i L O V E this post!!! & am so proud of you for being so wonderFULLy open & honest. every girl needs to hear this & i am sure, can TOTALLY relate!!! you are truly one of the most beauty-FULL people inside out that i know. keep on keeping on with being YOU… cuz YOU iszz PERFECt!!! 😉 thank you TOO, for the incredibly kind words — i cannot believe that sesh was two years ago!!! it really feels like yesterday & those images are still some of my top faves to date! it is also so cool to hear your thoughts on that last image — i had NO idea you were thinking that. i APPLAUD you for being so brave & just trusting. truly. thank you for sharing this awesome post!

05/11/2011 - 4:27 pm

Amanda Mattila Wonderful post. I teared up a little. I can relate. I struggle with that and I need a constant reminder of what is important. Changing your perspective can change your life and you’ll be glad you did. I know so many beautiful women that talk about plastic surgery while cursing the standard of how women are supposed to look. If all of us as a generation choose to ignore that standard of beauty and be happy with ourselves, not getting plastic surgery…maybe we can save the next generation from the insecurity and idiocy of trying to attain this perfection in every aspect of our lives. I applaud you beautiful lady. 🙂

05/11/2011 - 6:53 pm

fran as the song goes…. “everything is beautiful in its own way”… but these picture remind me of the song “you are so beautiful…to me… can’t you see!” Love you girlie… you look amazing!!!

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