Last fall I saw a photo of myself that broke my soul.
I was standing in a beautiful studio seeing shots pop onto the screen. I stared at the images and couldn’t breathe. My stomach flipped. I was looking at a photo of me – and I couldn’t even SEE myself.
I was standing in front of a friend and photographer whose work is published in Vogue – and around the world. His work is beautiful. His work has made me feeeel deeply. He captures the soul and essence of each person in front of him. I’ve seen him do it. I love his work. I’ve witnessed him do this live. There was no one I trusted more.
And yet- in the images of me he was taking- I was NO where to be seen. I stared at the screen in horror.
I mumbled an excuse and rushed outside, ran down an alley until I found a quiet corner and sobbed.
Every thought- every fear I’d avoided facing for my whole life flooded me. The voices in my head were loud.
‘He’s an incredible artist – if anyone could take a good photo of you it would be him. Look at the results. Even he can’t do it. This is proof – in black and white- it can’t be done.’
Every negative I’ve ever thought about my body, my weight, my size, my awkwardness, my tummy, my crazy hair, my age, my crooked smile etc. came crashing in – every cruel joke, every backhanded comment I’ve heard in my life – every deep seated feeling of not being enough flooded over me with so much shame.
And I sat with it. And I cried. And I waited. And under all the angry and cruel thoughts eventually I heard the quiet part waiting for me to acknowledge it.
The worst part of those photos wasn’t any of the physical things. They were the loud voices covering the thing under it all.
It was the feeling of nothing in my eyes. The lostness. The fact that I could not see even a glimpse of ME.
It was a visual of what I already knew to be true. For a long time I had been living my life for others. It felt noble. It felt safe. It felt…. suffocating. I was slipping away. I didn’t even know who I was. And you could see it in every frame.
I have always seen myself as being someone you can count on. I show up for the people I love. I will move heaven and earth. I will never let you feel alone or unseen. If you are someone I love. There is nothing I can’t do. For you.
In the way I love others I found my worth. I found my purpose. I didn’t realize it. But deep down – I believed that the more I abandoned myself was proof of the power of my love. For you.
Last year had already been long internal journey home. To myself. Seeing that photo was the final moment of clarity.
My first reaction was to beg Jonny to delete all those photos forever. I didn’t want to look at them. I didn’t want to see them again… I couldn’t bear to see that broken- lost version of me. And then I changed my mind.
When I got home – I wrote a novel of a letter to him. I explained. I thanked him for his patience. I asked him to save them. I couldn’t bare to look at them yet and I didn’t know when I would.
But I did know one thing about that woman in the photo.
She deserved my love.
She deserved my loyalty.
She deserved heaven and earth moved for her. And someday – I knew I would want those images and someday I would have him take photos of me that felt like me.
This spring some of you have commented about the way I’m showing up on social media.
It is part of my journey this year of showing up for myself. Showing up as myself. Showing up. For me.
Taking care. Of me.
Loving unconditionally. Me.
Living honestly. As me.
My art and photography has always been one of my biggest sources of joy and creating art comes from such a place of love.
Creating for YOU. Holding space for YOU. Allowing you to see yourself with love; nothing makes me feel more fulfilled.
This week I created some images of me.
For me. When I saw them I cried. I can see me again.