This project centres around self esteem and body confidence. It is about using our media platform in a positive way to celebrate realistic body image.
Why ? Well heres a bit of background:
‘A study conducted by Florida State University and published by the International Journal of Eating Disorders found that a group of women, who were asked to browse social media for 20 minutes, experienced greater body dissatisfaction than those who spent 20 minutes researching rainforest cats online.’
(Information taken from Dove Campaign – Impact of Social Media and Body Image)
Yes you read that right ladies and gents….cats in a rainy tropical forest have the upper hand to make us feel happier about ourselves.
Social media can be a beautiful, positive environment, and this has always been its intention from the start.
Social – being a positive and fun interaction with others and Media -being the platform to engage in these activities.
Of course with every positive there often follows a negative and while we cannot state that social media is the cause of low self-esteem and body image issues, it does of course have all the right elements to contribute to it on the basis that human nature tells us to compare ourselves and seek affirmation from others.
For girls, and boys ( lets not leave the lads out here as this is not a ‘women only’ zone and we will be following up this project with a blokey version too) but indeed for anyone who may have a tendency towards perfection, anxiety and sometimes disordered eating, they may see images of slimness as advertising the perfect script for happiness. In turn validation online can falsely fill the need for acceptance. Peer feedback on our looks sadly becomes important and collecting ‘likes’ based purely on our physical appearance merely serves as a catalyst for insecurity.
This isn’t an issue that centres itself purely in the realms of the internet, its an image portrayed to us all whether it be through, television, film and publications.
The project that these women have become involved with is not with the intention of battling against the giants of media and challenging the whole issue head on, it is merely to engage an audience into a different way of viewing ourselves and seeing the ‘real beauty’ in our own personal selves. The only ‘diet’ these women have overcome is the unhealthy visual media diet that still to this day prevails.
Theres nothing nicer in life than a compliment, but we often struggle to accept them even when they come from our nearest and dearest. Why do we shun them away, is it because we don’t respect another’s opinion about ourselves or is it because we genuinely don’t see our true beauty in the way others see
Lets face it none of us were born hating how we looked now were we?
So there’s a lot to be said about research into what influences us in this particularly aspect of our lives, and yes, we could produce ‘facts and figures’ to get us all thinking ( just look at the cat fact at the beginning of this piece) but lets bring this back to basics, back to a visual that is ‘factual’ and real, with ‘figures’ that are beautiful and real and stories that ground us all. Its nothing more complicated than celebrating the beauty within ourselves. You can take it , you can leave it and pass it by onto the next media image that is presented to you; you can become intrigued and research the subject (with or without the involvement of cats) but ultimately you have seen the visual, and that is the aim of the project. It will connect with some of you and mean nothing to others but if just one person sees this and it resonates even slightly, then the project has achieved its aim. So here it is our beautiful ladies each telling their story of why they became involved with this photo shoot and in turn we hope you will support them in embracing positive body image and share the story.
The wonderful ladies who volunteered for this project
When I was looking at putting this project together I hoped to engage with ladies who shared my thoughts about self image and how this can often affect the way we view ourselves within society.
The theory of our ‘Looking Glass Self’ is centred around the self-image an individual forms by imagining what others think of his or her behaviour and appearance.
The looking-glass self is a social psychological concept, created by Charles Horton Cooley in 1902, stating that a person’s self grows out of society’s interpersonal interactions and the perceptions of others.
So we have already touched on self image and its correlations with the quest for media hyped perfection, and its Cooleys theory that underpins this project. People often approach life through a developed sense of themselves as beautiful, average, or ugly which is largely shaped by their perceptions of how others see them. In turn they then experience pride or shame for associating themselves with one or the other categories. In the quest for ‘beautiful’ this can come in the form of ‘likes’ on social media, or popularity groups starting as early as school age.
Theres lots of theorists and research one could wade through and it comes down to these three components when we are talking about our ‘Looking Glass Self’:
We imagine how we must appear to others.
We imagine and react to what we feel their judgment of that appearance must be.
We develop our self through the judgments of others. (Yeung, et al. 2003).
For the purpose of simplicity this was about seeing ourselves as others do, which for the ladies who took part, it turned out to be an empowering and esteem building exercise.
“I am not what I think I am and I am not what you think I am; I am what I think that you think I am.”
In my everyday work as a photographer I aim to show people themselves. Their true beauty, the beauty that their loved ones see when they laugh and joke, the beauty that is unique to only themselves and not a beauty that is preconceived or comes with a measuring tool to fit to societies expectations.
Introducing my ladies and their wonderful words.
‘In my younger days I was rather large , then had two children and the weight ballooned. I joined a slimming club and lost five stone which gave me more confidence than I’d ever had in my life . I retained my weight loss for most of my adulthood but then nearing 50 I developed several issues , gall bladder problems , tooth loss and the worse thing in any woman’s life the dreaded wrinkles and varicose veins in my legs. this wasn’t great as I had considered them my best feature. My middle age spread returned and I began to feel less and less attractive . It was my daughter who introduced me to the idea of a boudoir shoot with Janey . It was the best confidence boost ever. Full of fun and laughs and totally at ease I stripped down to my essentials and started posing . I showed them to anyone and everyone and was in awe of myself so when Janey mentioned her project, I decided to volunteer and wow ! what a great day I had , strutting my stuff with other like minded ladies . The results were probably even better than the first pictures because the confidence I had gained oozed out. I am so pleased I took the initial jump and went along to Janey as this shows us all that we sometimes forget to see ourselves as just ourselves, without comparison to others. We are all different and all beautiful.’
‘What can I say ? It was a hilarious day, it was fantastic, it was also amazing to see how nervous some of the ladies were to start with but how by the end of it, those nerves had vanished. Boobs, legs and bums everywhere. I am so proud of what we did, no, I still don’t see myself as a ‘beauty’, or as ‘sexy’, or as anything I ‘should’, but I see that others have the same insecurities, even those people you never dreamed would. Social media, where pouts are accepted and a double chin is frowned upon, it can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Women, Men, Aliens from Mars, stop looking to social media for acceptance. The magazines are photoshopped, the pictures are posed, it’s all fake. What is real is this picture. These pictures, these stories. Janey made us feel fabulous all day, regardless of our sizes, regardless of our wobbly bits, she did that. We all had our hangups from feet to bums to wobbly arms but we bared our wobbles to the world and said screw it. We knew what we were getting into and we loved every minute. So very much fun. Thank you JKP for yet another absolutely amazing experience where my cheeks ached from laughing so much Women, you rock! Don’t ever let anyone put you down, spray your glitter and SPARKLE !’
‘For as long as I can remember I have compared myself to other women and have not been happy with what I saw in the mirror. After the birth of my son and a bad breakup and my confidence was at an all time low. Then my friend introduced me to Janey and I’m so glad that she did, she made me feel a million dollars and I don’t think I have ever laughed so much. Janey took some beautiful pictures I didn’t believe it was me and I will treasure them forever. I was so happy when she asked me to be part of this project as she had already done so much for my own self esteem. I loved meeting the other ladies and together I think we show that you don’t have to be what society deems ‘perfect’ to be beautiful because beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
‘This experience was amazing and gave me a massive confidence boost. why did I apply ? I have spent years being embarrassed about being big (size 18) and always feeling conscious next to my slim friends. Now I am embracing my size. I want to show women that it doesn’t matter what size you are or if you have lumps/bumps or stretch marks we are all beautiful and should not hide out bodies away. Getting these photographs has reinforced that I don’t need to lose weight I look amazing as I am. I still want to lose weight but that’s for me and my health, not to fit in with what society expects or the doctors expect. I look good as I am, if others don’t like it then it’s their problem and not mine. I love me, I love the person I am becoming, I am slowly emerging from this cocoon that I have been in and showing the world who I am, it’s scary and it’s amazing but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Because I love myself now and respect myself I don’t need approval from others as I don’t care anymore. Because I find myself attractive now and have confidence in who I am, others have always seen it and the best bit is I now see what others see.’
‘I have a disability that effects my legs and means I need to use a wheelchair.
Because of this I have always had low confidence and definitely never thought of myself as ‘beautiful’
I’ve worked with Janey a few times before and she gave me some of the confidence I was lacking. I jumped at the chance to be part of this project, as it’s everything I believe in.
I want to be a ‘role model’ to people in my situation and show others that we are all beautiful in our own way and it’s okay to be different.
Janey and this project have given me tonnes of confidence. I am me, take it or leave it.
I have my disability but my disability doesn’t have me.
Thank you Janey and thank you for believing in people like me. The world needs more people like you ‘
‘ At 34, you’d think I would be totally comfortable in my own skin. I could easily list more things about myself I would like to change, than things I love about my body. Bringing two fabulous children into this world has taken its toll on my body and I am still learning to love certain bits! I want them to have a confident Mum, so that it rubs off on them! Us ladies are really good at paying genuine compliments to others, without any real effort, but we never believe it when we are told we look beautiful in some way. The only person who is so highly critical of your body, is you. We need to stop comparing, and start loving what we have.”
‘I met Janey when she was doing a friends Wedding and I had seen her self esteem building photo sessions on her Facebook Page. So when I heard about this project I so wanted to take part in it because I knew that I needed a change in perspective and a higher level of self esteem. I want to be comfortable with what I have and not how I look. I have always worried about how I look in pictures and always look for flaws, I think we are all guilty of that. So for me it was time to bite the bullet and embrace some awesome pictures and give me the confidence that I need. In turn I now know I will be able to teach my daughters to embrace their beauty too.’
So there we have it, seven wonderful ladies all individual, all beautiful, all prepared to look at themselves, their own reflections, and not be influenced by others. The message here is simple and its clear.
See Perfection In Your Own Reflection
Thank you for reading, if you love this article share it, if you don’t then pass it by without comment. Thank you again to the ladies who took part, to Healing Manor Hotel who hosted the event. ( A Huge Thanks To Emma who coordinated the event for us and shared our passion. ) A big big thank you to my wonderful team of make-over fairies: Natalie who works with me regularly on my self esteem photo-shoots, and Natasha her assistant; to Sara a super duper hairdresser and wonderful friend , Chelsea , and my little helper and runner for the day, Elizabeth.
( All photographs displayed are the work and intellectual property of JKP )