A lot of anxiety in my life has stemmed from a lack of self-value. I think at it’s best, insecurities hurt only us, but often they also hurt others too. When I am feeling less than pretty, less than fit, less than, my go to soother is to look at the people around me and rank them according to height and weight and skin color and perceived wealth and face attractiveness. I like to know where I stand, (usually somewhere in the middle) so I can hate the people ahead of me and glower at the ones behind.
It’s my worst quality, so in an act against my hatred, I took off my clothes.
Sorry, what did you just say Krisi? Yeah, I got naked, well not all the way, but mostly.
I’ve written a whole lot of posts about dating and a few about faith and what it was like growing up as a middle class white girl. I’ve even written a post or two about sexuality and my struggle with admitting I am a 28 year old virgin. On the one side, I have family and friends who are proud of this fact for me, inwardly signing relief perhaps or at least glad I haven’t fully given into “the world” quite yet.
On the other side, “the world” if you will, there are friends encouraging me to find my sexuality, to embrace the sexual balance in a relationship (not that I have one) and to be proud of who I am, and my body.
It’s all a little confusing for a once evangelical now quite unsure middle class white girl.
So I’m going to take sex out of it for a minute and just talk about body image. Because I think they are tied together whether we like it or not. Slowly over the years I have been becoming more and more confident in my body and my beauty. I do not know if this fully correlates with my slow shift into liberalism or if it’s just the nature of growing up.
But I had a friend approach me recently and tell me about a project she was doing to help her friends celebrate their own beauty.
She asked me if I wanted to participate in the project and I said yes. Essentially it was a boudoir shoot, producing pictures which found me about 80% nude. These are pictures most popularly taken for weddings and husbands, but I decided to do it for me. For a few reasons.
First, I am not a bride or in any danger of becoming one soon. Second, I am too often ashamed of my body and wanted to see what it felt like to be confident when exposed. And let me tell you…
It felt awesome.
My friend Emily, the photographer, asked “krisi have you been practicing?” To which I modestly responded “no Emily, this is natural.” Don’t tell her, but I may have lied. I totally stood in front of the mirror, in fact I have been standing in front of the mirror since I was nine, posing and stretching my arms in the air to get a different angle of my silhouette. I’m pretty sure every pubescent girl who read the American Girl book, “The Care and Keeping of YOU” took time to examine their expanding chest.
Yeah, I have been waiting to show off my mad model skills for quite some time. I even smoldered for the camera and gave my best blue steel.
I think standing in front of the camera with my beer belly flapping in the wind is necessary for me to feel strong and confident. It was an act of courage, not for the world, or for a husband, but for me to embrace my own beauty and sexuality.
More than anything, choosing to be bold and half naked was a way for me to honor my body so I wouldn’t shame others for theirs. It might seem backwards, but i’ve been using comparison as a weapon for years.
There was a girl at my college who always said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Which I agree with, and also believe it is the thief of equality. We divide ourselves by pretty and ugly, black and white, straight and gay, Christian and Muslim, but we are all people, and when stripped down, more beautiful than we are willing to admit to ourselves.
I used to speak metaphorically about ‘becoming naked’ or vulnerable to better relate to one another. Well now I have taken it literally, to which my mom might cringe and plead, “Krisi, can we please go back to the metaphor?”
I can mom, I promise. But I also want to emphasize the empowerment of celebrating our bodies and diversity of skin and thought.
Okay, so I am not totally noble, I didn’t go into the photo session to make a political or feminist point, I did it because I love people taking pictures of me. And to restate, i’ve been practicing for twenty years so it was about time.
But even though I went into the session with an agenda of self-interest, I left with an empowerment to not only embrace my own beauty, but that of others as well.
I will end with this the thought’s of a great poet and philosopher John O’Donohue:
“Beauty isn’t all about just nice, loveliness like. Beauty is about more rounded substantial becoming. So I think beauty in that sense is about an emerging fullness, a greater sense of grace and elegance, a deeper sense of depth, and also a kind of homecoming for the enriched memory of your unfolding life.”