The 7th of January 2015 I turned 23. One of my best friends, a photographer, gave me as a gift a photo-shoot session with him. My first thought was: “such a nice present”. Followed by a less positive thought: “I might not have what it takes to do a photo-shoot”. Certainly, I always knew my friend is a genius photographer but I am not a model. I have seen his shootings, all of them were real models or young amateur girls that measure over 1.75m and that weight below average.
I for sure did not belong to that group.
You should also know that during my teenage years I always felt I was (here comes the word that all teenage girls like to use) fat. Ten years later, I can go back through my high school photos and see that I had a very normal body type. Objectively, I was not the thinnest but I was for sure not overweight and even, who cares.
May I also add that during my first two years as a student in France I had gained 10 kilos. Even though I felt happy in France, I should have acknowledged that my body had changed but somehow, I just preferred to ignore it. My jeans would not fit anymore and I would have to buy a bigger size every time I would try something at a store. I went from an S, to an M, to an L. I went as well from a 36, to a 38 and up to a 40. But let’s leave the numbers aside, the worst is not the size tag but the inner feeling of anxiousness and loneliness. I was for sure not confident with myself.
Four years later, I finally started for the first time to find myself. I began cooking, I stopped consuming dairies (except for cheese because it would be a sin to do that in France), I started running, going to the gym at least 3-4 days a week. And just like that, for once, I changed the cycle and instead of gaining weight I started losing it. It isn’t until end of 2017 that I had finally reached – or at least almost – the size and measures that I arrived to this country with.
I must admit that I got a reward that no one else told me it existed. Once you start to control your mind, you body just follows and that is called: confidence.
In the past eight years, my experience as an expat in this country have challenged me from day 1 in all possible ways. Finding where to live, dating, hating sports, doing internships, maintaining relationships, moving again, saying bye to friends, loving sports, breakups, terrorist attacks, finding a job, maintaining a financial balance but also a mental one is not simple. Between yoga, running, eating healthy food, eating not so healthy food, reading, coloring mandala books and having long conversations with my friends and family have helped me to find peace.
Thinking to live one day at a time also gave me a huge boost of confidence to see that I was strong enough to confront any type of situation and achieve my goals (doesn’t matter how big or small they are).
Now let’s cut the bla bla bla….
Fast forward 8 years, I am feeling good with myself, and my friend – the photographer – reminds me about our session. For the first time in three years I had the feeling that we had to do it NOW.
It was the last Saturday of summer, my friend and I met at his Parisian studio located on the 6th floor. He was sitting on the balcony while I was learning the magic of posing in front of a camera without feeling overwhelmed.
He covered all his mirrors (he said I had to trust him) and then, he made me change clothes and did my hair and make-up around 7 times. He said that the only thing I had to do was to feel beautiful. Those three words are the most challenging ones. It does not matter if your confidence is high or low. How is one supposed to show it’s beauty?
After a few shots I believe I got a sort of connection with the camera, my friend, the setting and I was high in the moment. I was mentally gone and physically present while trying to show my best angles.
In total we made over 700 shots to get 39 images selected. None of the retouches changed my body shape, size or physical imperfections.
I finally went two days later to my friend’s to see the last results and I was blown away. I felt I was looking at myself in someone else’s body. I looked like me but I could not actually believe it was moi. I wanted to cry, that was the most beautiful, natural and personal gift anyone has ever given me.
It is amazing to realize how one sees oneself and how the exterior eye looks at you. The truth is, that most of us women are extremely hard on ourselves. We give a lot of importance to our looks, our weight, our accomplishments. We want to be strong and independent as well as girly and delicate. We are constantly and unfairly challenging ourselves until we are exhausted. At the same time, we feel our bodies are not enough and we are comparing ourselves to other women. I am also sure that some of these women might be comparing themselves to us.
Shall we blame it on society again? Perhaps.
First, we have to at least acknowledge the fact that we must feel happy, full stop. Step two would be to say fuck it, move on with who we are and how we look because we should give more credit to who we are.
I shall just finish by saying that this article is for all those women, who like me, struggle to find or keep up with self love and confidence. Remember, the day you start loving yourself and not caring about the rest is when peace will embrace you. <3