My Two Cents on Self-Esteem
I've been writing this in my head for some time now, but it's been surprisingly difficult to express properly without context. Tonight though, I have the opportunity to publicly talk about something important to me, with the permission of the girl that prompted me to finally put this out in the open.
Her name is Alexandra. She is a current design and planning client of mine, getting married in July to her fiancé Robert at the Museum of Nature. It's going to be one of the highlights of my year. Why? Not only will it be breathtakingly beautiful and wonderfully intimate, but Alexandra has become a very close friend of mine over the course of planning her wedding. I've grown to love her constant psychoanalysis of my love life, look forward to the dozens of text message convos a day about whatever floats through our heads, and she's actually got me using emojis. Even though we have completely different tastes when it comes to wedding design (I love wild and organic, she loves sophisticated and luxe), she has trusted my judgement since the day we met.
There's one thing she refuses to believe me about though. She bought the most stunning custom wedding dress EVER and when she went for her first fitting the other week, she wasn't wearing makeup and her hair still wet from the shower. She saw some pictures that her mother had taken of her in the gown during the fitting and her self-esteem shattered. She loved the dress, but didn't love her body. And this doubt, this seed that has been at the back of her mind telling her that she wouldn't be a beautiful bride, was suddenly very real.
You have to know this girl though. She's a serious crossfitter. She eats impeccably. She doesn't drink. She can't do anything more to lose weight. And frankly, she doesn't need to. She's hot, strong and beautiful, but she hasn't been able to see it. Even with everyone around her reassuring her that she's going to kill it in her gown, that doubt hasn't gone away. When I tell her she is beautiful and she's going to be even more stunning on her wedding day, she says "You have to say that to all your brides!" No, I don't have to, Alex. I get paid to plan weddings, not to be a goddamn therapist.
Here's the thing. I can't relate to her. When she doesn't believe me, it makes me so angry. Not because she won't take the compliment, but because she can't see her own beauty and I can't understand why. I don't have self-esteem issues. I've been a body-confident woman for as long as I can remember. Sure, I have little insecure moments here and there and I try to look good and dress well all the time. It's important to me, but it's because I find fashion and makeup fun and like to project how I feel inside, and I feel like I'm a goddamn bombshell. When I look in the mirror, I see an imperfect woman that I'm proud of, not body parts that I want to improve on or bits I hate. I actually don't understand how anyone could hate themselves. I think my parents raised me in an extremely loving, supportive way that drove my self-esteem through the roof since I was a child, and it never quite came down.
But I recognize that I am the confident black sheep in a world of insecure white sheep. I have yet to meet a single person who feels the sense of security and appreciation for their body as I do. Every woman I know looks in the mirror and feels shame or guilt or hatred toward certain body parts. It is nonsensical to me. My wish for the world is that everyone realizes that they are enough, that they are beautiful and powerful and unique, and that their self-esteem issues disappear. Think of all the problems we could solve in this world if they didn't feel insecure, weak and unloved. Think of all the suicides that would be prevented, the types of leadership that would develop, the inventions that would be made by people who would otherwise be too full of self-doubt to start... so much good could come from people simply loving themselves.
Alexandra is the most recent example of a long list of women I have known who talk to me about their self-esteem. When they do, I tend to get angry and launch into these empowering, powerful speeches about positive body image and self-esteem. Fun story, I was at a bar and when a friend told me that she was wearing this stupidly tight corset that she couldn't even eat in to impress the guy she was with, I launched into one of my speeches and it was so effective that she ended up taking it off right there and we threw it on the roof of the bar in victory (hey El Camino, you might want to check your roof...). Sometimes my speeches don't work though. Most times, people aren't open to hearing that they are beautiful.
With Alexandra, I had tried the empowering speech move but it didn't work. So I had an idea. Rather than tell her how awesome she is, I wanted to SHOW her. I told her that she should get portraits taken so that she can see how other people see her. Maybe, just maybe, she can see herself in another light. After much arm-twisting and complaining, she finally agreed and asked me to do the session.
Off we went for an impromptu photo session with Rob during the first clear night we could find. The sunset was perfect. The weather was lovely. We styled it perfectly. The whole night was easy breezy. I brought them back to my place after and showed them my editing process so that she could see I don't use Photoshop; these images of her are real and beautiful and untouched other than manipulating the lighting.
Maybe seeing yourself through another person's eyes is all it takes to banish insecurities you fixate on that others can't see. It worked for Alexandra. She left my apartment tonight saying that she is so excited for the wedding now and that she feels confident again. Maybe photography is the new therapy? In the meantime though, if you're reading this, know that you are so much more beautiful and powerful than you can see in the mirror. Know that you are loved. And if you ever have any doubts, I'm here to give you an empowering speech on body image! And Alex: keep scrolling to see just how you much you glow, in person and on camera. You're wedding is going to be a dream. Thank you for trusting me to take your pictures tonight. Now you can see what we all see. 😍
(While I took these photos as a way to boost Alexandra's confidence, I'm her wedding planner and not her wedding photographer. Her wedding will be professionally shot by one of my favourite photographers on the planet, Anne-Marie Bouchard of AMBphoto)