I wrote this in the days following the Unraveled Academy retreat at the end of September. Life got busy, business got busy. I’ve sat on it for a couple of months, I’ve shared it with smaller groups of friends. I shared it with the people who inspire me. I’m not looking for sympathy. I just want others to know that someone else feels the same as them.

Photo inspiration from Teri Hofford

“Why I Quit”

I’m going to be vulnerable here. Now, some would argue that social media isn’t the place to show vulnerability. On a platform where most people show a curated version of themselves, their families, their homes, etc, I’d much rather show everyone who I really am. “Real Life” includes the positive, happy, comfortable moments and it also includes the moments where I am crying, uncomfortable and angry.

A couple of weeks ago, I joined a group of amazing artists at a beautiful cabin in the Utah mountains with The Unraveled Academy. I had the amazing opportunity to meet and learn from photography industry professionals whom I have looked up to for years. I went alone to meet a group of people who all come from different backgrounds and places around North America but we all had photography in common. The social anxiety I almost always experience when walking into a new and unknown situation was completely non-existent in this environment. Just like every other time I’ve overcome that anxiety, I ended that weekend as an open and more experienced person. I got on my plane back to Wisconsin holding in my heart support group of people that I knew would have my back through everything. There were breakthroughs during this retreat that I will expand on in another post.

On the first evening, I got to eat some amazing pizza with Teri Hofford. What can I tell you about Teri? Her “About Me” portion of her website describes her as a “body image educator, photographer and author who encourages individuals to challenge their body image biases and beliefs so that they can move closer to self and body acceptance”. I’ve followed Teri for a couple of years. I learned from her during another Unraveled Academy workshop I took last Fall. But I was getting to meet her in person! At the beginning of 2022, her self portraiture was what inspired me to work on a 52-week project for myself, taking my own self portraits every week for the year.

I did it…for a few months. I got a ton of positive feedback from friends and family, even complete strangers. *smiles* I even got support and encouragement from Teri. But, after a session in May….I stopped. I stopped moving forward with my project and I knew why but I never told anyone the real reason why, if they asked at all. You know who asked me? Teri asked me how my self portraits were going that first night. Boy! I felt recognized! This woman probably interacts with hundreds of people each day. This woman who works with people who struggle with many of the same body image issues I do, recognized ME. And what did I do? I turned around and gave her the same bullshit lie about why I stopped doing my self portrait project. I told her it was the kids. The kids kept me too busy. The kids were home from school for the summer. I just didn’t have the time.

The truth is, I did have the time. I was just scared.

I didn’t want to make the time because I felt disgusted in my body. That session in May, I bought a pretty dress. I put it on one of the mornings when both of my kids were at school and I drove down to the lot we own because the dewey grass was filled with purple clover and a smattering of Spring dandelions. It was pretty and I knew the time for those colors was short, so I wanted to take advantage. But the weather that day was just awful. You know those days. The ones where the air is so thick with humidity that your clothing clings to you the moment you walk out the door. The temperature is already so hot at 9am that your larger body becomes red and hot after just a little bit. Let’s not forget the thigh chub rub. Sweat and heat and humidity do no favors for people with fat thighs that rub together. I was just VERY uncomfortable. And I hated my body because of it.

I can tell from the pictures that I took that day that I was not happy. That I hated everything I was doing. And the negative self talk just kept running. “I’d be so much happier if I was skinnier. My clothes would fit better. My face looks bad because it’s beet red. I just don’t want to do it anymore!” I blamed my body instead of the weather. So I stopped.

The suspect photos:

self portraiture in southern wisconsin by family photographer

I was actually waiting to write these thoughts down until I started up my project again. I still haven’t made the time. But I felt this was important to get onto paper, so to say. I don’t have an antidote. I have ways I could apply this to my business, talk to my clients about how much I believe you don’t wait to take photos until you have ‘lost the baby weight’. But I think that’s for another time. My emotions ebb and flow through the weeks. I know I’ll get back there, I’ll get back to the place where I want to take images of my body. And I know those moments will be raw for a while. But I have even more support now from the people at the retreat along with all the other people I hold dear in my life.

“I am valuable just as I am.”