Self love is one of the things I get asked about constantly. It's always the same comment left on my self portraits "Hannah, how do I get as confident as you?!" or "how are you so confident"... well I'll tell you my secret.... I'm not really that confident! Yup, I said it.
BUT, I am constantly lifting myself up and loving myself because I now know I deserve it.
Let's get a quick look into the life of the old me. (and how I used to talk to myself!)
I grew up in the 90's/early 2000's which means.... thin eyebrows, super low rise jeans, belly button peircings, Britney Spears & Paris Hilton with their six packs, and of course Destinys Child and their bikini tops on the runway... like abs were always in my face. I remember holding my breath as a young girl to make my stomach look flat. My dad used to call me Hannah Banana fence post (no clue where it came from) but I was active and a happy little kid.
Fast forward to middle school when my 'fence post' body slowly started to turn into a womanly shape. I was instantly terrified. I was one of the first to get boobs, my butt got bigger, and I was one of the tallest... so to boys, I was always being poked at and teased and the girls just started to ignore me. OH MIDDLE SCHOOL! I remember asking my mom if I could go to another school because my friends didn't want to be friends with me anymore and the boy I liked decided another girl was prettier than me. **Ooofph childhood was hard haha just kidding... life only gets worse little Hannah! Get ready!**
Now it's High School. (If only it could flash forward this fast in real life!)
I decided to go back to high school in my home town. I hated myself by this point. I compared myself to everyone!! I remember going to a pool party going into freshman year and forgetting a bathing suit... BIG MISTAKE! My friend handed me her adorable little Hollister Bikini that her mom just bought her, I tried to put it on, *Oh Lawd* the bottoms couldn't make it over my size 10 butt. Now, you're probably thinking SIZE 10?! That's so tiny! BUT keep in mind, its like 2007 and Hollister barely even went up to a size 10. Now, I know someone is rolling their eyes at my size but let me tell you this... SELF HATE has no weight limit. You can have low self esteem at any size.
I sat there crying in the bathroom staring at this little 00 bikini that I saw everyone wearing in all the matching colors outside... when she came back to check on me I told her it didn't fit, so she asked her mom for her old bathing suit. She came back with a colorful 80's one piece and I cried again. It was so hot outside and I really loved swimming so I sucked it up and put it on. We didn't see curves yet on women in the public and when we did, they were over sexualized and made fun of. I remember hating when my shirts would be low cut. I was called a slut or whore instantly if I was seen in a skirt ( even though I was a virgin till I was 19 ) and that was when I caught myself sabotaging myself the most. Listening to the words people called me. I knew it wasn't true but somehow I couldn't hear my inner powerful voice yet.
I would hold my stomach and stretch it apart when I sat so I didn't have rolls. I would suck in or hold my breath when photos would be taken because if you didn't see ribs you weren't skinny enough. I would lay on the floor before bed and do ab workouts and pray I'd be skinnier... but NO MATTER WHAT my little hips would never go back to the once flat fence post body that I saw on everyone else... My mom would tell me I have a cute body and to enjoy it while it lasted.... man I wish I listened to her more.
Fast forward to now.
I'm 26 years old, a size 12/14 and more comfortable in my body than ever before. I am soooo far from perfect but I am so much closer to happiness! How did I change my mind set? Well, for one, I surround myself with uplifting, kind, and like-minded people. I join groups and follow accounts that are body positive. I stopped staring at other girls wishing I was them and looked at myself more often and COMPLIMENTED MYSELF! Like, why isn't self love, body image, and mental health taught in school growing up? C'mon guys, this is important!!
I've found boudoir photography and my art to be inspiring and uplifting being able to see real everyday women of every size in front of the camera and looking AMAZING. Stretch marks, rolls, my big thighs and cellulite are no longer scary to me. My body is MY body again.... not the opinions of others making it what THEY want it to be. If there is one thing to take away from this blog today, it's that NO ONES opinion matters more than your own. You have
to allow your inner voice to stand up for yourself just like you would for anyone else. Your opinion is all that matters.
I decided to stop holding myself back and to STOP saying these things to myself.
1. OMG, I wish I looked like her!
THIS is most common that I hear. This is putting yourself down in a negative way because you don't look like someone else.You can celebrate someone else's beauty without questioning your own. Instead say, "Wow, she looks beautiful in that outfit" and say it out loud to her if you're not shy. Lifting people up is one of the best ways to spread love. Maybe she really needed to hear something positive today and you just made her smile. That's a better feeling than sitting and feeling sorry for yourself.
2. I'll do it when I lose weight.
Once I get in shape, I'll feel more confident.... No, no, no, NO...STOP IT. Ughh!!! This is the worst!!!! YOUR WEIGHT DOESN'T DEFINE YOU! It should never hold you back and when you have this mindset you limit yourself to all the possibilities! You're beautiful exactly how you are.
3. Can you photoshop out my ________ or I don't like my ________.
Umm... no. I will not alter your body. I will however show you how fucking awesome your tiger stripped belly is or your thick thighs. I will help you appreciate every inch of your body how it is right now because it is ever changing and you deserve to love yourself at every stage in life. I'll teach you poses and posture to help with your insecurities but you don't need to hide because the media has fed you nothing but diet culture and skinny fixes.
4. I don't want to go alone.
This was a big one for me. I used to always rely my happiness on someone else. I would only go to a party if someone went with me. I would only go on vacation if I had a boyfriend. NOPE, no more. This is just another way to keep you hidden in your shell. In fact I think more people should learn to be alone more often. Vacation with that girl group you follow on Facebook, runaway with your bestie for a week in Miami, go out to dinner alone! Some of my favorite memories were when I stepped out of my comfort zone and went somewhere alone and met people, talked to people I never would have had the courage to talk to, or even just laid under the stars peacefully alone on the beach. You can plan your life without relying on someone else to be there for you.
5. I'm not worth it.
YES YOU ARE! You know that saying, "Know your worth, then add tax"... umm gurl, while you're at it, add some shipping and handling costs in there with some service fee's and ya know what, let's add those shoes you've been eyeing too and maybe a cute purse... You deserve the world. You deserve happiness. You are worth it.
6. I can't believe I'm eating this right now.
"I'm being so bad right now.".... No actually you're being a human eating a slice of pizza. It's okay. Did you know negative self talk actually makes it harder to lose weight? Stop shaming yourself for eating, instead, take your dog for a walk later, do something active outside you've always wanted to do. Go for a peaceful hike and enjoy the weather.
7. "I hate myself"
This one makes me sad. You are literally the only person out there like you. Isn't that weird to think about? Your thoughts are unique to you. You can accomplish so much and your actions or future actions can change the world... HOW COOL IS THAT! You are literally your own little super star in your own real life movie. *Yes I know I'm weird but this is how my brain works.* You have so much more control in your life than you even know and you might even be the best person in someone else's life... or you could be someones whole world. I don't know about you, but I would reread this one again if you've ever said this to yourself.
8. I'll be happy when….
I'll be happy when I make more money. I'll be happy when I'm skinnier. I’ll be happy when I get a promotion. Instead of sitting and waiting for it to happen, make a change. YOU are in control of your life. It's scary sometimes to take the leap but you can do it!! This is another form of self sabotage. What happens when you finally get that thing... and you still aren't happy. We’d then set another goal and again decide we couldn’t be happy until we reached it. This sounds like a never ending cycle unhappiness. Instead think about how grateful you are for the thing you DO have! Thank yourself for the body you have that allows you to pick up your child or walk to get the mail. Focus on the little things that we forget to appreciate.
9. I cant do it/ It won't happen.
You can do anything you want. YOU CAN AND YOU WILL! You are amazing and capable of soo many things. If you don't try, you'll never know. If you doubt yourself before you've even given it a chance, you will fail before you even start. Stop with the negative mind set.
10. "Great, now my whole day is ruined..."
Never let something bother you enough to ruin your day. The first thing that comes to my mind is the money quote. Ya know, the one where you have $100 dollars but you lose one dollar. Instead of being angry you lost that dollar, focus on all the other ones you still have left. (I think that's how it goes, you get the gist.) There is 1440 minutes in one day. If one minute is shitty, brush it off, you have 1439 more to turn it around. Did someone make a rude comment? That sucks, their shitty opinion doesn't matter and it doesn't change the fact that you look amazing in that outfit and you're a hot babe. Don't let the negative energy get you down. Brush it off and keep doing you.
Thats it. I've stopped being mean to myself, I've surrounded myself with amazing people, and I start everyday looking in the mirror complimenting myself. Take a look in that mirror, tell yourself you're beautiful, wrap your hands around yourself and hug your skin.
Hugging yourself is actually very therapeutic, 10/10 I would recommend.
The journey is not always easy, but using these tips will help.
If you find yourself saying any of these things to yourself, STOP, don't shame yourself more, compliment yourself and have a mini dance party in your brain.
You deserve happiness, so give it a shot and let me know how it goes <3
Your friendly neighborhood boudoir photographer,
Blog by Hannah Rachael Photography - Connecticuts Leading Luxury Boudoir Studio