Did you read my last blog, titled The Bare Truth? I talk honestly and openly about the fears I face, the challenges I want to overcome, the walls I hide behind.
I am facing my fears, and this was one was the fears of being naked, but it’s much more than that, it’s the fear of being judged, criticised, learning to love myself, love my body, inside and out.
So I said yes, let’s do it, let’s do the naked photo shoot.
In the week leading up to the shoot, millions and one thought went through my head. I can’t do this, I can do this, what should I wear, which underwear will look best on me, should I tan, have a facial, an exfoliation, what colours suit me best, on and on……
I had to have serious words with myself, as all of these things were defeating the point of the shoot, it’s not about me hiding behind something, not being me, its ultimately about being comfy in my own skin.
The evening before.
OK, I’m going to go in there be me, no tan, no flashy underwear etc. just be me. (I did shave though) I struggled to relax, feeling anxious, a sickly feeling in my stomach, the reality of I am really going to get naked tomorrow.
The day of the shoot.
The day started with a dance class, and a sweaty one at that, I usually would have been thinking, I will have to go shower straight after class, before the photo shoot, but this was a part of the challenge for me, acceptance, I have just done a dance class, and its reasonable to sweat right!
I arrived at the studio, Jay the photographer opened the door, I put on a brave face and smiled. But just wanted to walk away, run even, on the way up the stairs I bumped into 2 other people I know, I didn’t say where I was going, and they didn’t ask phew. I already felt self-conscious, I felt clammy and shaky, awkward hellos on my part, as all I was thinking about was what was to come, get me out of here….
Then up the final flight of stairs, into the studio, I looked around, the very first thing I thought is, where do I change? Panic set in, “I can’t see a room or a curtain, omg, I feel sick”.
Jay asked if I would like a brew, “ black tea with sugar please”. I really could have done with a massive glass of Malbec. He then asked me if I would like to play my own music, how my day had been etc. He then explained how the shoot would work, how we would start with dim lighting and go from there, seeing how far I wanted to go, there was no pressure to do anything. No expectations, it all came down to how far I want to push myself, letting go of my fears, after all this shoot was for me and no one else.
We started with a light test, timidly I asked so do I get ready now, he then explained that he would pull a screen down so I can change behind, phew, a sigh of relief.
I explained how I was going to wear a simple black sporty set to start, big black knickers with a black sports top, something I was not too nervous about and felt more like me. I sat on a chair, and we began. I explained how I struggled to look directly into a camera. Also, I can’t look directly into someone’s eyes when all focus is on me, I have to look away, something I am working on in my therapy sessions, I really struggle with eye contact in this way.
When everything is in my hands, and I’m in control, I then feel confident, eye contact is not a problem at all. But in this situation, all focus was on me.
From someone who has been a dancer, a performer, taught crowds of thousands, you may ask what the difference is. It’s hard to explain, but I feel in some way it’s an act, I’m acting the positive part, I have done this for many years, people trust in me, believe me, they do not judge me. But as soon as there is a moment of hesitation I feel sick inside, but I can’t run, I’m there I need to carry on. But there have been hundreds of times, I have wanted to shrink, disappear behind the scenes, but I push myself, I will not fail, or more to the point let people see me fail. This all happens behind closed doors, or until recently when I have opened up with my blog, sharing my story, sharing that we are not alone and all have our own fears and insecurities, and its ok to be open about them.
Gradually I started to feel at ease, with the photographer showing me the photos on his camera as he shot, talking about what I did and did not like about myself, then making adjustments with the lighting and the angles.
The next big move was to remove my top, no pressure this was my choice, but this was where my main fear was, this is the reason I did the shoot to overcome this fear and be more confident in myself. I was hot, I was cold, I was clammy, holding my arms over my shoulders, trying to look like I was not scared. We did a few seated postures, and gradually in time, I started to relax a little.
He mentioned that I was still shaking, and although, I was nervous, I explained that I had an essential tremor. Basically the shakes, but more down my right arm, I have learnt to control it with my yoga and breathing, but its heightened by nerves and the cold, which sometimes doesn’t really help when on top of being a nervous person, I have the shakes to go with it. Its suppressed by alcohol, there is always a positive right!! I needed that massive Malbec.
What I never understood was why it’s called an essential tremor, as its really not needed….
Then to the full Monty, the cherry on the cake, the ultimate goal, can I brave baring all. Jay said that there was no pressure and we could finish there if I wanted, it’s entirely up to me, I’m here, I thought, I came to push myself, challenge myself, so I did it. I got butt ass naked, in a photo studio. We just did a few shots, with me facing slightly backwards, very tastefully done, with dim lighting. I didn’t feel half as intimidated, embarrassed as I thought I would.
That’s a wrap. Wow, I have done it.
After getting dressed, we sat down on a huge bean bag to go through the photos, with a simple yes, no. Then he would delete the ones I did not like of myself, which I thought was an excellent idea, as I would not like to dwell on these photos looking at bits of me, I am not happy with.
What did I learn?
I learnt this is me, and I need to accept who I am, and stop criticising myself, love me just as I am, stop caring what others think (it’s actually always the same story for me) love my perfect imperfections. I am much braver and stronger than I give myself credit for, I can do anything, if I have fears, they are in my head, I can change that, change my way of thinking, face my fears, I have choices, I control my mind.
The photos arrived via dropbox the following day. I scanned through with mixed feelings, the majority I loved, but the odd few made me question and criticise my body. Jay told me to delete the photos I didn’t like and just focus on the ones I did like.
And that’s just it, the lesson I have learnt, stop focusing on the parts of ourselves we are not happy with and start rejoicing, concentrate on the parts we do, love your body, love all that you are, I am beautiful, I accept myself just as I am.
I am, you are, we are all beautiful.
Most of you may not feel you have to do what I did to believe in your beauty, yourself, you may have other ways. But don’t let your fears get in your way, only you can change the way you think about yourself, no one else, it’s comes from within.
Look in the mirror each morning and say
“I am beautiful” and believe it.
It will not happen in a day, I still have insecurities after my shoot, but damn I feel so much more empowered and invigorated since, like a light is shining around me, I feel fricken amazing.
Thank you, Jay Clapp, for your amazing photos for your encouragement and beautiful words, it’s a fantastic thing you are doing to help many women see their real beauty.
Lots of love
Just Mimi xxx
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