On May 19th I had my own session with Teri Hofford where I went from behind the lens to infront of it. This wasn't my first experience as a client for a boudoir session, but this certainly celebrated me in a different space in life than my last one. Let me dig deep with you and tell you my story and what life revelations I've had since the shoot!
My entire life I had been the bigger girl, happy girl, friendly girl, the too nice girl, the too sensitive girl. This is now changing due to my OWN acceptance, my own revelations, the work I am putting into myself. This session with Teri was a huge part of this journey I am on.
I was married on Sept 22, 2014 to my amazing and supportive husband. I did my first boudoir session then, it was something I set out to do for him (not myself). It was the first time I had seen myself as beautiful. I sat at my desk crying looking at my images seeing myself as beautiful and worthy for the first time in life. It was magical. This is where my obsession with boudoir began.
After getting married I promptly found out I was pregnant and was incredibly happy and excited! At 17 weeks I was put on bed rest where I couldn't stand or sit for more than 5 mins and total of 1 hour a day due to my entire pelvis letting go and relaxing while it was getting prepared for labour, due to the hormone that gets you ready for birth. Unfortunately it was so early on in the pregnancy (typically to happen to ladies around 30 weeks) and it really effected me. My pregnancy was rough in that sense, my labour was hard and resulted in an emergency c-section so I did not lose our son. I had a hard time at first accepting this new "roll" from the c-section, reason?? well this wasn't what I saw in the images of c-sections, I always saw them in images as flat and even and not like mine. I asked all of my girlfriends who had c-sections if they looked like me, the reassured me that I was normal and they had the same result. This was the one reason on why I had one and only request of Teri: Can you please take an image of my c-section? She immediately said yes.
After the birth of my son I spent the next 1.5 years barely walking still and in tons of pain and with a body that I was not used to. I was very hard on myself and my body first, how will I ever "bounce back" if I can't even walk? How will I go through the world being a plus size mother? How will I be accepted by society? Then add onto it that I got late onset post-partum depression and post-partum anxiety which resulted in tremendous self-deprecation, anger and wanting to hurt myself. That year was hard, very hard, one in which I never want to repeat nor wish on my worst enemy. I went to counselling, spoke to my doctor, started focusing on something for me - my photography, started my business, began boudoir and fell in love with it. I started capturing my own self portraits, and though I felt the journey growing and blossoming while I learned to accept myself and work very hard on inner self - spiritual, emotional and mental - I wanted to see what someone else would capture of me, what they would see in me. When Teri said she was coming to Calgary for a workshop, I not only pounced on the workshop, but I immediately asked her if she could help my ladies by facilitating her amazing Body Image Bootcamp. I worked up the guts behind the screen and decided lastly to reach out to her to ask if she could make time to do a session for me, she said absolutely... start the nerves! lol.
I didn't do the session this time for my husband (though I never told him about it until I got the images back), it was all about me. It was about a celebration of me, a boost to my confidence, celebrating all of the hard work I had been doing on my body image thus far, and seeing how Teri views me. This moment would be more awakening than I cared to admit...
I was nervous as hell beforehand, didn't admit it to anyone. Makeup & Hair Artist, Michelle Carbonneau who knows me very well asked me if I was, I told her naw I got this, I'm nervous of meeting Teri! I still am not sure if it had more to do with meeting one of the people I look up to, an idol of sorts, or her capturing me, or simply the combo of both. I met Teri at the airport and immediately felt at ease in her presence while we headed to the space I shoot in. Shortly after I was in my outfits, stripping down, and even having my butt naked in the window.
She went live near the beginning for my Private FB Empowerment Group which I was fully on board with, cue nerves again lol. I stood there talking about how I was feeling while playing with my hands, denying I was nervous yet seeing Teri catch my hands haha! Can't fool this lady! I knew I could do this though! I got this! My lovely group of women's cheered me on and empowered me behind the scenes! Moving further and further into the session the more at ease I got, following the trusted guide of Teri I completely followed her directions, letting go and doing what was asked of me. One thing she noticed was that I kept moving TOO fast when she asked me to run my hands down my body, I was subconsciously avoiding touching the body that I have grown to love. She called me out on it kindly, making me count down, to slow down. I followed her advice and felt more at ease near the end. She had me butt naked in my big ol window in my space (no one can see in.. I've checked lol) and you can bet your butt will be in that window moving forward as well because I did and you can too! LOL
So a couple weeks went by after the session with Teri, coming to truths about myself, my experience, where I am in life. Not only due to my session with her, but spending 4 days with this incredible lady and getting all the pieces from her brain that I possibly could. I spent time denying my thoughts about it, consumed about them, then feeling them and letting them go.
These are the thoughts:
I accept my body for what it is. In fact, I LOVE it for what it has done. and I am incredibly grateful for capturing these images at this time to celebrate that!
My body Image has more to do with my mental place than my physical for me because I am now comfortable with the space my body takes up and the physical look of it. So what do I see when I look at these photos of me? What do I represent? What are my emotions? I see a woman who is happy, joyful, kind, loving.
I shared a sneak peek of my session.. what did other amazing women see in me? words like: strong.. fierce.. leader... beauty. I was taken back by a few ladies saying their jaw dropped or that they stopped in their tracks looking at these images of me. Did I have that reaction? no (laughing nervously)... I see the beautiful art that Teri saw of me, but that's what I saw, not these things that others see in me.
It brings me back to how my clients view themselves when they see their pictures, the years of negative self talk, the years of seeing someone who they aren't, the years of doubt and not feeling they are allowed to take up space.
I have looked at these images every day since Teri shared them with me. Each time I see them with new eyes... ones where I am starting to see those other comments told to me by others: Beauty, leader, strong, fierce. I had some of the closest ladies to me in my tribe tell me that this is how they see me every day and that this is what I reflect in their eyes and that I am absolutely beautiful to them. I cried when they told me this, I cry as I write this now even. How did I not see this when I saw these pictures? See I'm not perfect. I'm on this journey with all of you! I am on this journey with you as I change my ways of thinking, learn new tools, create new positive neural pathways in my brain.
I want you to know you are not alone in this path of self-love and acceptance. That I have been going through it every step. That every session I do for an amazing woman that I not only get to see her transform, but that it also transforms me further.
I don't know what to say to Teri, other than thank you from the bottom of my heart. For showcasing me a part of me I hide, deny, refuse to see. Thank you for opening my eyes and capturing that authentic joy that I can't create myself. Thank you for showing how fierce I am. Thank you for showing me that I am worthy of my own love and for recognizing my beauty. Thank you for allowing me to be vulnerable with you so that I am reminded of why I do this for other women. Thank you for lighting a fire in me, thank you for being here for me every step of this journey, I am thankful for your friendship and guidance.
I can not WAIT to have a beautiful reminder of the remarkable woman I am on the wall for me to look at every day, to remind myself how badass I am!
Without further-a-due, here are some of the highlights of the images Teri Hofford created of me.