When Larry first asked if I’d be a figure model for his event at Catalyst, I thought he was joking. Who’d want to draw me? I’m not thin, I’ve got stretch marks and what I like to call a ‘mom’ belly, and I’ve never been anyone’s subject.
As conversation went on, I realized he wasn’t joking, and to my surprise, the answer circling my head was, “Yes, sign me up!”
The fast response seemed obvious after my earlier conversation with my doctor. Out of the blue she’d announced how much she loved being her age because she no longer cared what people thought of her. She was happy and comfortable and confident in her own skin. Then she gave me a sideways glance and suggested I not wait until I’m a grandma to feel good about myself. She went on about all the young people that come in, all so concerned about their appearance and the tiniest bit of weight gain, or lack thereof for her thinner patients. It made my chest feel heavy the more she went on, but made the decision to model that much easier.
My doctor wasn’t the only reason for my answer. For years I’ve tried to instill confidence in my children. I tell them often how intelligent they are, using examples to prove my point, and how handsome they are, and what a joy they are to be with. But at the end of the day, I realized that my attempts didn’t stick. My seven-year old son, just a few months ago, came to me with tears in his eyes, confessing that he didn’t like himself. He’d said he wasn’t as smart as his big brother, or as funny, or as cute. He’d complained about how annoying he was and that he wished he were someone else.
It broke my heart.
His beliefs made me think. What had I done wrong as a parent? Because he was so young, I knew it wasn’t something his peers were necessarily causing. I had to take a long look at what was right before me, and all those arrows pointed at me. I was the reason my little one didn’t feel good about himself, and it had nothing to do with my words and everything to do with how I saw myself. He was looking to me, the example I was setting, just as I had my parents.
My children have always inspired change in me, growth, because I want to be my best for them. This forced me to take a deeper look at why I didn’t see myself as worthy, or beautiful. I needed to understand why in order for me to heal myself and be able to set a proper example for my kids. What I found was dark, but no matter our history, I think many of us can relate in our own way.
Negative views about ourselves and our bodies stem from many things. I remember being in trouble at five for allowing the neighbor boy to look up my skirt. My parents were trying to protect my virtue, I have no doubt, but the reality was that the neighbor boy had seen me naked many times already. I’d seen him too. Neither of us cared. We just liked being naked, in our natural state. Because it felt good.
Unhealthy beliefs were all around as me a child. According to our church, the body was full of sin. It needed to be covered in shame. And heaven forbid you got a sexual desire! That was just the workings of Satan himself; all of this taught to my Sunday school class while the Pastor was raping my six-year old friend on the side.
So at a tender age, I’d learned that my natural state was shameful, sinful, and hell-bound. I was taught against showing my body, and being proud of who I was as a human, at my most basic level. I never saw my parents kiss passionately, or embrace in a way that showed anything more than platonic care. I didn’t have a healthy understanding of sexuality or the body. So when another party began showing me something vastly different and contradictory, I wasn’t sure how to handle it.
For most of my life I’ve had memories of being in an attic, with other girls surrounding me. We weren’t allowed to wear clothes. We had to stand naked, in a lineup, waiting to be picked for services. I thought all girls went through this. I didn’t know to tell for any wrongdoing. I even remember my mother asking me if someone was touching me, but of course, I answered, “No,” because no one was. I was, however, touching them.
So I was left with a huge and contradictory belief structure. Be ashamed of myself, hide my sexuality and my body, while on the other side of the coin I was taught to show my body and use my sexuality. To do things that most adults don’t know how to do. Things to be proud of behind closed doors, but nowhere else. For me, being naked transformed from something that felt good and pure to mean shame, pain, and abuse.
I could blame so many for my negative beliefs about my body and sexuality, but really people just taught me what they thought was right. What they’d been taught as well. No one (aside from the abusers) could have foreseen that by teaching me that the body is shameful and to be hidden, that I would then take responsibility for those times when I was abused, because my body was the reason for that abuse.
I want to break this cycle. For myself, my kids, my readers, and all those who are struggling with their self-image. Too often we feel inferior, pick apart our tiniest flaws, as we see them, and avoid any positive opinion of ourselves. Because that too is often taught as being conceited or proud. But here’s the reality…
We are born naked, in our most natural, innocent, and beautiful state.
I’ve started speaking about this at conventions, and I plan to do more online in the way of blogs and videos. Too many of us walk around feeling badly about who we are. Believing that we are somehow less than we should be.
So I’ve accepted this opportunity to model. To be seen by a small group, or maybe a larger group, maybe seen by many by way of the drawings. I really have no idea, but that’s not the point. My intent is to move through my PTSD, to get past my negative beliefs about my body and to accept that I am beautiful by seeing myself through the eyes of others. To show by way of my actions, that I am proud of who I am. Because words mean little without our actions to back them.
I thank you all for giving me this opportunity to grow and heal, be an example to others, and to show that we are all worthy and profoundly amazing in our most vulnerable and natural state.
……….. Watch for future posts about this! I’ll be releasing a short fictional erotica story on my blog and will be reading at the event. A Q&A will follow, as well as a followup blog post on if this modeling gig changed my perception at all. While this is only part of my journey to become the woman I aspire to be, it is a key one, and I look forward to sharing more……
Image courtesy of Journeys in Color.