In preparing for this blog, I scheduled a photo shoot. Without giving it a seconds consideration, I put the day on the books and went on about my day. 

The morning before, I created a handy to-do list with bullets underneath detailing my preparation. Outfit choices, make-up looks, scenes, laundry, and general cleaning of the home were scribbled down.  A habit that I borrowed from my previous, hustle-based life, to-do lists are my safety blanket and saving grace.  

Drifting off into my to-dos, I started to think about how my pictures were going to look.  Was I going to be pale? Could I find an outfit that was slimming? What about my double chin… would the photographer be able to edit that out? Surely, she knew what angles would look best. Right? 

All of a sudden, I was hit with the all-too-familiar feeling: dread.  My heart dropped to my stomach, skin prickled, and the air left my body in an instant. My mind instantly rationalized that the best course of action was to cancel the photo shoot. After all, I could always make up an excuse to cancel, right? 

The idea of seeing myself, looking the best I could, and still not liking what I was seeing paralyzed me. Trying, really trying, to be beautiful and then failing at it? No, thank you. 

Suddenly, my mind went into a familiar spiral. 

Cancel the thing. 

Don’t try it! 

Flee. 

There it was.  My “predator” wasn’t a tiger or a bear; it was a camera!  And in the option between fighting the camera and fleeing from it, fleeing was looking like my best bet.  

At that moment, I knew I had two options.  I could succumb to the fear and worry all day.  I could easily sway back and forth between canceling and keeping the appointment.  Every aspect of the photo shoot could be clouded, right here and now, by my dread.  The dread that was a little bit of a liar because I knew, realistically, I was never going to cancel.  

As sure as I loved fantasizing about fleeing, I had made a commitment.   The fantasy of the cancellation, though, whew that was where the coping lived.  A great defense that I had employed many times before, dreaming about canceling a scary event could almost ensure that I would spend the day bitter and angry, but still make it to the event nonetheless.  Dates, interviews, award ceremonies: I held onto the idea of leaving my obligations in the dust- somehow thinking that gave me power over them.  And, I would always end up there, promptly five minutes before schedule, aggravated and anxious and counting the seconds until it was over. 

So, that was my first option.  The second option?  It was a new one.  This one was not as practiced, so I wasn’t as familiar with its presence.  Nevertheless, a second option: I could get to know the dread a little. And hopefully, in getting to know this dread, I could feel differently. 

I closed my eyes.  I took three deep breaths, filling my tummy to the brim with air, and then releasing to the slow exhale. 

“I am beautiful because I look like me.” 

Isn’t that simple? 

I am beautiful not because of the designer make-up I wear. 

I am beautiful not because of the Spanx. 

I am beautiful not because of the clothes, or the hair product, or the teeth whitening. 

I am beautiful not because of the editing of the photographer. 

I am beautiful because I look like… me. 

I am beautiful because… I look like me. 

I am beautiful because I look like me. 

This phrase rolled around my mind and body for enough time that I was able to, then, inspect it.  Tentatively, at first, I felt into it.  Do I dare to be content with it? Looking like me? Every day I am, (we all are), inundated with pictures of people we should aspire to look like.  Features of their bodies that, piece by piece, culminate into the “standard of beauty”. Can I not look like them and still be beautiful? 

I am beautiful because I look like me. 

Could I find the power in that statement?

The next morning after experimenting with my new mantra, it was time for the photo shoot.  

Before the shoot, I made a point to meditate on the idea of playfulness and fun (energy I specifically wanted to cultivate in the pictures).  Then, I took my coffee in the shower, singing along to “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” by Jackie Wilson.

After piling my curly hair on top of my head, I started organizing my outfit changes and prepping my make-up.  

I am beautiful because I look like me. 

The phrase kept rolling around my cranium, never fully sinking, despite how damn hard I was trying.  Why was it so hard for me to believe? Despite trying the mantra out the day prior, I knew the core of me didn’t accept it yet.  I knew I sure as hell wanted to; however, a true proclamation of the mantra, a true believing of it, was out of my reach. 

I am beautiful because I look like me. 

Inspecting myself in the mirror, I accounted for my likes and dislikes.  Like: curly hair.  Dislike: flabby arms.  Like: green eyes.  Dislike: honkin’ nose.  Like: boobs.  Dislike: butt. 

How was this supposed to work? Tally up the likes versus dislikes? I would win when the “positive” column was longer than the “negative?” Quickly, the reflection of myself started mutating into an accumulation of all the dislikes I had about my own body.  Despair, somehow both frantic and paralyzing, caught in my throat.  

“You still had time to cancel this entirely,” the familiar voice arose. 

The reflection staring back at me smirked.  Cue, familiar comfort.  The fantasy of tapping out, remaining as-is.  

No.

Whereas the despair wiggled and clawed at my throat, the resounded “no” came from a place deep.  At the bottom of my gut; a place I often criticized and disparaged.  Yet, a place that always reminded me of true north, despite my frequent condemnation of it.   

“Why not?” I asked back to the voice. 

Why are you taking these pictures? 

It challenged back. 

My first instinct was to throw up my hands: hell if I know! For a blog that I don’t even know is going to be successful? For maybe people who might want to hear what I kind of have to say? To give the potential audience a face to put to my name?  

Why? 

Was it for the audience? 

To maintain my “realness?”

To get subscribers? 

Because I have something to share? 

Because I want to make an impact? 

These thoughts came quickly, each tunneling down deeper into various layers that peeled back my own desires.  

Is it because…. My purpose is rooted in sharing the written word? Because I know… I know I want to make the world a better place and this is my gift? Because, these pictures are a way to demonstrate my commitment, my passion, my purpose?

Ahh, there it is.  

These pictures weren’t some vanity project.  These pictures weren’t the deciding factor as to whether or not I can be deemed classically “beautiful.”  They’re additions.  My own struggle and misconceptions around how in God’s name I could actually be beautiful just for looking like me? That’s my journey and I’m going to work on it, every day. 

And, for right now: it’s okay.  It’s okay if I struggle with it.  It’s okay because… you know what? A year ago I would have put it out of my mind so damn quickly. I would have pushed it down and hid it. Far away.  Hoping that a vat of toxicity could melt the scariness down to where I didn’t have to face the pain that talking to it could bring. 

At that moment, though? I was going to focus on my purpose.  I was going to let go of the see-saw of indecision that furrowed in my mind and pose like hell in those pictures.  Because… my purpose is in sharing my written word.  And you, friend, you can’t trust me unless you know my face and the things that I love.  

I want you to know the way my face lights up when my cursive letters fill my journal. 

I want you to know my porch swing, where I rise and fall with its swinging whenever the world seems like it is crumbling down.
I want you to know my backyard: wild and free in a rustic country that lives within me.  

And, friend, I sure as hell want you to know my two purr-fect babies: Bingley and Darcy.  Two spoiled cats that make every moment infinitely better, just by being around.  

I am beautiful because I look like me. 

And, when I have trouble believing that… I look around and find beauty everywhere else that surrounds me. 

I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t self-conscious at all during the shoot.  For three hours, I fluttered around my home flashing back to memories so that, hopefully, a genuine smile and laugh could be felt through the camera lens.  

For some reason, around friends, the fear doesn’t show up as much.  Most of the memories I revisited contained the people I love: my sisters, my family, my tribe.  And just like the memories of past friends, I found I could channel the future friendships I would have.  Pulling me out of the hit to my confidence, our next shoot was in the floor of my bedroom. Where I meditate every morning and fill myself up with love at the start of every day. 

The smile in that shot is real, friend. 

Photography by Cassidy Rudnick

Stay for a while and let’s talk about the future.

Tell me below: where should we start?

14 Comments on “I Am Beautiful Because I Look Like Me

  1. Full self acceptance can be a long journey that some argue is not actually really achievable. I dunno about that trying to get there is worth it! You look beautiful!

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  2. I realize that everytime I take a picture the first thing I look for is flaws which all together doesn’t make me want to take any at all. I feel like it has to be “perfect ” This was such an important message, thanks for sharing

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  3. Absolutely beautiful. I had to set boundaries for myself recently because I was falling into the comparison trap. Thank you for the beautiful reminder. ♥️

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    • Comparison traps are the worst! I have found that I often compare myself to the “myself” I was years and years ago. I am breaking that cycle now and I love your holding of boundaries that interrupts that pattern ❤

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  4. This is a fantastic post!! I, too, find solitude in the fantasy of canceling. And you’re spot on, I need to be better about this. I am so happy for you that you faced the photos head on. I LOVE the idea of positive affirmations. You’ve convinced me to try it. Thank you!

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  5. You are beautiful. I think sometimes the problem is we find beauty in others and faults in ourselves. This could be the beginning of a rant about beauty standards and the industry etc but I won’t go there 😂 great post, very encouraging . I’m glad to have found you and your blog 😊

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  6. Lovely post. I think we are sometimes too quick to see beauty in others and faults on ourselves. Glad to have found you and your blog 😊

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    • You are absolutely right! A friend of mine will often interrupt my laments towards myself and ask: “The things you are saying about yourself right now… would you ever say them to a friend?” Of course, I would NOT. Here’s to talking to ourselves like we are own best friends ❤

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  7. You are incredibly brave to share this struggle that you many of us feel outwardly. Thank you for being vulnerable with us.

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