Body positivity is not a catchphrase. It is a way of life. And while it means something a bit different to each person, to me it is embracing my body as it is right now. Accepting that I will not get any taller and that cheesecake is not a good breakfast food.
As a victim of sexual assault, my relationship to my body has been irrevocably altered. I hated it for not protecting me. I wanted it to be unattractive so it would never happen again. I worked through that.
I eventually started to work as a life model. Life modeling taught me to step outside of myself and to see my body as other people do... as art.
In my ongoing quest toward connection and acceptance, and as a branding statement for my writing, I had some Art Nude photographs done by my friend and renowned photographer Brent Leideritz.
I've been a life model for about five years, although I haven't done any for the past year. I didn't expect having photos taken to be a big deal. After all, I've been naked before.
But somehow, on photo day, it wasn't like posing for an art class. It was really confronting. I agonized over poses, facial expressions and Facebook Community Standards. Brent and I had agreed to leave #freethenipple to other people and other times. The photos are actually very tame and restrained.
My Facebook profile picture is a seated back view with me smiling over my shoulder. Brent was telling me jokes and my smile is the moment just before I laughed. I love this photo. I love my thighs -- something I never thought I would say. I love my face, even with the exaggerated lines. That photo is everything I wanted it to be. A personal statement of my self-acceptance and my joy.
Brent took a lot of photos that day. A reclining back view is my favorite... I look like a Botticelli angel and because my face is obscured I really am art.
But the one I hated on sight was a crunched-up pose. I'm squatting to the ground, my arms and legs covering everything that can't be shown. My face is blank. I'm passive. I hated it because I look so small. So vulnerable. When I first saw it, I wanted to cry.
My youngest daughter saw it and loved it. "You look so beautiful, Mummy," was her comment. My eldest's favorite was the back view. With those recommendations I got both. My youngest was seeing my open expression and small stature as her loving mother, ready with a hug at any moment. My eldest was seeing my strength and poise. I'm both of these things. Brent really did capture me.
And I realise that vulnerability and honesty is intrinsic to the movement and to my own progress. It is not weak to be vulnerable. It is powerful to be open and seen. To be honest is a strength that I hope my girls see in me and carry with them. Now all the pictures are a snapshot of my bravery and I'm proud of them.