My Thighs

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*trigger warning: discussion of mental health issues and self harm*

This is a picture of my thighs. I spent a long time hating them when I was younger.

I’m 26 now. I was 25 when I got my first tattoo – it’s small, simple and took longer than I expected but hurt less. I travelled about 100 miles via train to be tattooed by someone I had studied with at university who was now a tattoo apprentice. I was anxious and the tattoo was of such emotional significance I was worried I would cry, which is why I chose to have it done by somebody I knew – I felt it would be less embarrassing to cry in front of her and easier to explain why. I didn’t cry. I really enjoyed the experience of investing some time and money in such an act of self-love and it was great to catch up with my former course mate. We studied Embroidery together, so she was used to working with sharp needles.

The tattoo itself is of a Sad Ghost – the logo of the Sad Ghost Club, a creative project producing comics about mental health and running workshops and talks. When I discovered the Sad Ghost Club at a comic convention, it was the first time my mental health problems had ever made me feel like part of something positive – being a member of a ‘club’ instead of hiding away my problems feels empowering. I don’t wear my depression like a badge of honour (I talk to most of my friends openly about it but try to avoid discussing it unnecessarily and am wary of who I can trust to discuss it with) but my tattoo reminds me that I’m far from alone. Depression is something I’ve struggled with for a long time and I think it is probably just an inevitable part of my life and part of who I am. Marking my membership of the Sad Ghost Club in a permanent way is a reminder to try and be accepting of, or even embrace, the things I cannot change about myself.

Its position is important too. My tattoo is on the site of some (very faint) scars I am left with as a result of self-harm. I would always self-harm in the same place and my logic was that I would not want to ruin my lovely tattoo by scratching it up. This has worked in a sense but I have had moments of relapse and simply moved over to the other thigh. My plan has always been to get another tattoo there to compliment my Sad Ghost, something I decided as soon as I saw my tattoo in the mirror, before I even left the studio. Whether this will help me stop self-harming, I don’t know. It’s a long and complicated process and this is only a minor part of that. I could just keep moving on until I am covered in tattoos. But the thigh has always been an obvious place for me as it’s so easy to conceal, (when I was younger I would never have dreamed of showing my thighs, even in tights,) it’s easy to cut and so easy to direct your hate towards when you’re a chubby woman.  I hope that once both my thighs are tattooed it will just help me think a little more about what I am doing instead of just having such an easy and automatic place to cut and scratch.

I don’t hate my thighs any more. Since getting my tattoo, I feel that my cute tattoo makes me feel like I have cute thighs. When I don’t have any visible scratch marks on my other thigh, I love the way my Sad Ghost peeks through translucent tights when my skirt is short enough for people to see. I feel guilty that my thighs are basically a punch bag for me when I relapse, as I actually love them for the most part. Then again, they say we always hurt the ones we love.

My thigh tattoo empowers me. It is an acceptance of who I am, it is a celebration of a part of my body I have learned to love, a middle finger to everyone and everything that tells us we are flawed and we should not love ourselves, it is part of my journey, part of my healing and… well, it’s just pretty fucking cool, too.

Anonymous – 26

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My body is my fortress

My body is my fortress. My body is my home.

She carries my thoughts during the day and cradles my dreams at night.

We swim together, learning each other’s secrets while the ocean whispers hers.

We fight together, endless exhaustion where crying shakes us on the bedroom floor.

We love with such fire, racing to catch up with each other.

Once awkward strangers.

My body is my fortress. My body is my home.

But sometimes she must rest.

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Kathryn Pearson 

“It’s taken me a while of being by myself to come to the realisation that I like me; I like who I am, and how I look. I don’t need anyone else to validate me.”

Warning before you scroll – NSFW photo at the end! – Project Naked

 

I took a naked(ish) selfie and put it on the internet…

… I never thought that I would say that.

I used to be so shy that I couldn’t talk to a group of more than 2 or 3 people without blushing furiously. I would intentionally keep quiet if I thought that too many people would start listening, because I just could not deal with kind of attention.

I am so different now, but I will never forget that freckly little nerd who so badly wanted to speak up, but was too scared.

I realised that being shy was holding me back from all the fun things that I wanted to do. Until one day I thought to myself ‘Fuck it, what would you rather, miss out on all the fun shit and stay quiet, or speak up, occasionally make a twat of yourself, but have fun doing so?’

That shift has helped me to realise that I like life at it’s most ridiculous.

I enjoy saying and doing odd stuff, just because it’s fun, just to see what happens. I like asking questions, having solo adventures, and trying new things, even though I still find it scary and unnerving.

I like awkward situations; they make me laugh.

Which I guess neatly leads us to the naked photo… because sexting is ridiculous and occasionally awkward right?

The naked self-portrait that you see before you was one that a guy that I find to be pretty damn fine asked me for, which is weird for me, because even though I think that I’m beautiful, I still can’t quite wrap my head around the idea that someone else will think that.

Especially if I happen to think that that person is a babe.

Which you know, is a thing that I need to work on, but I’m enjoying this period of self-growth that I’m going through. It’s neat; I’m pushing my boundaries and figuring out who the fuck I am without a guy that I was in a relationship with on and off for nearly a decade.

That man told me that he loved me, and that I was beautiful in all the ways, but when he left I suffered all this self-doubt… He left me for someone else, many other someone else’s… And I couldn’t help but think that I wasn’t good enough, not pretty enough, not sexy enough… I was sure for a while that I must be the one lacking. I have come to realise though, that it wasn’t me, it wasn’t him, it was ‘us’, that just didn’t work.

It’s taken me a while of being by myself to come to the realisation that I like me; I like who I am, and how I look. I don’t need anyone else to validate me.

You are not the first ones to see this photo; I have shown it to a lot of people, I love it. I’m not ashamed of it, or my body, and that makes me really fucking happy.

Shout out to that nerdy kid who was racked with self doubt; it gets better kiddo.

– by “Madam Editor”
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DON’T FALL FOR THE NEW H&M CAMPAIGN

I came across this post by Gemma Clarke as it was shared a gazillion times on my facebook. It’s a great critical piece that considers the darker side to the body positive H&M advert. In case you haven’t read it, here it is for your consideration…

A new breed of feminism has been rearing its big, beautiful head. The fourth wave has swept in on the tides of the internet the last decade, and though it isn’t yet as defined or action-based as its older sisters, it is more inclusive than them in nature and diverse in its messages. As well as traditional feminist issues like unequal pay and domestic violence, fourth-wave feminism tackles a new host of problems, from online misogyny and slut shaming to campus rape and the rights of women in developing countries. It’s also marked by a strong emphasis on the body positive movement, particularly the reclaiming of female bodies, which is fucking awesome considering how much razor heads cost these days.

The movement is championed by Millennials who, thanks to the multitude of platforms the web has spewed forth, can communicate with and express themselves to a limitless following. Prominent artists likeFilthy Ratbag and Frances Cannon use their drawings to spread the message. Creatives like Big Dumb Pissbaby and social influencers like Adele Labo do it by exercising control over their bodies. In an even bigger spotlight, there’s Nakkiah Lui, Lena Dunham, Beyoncé, Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj and Emma Watson– the list goes on.

Then there’s H&M.

About two weeks ago, the Swedish multinational brand released the video for its autumn 2016 Collection. If you haven’t seen it, you can watch it here. The ad is set to a (particularly glorious) Lion Babe cover of Tom Jones’ ‘She’s a Lady’ and features a wealth of phenomenal women challenging stereotypes of what it means to be ladylike. Muay Thai boxer Fatima Pinto admires herself in a little black dress, hairy-pitted model Arvida Bystrom reclines in a bed, musician Jillian Hervey picks her teeth in a restaurant, model Iselin Steiro sits spread-legged on a train and business mogul Pum Lefebure chairs a boardroom meeting. A shaven-haired Casja Wessberg, 72-year-old model Lauren Hutton, trans model and actress Hari Nef,  Gurls Talk founder Adwoa Aboah and plus-sized models Paloma Elsesser and Katy Syme also play a role.

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The media, of course, exploded.

Predictably, dunny-roll tabloid The Daily Mail wrote about the campaign video’s “wobbly bottoms” and “far from demure scenarios”, but the Sydney Morning Herald, TIME, the Huffington Post and Pedestrian TV applauded the clip, some going as far as to call it “stunning” and “awesome” and all giving the multinational corporation a wet-dream’s worth of free publicity. The Twitterverse was equally stoked.

But while the video is undeniably fabulous, there is one looming problem. It’s an ad. It’s an ad that, at its core, is designed to promote the idea that H&M stands for something great. By championing an empowering feminist ethos, the retailer hopes to sell the shit out of its latest range and make consumers feel good about themselves when they buy it.

According to a spokesperson for H&M, “The latest campaign celebrates diversity as well as inspirational women from various backgrounds, encouraging women around the world to embrace their personal style and take pride in who they truly are and what they stand for.”

But H&M doesn’t stand for women.

Earlier this year, a report compiled by the Asia Floor Wage Alliance found that the fashion giant was routinely exploiting its employees. Based on 251 interviews with garment workers, the report alleged that staff from 11 out of 12 Cambodian supplier factories claimed they had witnessed or experienced employment termination during pregnancy. It also claimed that every single one of the 50 staff surveyed in India said that women were often fired when they fell pregnant. In a predominately female industry, this is a colossal problem, particularly when coupled with the workplace sexual harassment that was also reported as commonplace.

Heck, H&M doesn’t stand for basic rights in general. Syrian refugee children were recently found working in its factories in Turkey, and last year’s Human Rights Watch report into Cambodia’s garment industry found factory staff were not allowed to refuse excessive overtime, but were not paid any overtime wages. Speaking of income, despite the Fair Wage Method project that H&M initiated in 2013 and rolled out to 20 of its factories in Cambodia, staff in the south-east Asian nation are still earning below the stipulated industry median of $178USD per month.

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As for its purported stance on diversity and body positivity, one look inside a H&M store will tell you that’s puffery at best. Plus-size models may have rocked their bods in the autumn vid, but most H&M stores don’t even stock a plus-size range. Sydney’s Pitt St store is one of many without a plus-size department, andthis month, every New York store pulled its plus-sized garments from its floors because, according to a H&M spokesperson, they don’t have room for it. Actually, come to think of it, maybe the plus-size models in the ad were only wearing underwear because they couldn’t find any H&M clothes that fitted.

So I guess what that H&M spokesperson really meant was We sat down with advertising agency Forsman & Bodenfors to discuss what would help us sell our latest range of cheaply-made, poor-quality clothing. We settled on feminism and body positivity, because we’ve noticed it’s trendy and popular at the moment.

H&M doesn’t care about women. They do not care to muddle the feminist message in their campaign with affirmative action in their garment factories. They just want to capitalise on the idea of empowering females in order to sell their clothes. But feminism isn’t a trend to be enjoyed for autumn 2016, nor is it a privilege that is only supposed to be accessible to women who can afford to shop. It’s a longstanding commitment to equality in both the developed and developing world.

And another thing. Though the reach of H&M’s campaign is incredible (the video has already clocked more than two million views) and the conversations it has spawned make it a welcome catalyst for female-centric dialogue, girls, come on: we don’t need an unethical multibillion-dollar apparel company to tell us that it’s okay grow our armpits out and order hot chips for dinner, just like we don’t need our soap telling us we’re beautiful a la Dove’s #choosebeautiful campaigns. Greatness of the video aside, H&M will exploit anythingto make a sale – just ask the women who work in its factories. I’m not buying it: the sentiment or the clothing.

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*So basically WE DON’T NEED CAPITALISM TELLING US WE ARE BEAUTIFUL. You already are and you don’t need to spend money to feel it.
For original article visit here — Don’t fall for the new H&M advert

Body Hair Don’t Care

Almost a year into my current long-term relationship, my boyfriend decided to study abroad for most of the summer. We had constructed a positive relationship and although we were both excited for his new adventure, I was sad to see him gone for so long. Without thinking about it, I stopped shaving my legs. As I was walking on Eastern Parkway to work one morning, I could feel my leg hairs blowing in the wind. It was then that I realized it had been about a month since I shaved, and how wonderful that sensation felt. I started to ask myself why I even shaved in the first place, and had no good answer. Honestly, I hate shaving and have incredibly sensitive skin, so special razors, creams, and lotions were a necessity that become quite expensive.

My boyfriend and I kept in good contact and he did not seem phased at all when I told him. We are both body positive and accepting of natural body characteristics, like hair, so I assumed he would not care. And if he did, it would be hypocritical because he is literally covered from head to toe in hair. Which I find quite attractive, by the way. When he returned to New York City and we were intimate again, he still did not care.

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It was about a year later when I finally stopped shaving my armpits. Antiperspirants do not work on me and I had a non-cancerous lump removed from my breast when I was a teenager, so I stopped using the products years ago. The only reason my armpits were kept smooth was because I thought it made me sweat less. On a whim, I started growing my pit hair out again to see what would happen. It turns out, it looks pretty badass and I sweat about the same amount. Again, with this new hair style, my boyfriend did not mind. He seemed to enjoy it.

While I changed the larger hair regions of my body, the hair on my head and my pubic hair style stayed the same. My head of hair is curly and fierce, so it is easier to keep it long and let it do it’s thing. The public hair surrounding my cunt is kept well trimmed to make penetration more comfortable. Bushy and cushiony, but at a not-to-long-length to prevent pulling. I absolutely hate when any of my hair is pulled so I keep all of it at particular lengths. This pubic hairstyle has never been a problem for my current or past partners and in fact has been very well accepted. I heard the same comment from various men, stating that they prefer women to have more pubic hair on their cunts. Women, on the other hand, are usually weirded out by this choice.

Negative criticism regarding my hairstyles, has come from mostly women. Surprisingly, when men are awkward about seeing, usually my armpit hair first, they just stare and do not say much. Women, on the other hand, have made unhygienic comments or disgusted faces. This surprised me into thinking that maybe women are more brainwashed than men about societal standards for body hair grooming.

My stance has always been to do what you want with your body, as long as you are happy with it and not just attempting to please someone else. It is your body and you should be happy living in it, hairless or not.

Sweet D

 

 

Aisha Mirza -Fuck me or Destroy Me

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Aisha Mirza is an artist, writer and activist who’s expansive work looks at issues around body hair, race, queerness and mental health. Her short film Fuck Me or Destroy Me follows the striking Harnaam Kaur as she walks around the streets of London.

Words about the short-film by creator and directer Aisha Mirza  “I suppose at the heart of this film is an exploration of western body hair norms – how strange and oppressive they are, particularly for queer and trans people of colour whose bodies are already targeted, examined and laid thick with expectation from so many places. I am interested in how we all find moments of agency in this mess and in the false liberation of Harnaam Kaur. How she works so hard to reject and restructure societal oppression, and is defined by her otherness. How her extraordinary personhood is so informed by something that never should have been extraordinary. How her story is imagined for the white gaze. How she feels when everyone is looking. How she feels when no-one is looking. How she looks back.”

Watch the  video here Fuck Me or Destroy Me feat Harnaam Kaur as unfortunately I could not embed the video.

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Sarah Hester – Naked in the Woods

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This incredible photography project by Sarah Hester brought women together in a raw and candid way to unleash their inner Goddess and be shot Naked in the Woods.
I came across some of her photographs and the brutally honest and heartfelt accounts spoken about the experience, and felt it had to be shared (with permission!)

The following extracts are copied from her blog —

“I approached a local group about doing a shoot naked in the woods. I made it clear that there wouldn’t be makeup or clothes or any editing done to their bodies.  The idea was well received. VERY well received. Within a few days I had a group of nearly 100 willing to participate in the project. My visions for the project was to show what people really look like. To show how beautiful our bodies are without help from cosmetics or photoshop. Real life. Gritty and raw.

As the days counted down to the event the group numbers dwindled. We ended up with 16 amazing mothers who gathered in the woods for an all naked shoot. What I witnessed that day was wonderful, inspiring and absolutely beautiful! Here are some of the images and a few quotes from the those that participated.” SH

 “Following along with a bit of my own reflections from yesterday. Body positivity didn’t become an active part of my life journey until motherhood. I wish I can say I implemented it successfully, but much of it has been trial and error met with pain and reluctant growth. In the last decade, my body has grown five little humans; endured the waves of fad diets, over exercising, and exhaustion; overcome the physical symptoms of mental, emotional, and sexual abuse; and, continues to adapt from the misconceptions of societal expectations and postpartum hormones. Being human is difficult, but raising humans is the most stressful, overwhelming, selfless yet equally rewarding part of existence. Somewhere along the path I realized that in all my effort to give my children a positive body image, I had forgotten how to love myself and provide the ultimate example. The thought of being naked in the woods with other women immediately spoke to my soul and brought much excitement, but on this day, life got hard. My ability to cope faded fast, and the day I had been looking forward to became an effort that I wasn’t sure I could acquire. In an emotional state of isolation, I could have easily stayed home but something pulled my spirit to my tribe; a place where social anxiety couldn’t survive and my soul was instantly recharged. It was an oddy natural experience that made me embrace who I am and give myself in ways that made me happy. My body has been put through the wringer, my mental and emotional health has been a battle, but I can truly say this experience affirms I’m happy and comfortable as I am, in my body. This life journey is a continuous strive for understanding and growth. Being amongst so many beautifully fierce and passionate women ignited hope that one day my physical appearance will not only be a positive representation of how I feel about myself, but my ability to care for myself as well as I care for others. Until then, thank you all for reminding me what it means to love and be raw without any inhibitions in every season of life.” – D

“Yesterday was the first time I’ve truly begun to love my postpartum body. I had come to be comfortable with self hatred which is why I was OK with doing this. (Doesn’t make sense, I know… But it was my reasoning.) While I know that I have room to improve my health, I am now pursuing health because I love my body and not because I hate it. Thank you all for sharing your vulnerability and making this happen. You all have inspired me with your confidence and the support you offer your fellow beings. Thanks especially to Sarah and her helpers for their time and effort to put this together for us. My life is changed because of you!” – A

“I love everyone, and I love all bodies. I am fairly comfortable with every body type! I have touched over 550 naked (or nearly naked) people in the last year because of my job. One thing that my job as a massage therapist has taught me is that: our bodies are all beautiful because they sustain our life, and house our souls. Even though we all look so very different we are all kinda the same! I hope this photoshoot goes insane viral, because I want all the people around the world to know what women look like. Real women, raw, untouched, and beautiful! I am so happy to have had this opportunity to do this with you all!” – B

“I’m a ball of emotions today. The photo shoot was lovely and everything I had hoped it would be. I’m so honored to have stood next to such sweet, loving, fierce, empowered people. And of course, Sarah has done an amazing job with the photos.
I’m going to be very honest and tell you that I’m so unhappy with how I look right now. Partially, I was unaware at how much weight I’ve gained. I’m actually shocked at what I look like. Having 2 babies in 2 years at 35&37 has taken a toll on me but I didn’t realize I allowed myself to gain so much weight. I don’t weigh myself and l haven’t had a full length mirror in over a year. I’m glad I did the shoot, but mad at myself for not taking better care of my body. I’ve given my kids and family all of myself and failed to save a piece for me.
Seeing all of this has made me sad, but also angry/determined to change things. I turn 40 in a few months and do not want to drag this weight into a new decade with me. So, thank you for the beauty of last night but also, the awareness to be healthy for myself again. 💜” – D

“All my life I was skinny, like I couldn’t even given blood in high school blood drives because I didn’t weigh enough and was a part of the itty bitty titty committee. Guys were always easier to talk to and hang out with cause I knew I wasn’t going to judged. I wanted to gain weight and have bigger boobs. I work at a pool during the summers and would literally eat snickers and Cheetos with nacho cheese all day long. Nothing.
When I got pregnant with my son, I gained over 40 pounds. I was bigger than I ever was and I don’t want to be. However, I gained 1 stretch mark on my tummy and all the rest on my boobs. They were huge! I went from a small B to a large DD. We struggled at the beginning of our breastfeeding journey but eventually made it to 15 months. I lost 30 pounds and was ok but not ok with my body. I learned to live with it.
Between the years of having my son and getting pregnant with my daughter, I lost a baby each year. The first was unsuspecting to us and I honestly wasn’t ready to have 2 under 2. Then I lost the baby and it hurt and hurt to have to re-tell everyone. There was no explanation as to why. That is when I very slowly started my journey to being healthier. The next year my husband and I took a motorcycle ride with friends. On our way home we had a wreck. He purposely threw me from the bike so I wouldn’t get hurt any worse. I ended up in a thorn bush and had blacked out. A week later I found out I was pregnant. This time we were ready, but because of the previous year we didn’t tell anyone. Two weeks later, I was going through a miscarriage. I literally hurt and my husband hurt worse than I because we both knew it was because of the motorcycle accident. I to ease my mind I trained and ran 2 5k runs. It helped so much. For the first time in my life I began to love to just run or walk.
The next year I became pregnant with my rainbow baby. I vowed to myself to not gain so much because I wanted to be healthier and more fit. I succeeded, I only gained 19.5 pounds. We were both happy and healthy. Through the next 2 years I was happy and learning to love that my body was ok and housed 4 humans even if for a short time. Then, I started to not feel like myself. I started gaining weight, I was tired, I was sad, I was depressed, i began hating how I looked again. I was nothing that was the normal for me. I finally went to a doctor and found out I had an autoimmune thyroid disease. It’s been a long year of healing and changing everything.
I am still not completely happy with my body and I was even more nervous for this photo shoot with a bunch of other women. Women scare me, because I know how judgey they can be. I was late getting to the location and when I walked up everyone was naked already. I thought I made a mistake, I was nervous but I pushed through it and quietly took my clothes off and sat down trying not to make a scene. My confidences was stripped with my clothes, but by the end of the shoot I had gained it back and was inspired to see how everyone was exuding confidence as if nothing was wrong. Thank you all!” – S

“I am not entirely sure how to start this out.. I have written, erased, and rewritten my words over and over and every time they still feel clumsy and rambling, but nevertheless- here we go!
When I saw Sarah post about this project I felt an immediate calling to be a part of it. I’m not sure where this urge came from because I am pretty much a hermit, my social anxiety makes me feel awkward and out of place in basically every situation, so I usually avoid group outings at any cost! In addition to that, I have not been at all happy or comfortable in my skin since I gave birth to my daughter in 2010. Before getting pregnant I was in decent shape, I danced ballet for many years as a child and into early adulthood. When I stopped dancing I had somewhat maintained my body- though I was completely unhealthy in my habits. These unhealthy habits, coupled with pregnancy depression caused a 100+ pound weight gain. My new body never felt right to me, I was completely uncomfortable with the marsupial pouch and pendulous breasts I developed. My body didn’t ‘bounce back’ because even after 6 years, and another baby, I never lost the original baby weight. Even before the weight gain I have never really had a positive body image so one can imagine what an extra 100 pounds did for my self esteem. Instead of looking at the miracles my body had created, and nourished, all I could see was the industry standard ‘fat, and ugly.’ I have started the slow and steady journey to get healthy in body- but most importantly in my mind. I think that is the main reason I wanted to do this project- I need to start being my loudest cheerleader, instead of my worst critic.
I’m not sure what I expected to get out of this experience. Half of me was filled with excitement, and the other half was completely terrified of the idea. I spoke with my family about it and received surprisingly positive feedback. I began to evaluate my insecurities. I worried about seeing the juxtaposition of my shape next to women way more beautiful.. I didn’t expect to feel like Cinderella, suddenly transformed into a beautiful butterfly.. But I hoped that seeing the differences and similarities might help me, and other women, stop being so critical. When I look at other women I always see their beauty- why can’t I look at myself in the same light?
Now having participated I can’t say that I am in love with my current form, but having interacted with so many women it has helped tremendously for me to see we all have essentially the same insecurities. Seeing women, who in my eyes are amazingly gorgeous, and hearing they are uncomfortable or unhappy with parts of themselves too has helped me realize that I am not alone and to come to terms with my own unrealistic and self depreciating feelings.
I’m a work in progress, and I am taking steps to be healthy, and lose weight in the process. I’m immensely proud of being able to push passed my insecurities, push passed my intense social anxiety, and let myself be completely vulnerable in front of so many strangers. This has helped me be able to see myself as (I hope) others might- not with criticism, but with love and appreciation.” – K

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This adventure has really inspired us at PN and we are so thrilled to share it with you. Please check out Sarah’s website to see her beautiful photography and more shots from this awe-inspiring series. A Body Positive Experience