I Thought It Would Be Empowering, But I’m Just Embarrassed


A couple of months ago I decided to do a photoshoot for Hella Positive Pinup. This meant taking some of my clothes off in front of a camera, posing in ways that were supposed to capture what I felt was sexy, and generally help expand the concept of what “beautiful” is.

I’ve never been a big fan of gettin’ naked, but I saw a photo that inspired me to do it. It was a beautiful photo of a woman with major scarring. It made me cry. I’ve never seen scars look beautiful before, not like that, and I’ve never seen a body whose skin is like mine be held up and photographed. I wanted to do that for people whose bodies are like mine.

It was supposed to be empowering. It was supposed to be the next step in my recovery, where I can look at photos of my stripped bare body and feel comfortable. I knew I was pushing my boundaries by doing it, but my brain told me that I should go for it, I’d feel better after I did it.

That people would tell me how beautiful I looked.

Looking back it’s easy to see that what I wanted was the external validation. That image that I saw that inspired me? There were comments all over it saying how gorgeous it was, how important it was, how it changed their perspective. I wanted someone else to do that for me, to remind me that my body isn’t a weird outlier, but that other people have similar experiences, that someone else can see me as attractive.

I’ve come to hate the images.

To be clear, the process was wonderful, and I still fully believe in the project. I just hate mine.

My body droops oddly, and doesn’t have the artistic quality that other images do. And it’s not just me. When I’ve mentioned it to others, they’ve said “well you were posed in an unflattering way. You weren’t going for sexy.”

But I was. And I don’t know how to make my body look and act the way that I want it to. And I feel humiliated. And after getting no validation from others, it confirms to me that my body is not what it’s supposed to be. I know I shouldn’t need that validation but hey, it turns out I’m flawed and I needed some reassurance as I move forward in recovery.

I’m not certain if all of the feelings that I’m having welling up around this shoot are important feelings to be in touch with, if I’ve been hiding from my feelngs about my body for too long. I know that I have been hiding from my body dysmorphia, just not looking at myself, avoiding mirrors, avoiding numbers, avoiding all of it. I don’t know if that’s a reasonable way to live. But after trying to be more open and get some support, I feel more alone and more like I want to pretend my body doesn’t exist.

I wanted to have a conversation with people about my body, and no one seemed interested. I was hoping that i could connect with other people who feel the same way that I do, and there was no one. It left me feeling more alone. People say that if there’s art you want to see you should create it, and so I took that step, but it seems like no one else wanted to see that.

I don’t know how to move forward with my body and making peace with my body at this point. I know that we often get stories of people who do shoots like this and find that it made them feel better and more empowered, encouragement to embrace your body and show it off, push your boundaries, step out of your comfort zone because you’ll learn something about yourself.

We don’t often hear stories of when body positivity fails. No one said anything cruel about my body, no one attacked me, but I pushed myself and came out feeling worse. Sometimes that happens. I wish I had a template for moving forward, for recognizing that I’m still at a place where I need people to react positively to my body or I’ll want to hide it away. I suppose that if nothing else, I’ve learned from this experience that I am not as far in recovery as I thought I was, or that perhaps I will always need external reminders about my body.

I don’t know if that’s ok or not, and I don’t know how to manage this failed experiment.

7 thoughts on “I Thought It Would Be Empowering, But I’m Just Embarrassed

  1. I’m so sorry that this was a bad experience for you, but you’ve written about it very movingly and I think it’s important and valuable to share these experiences that are not quite a success. On the one hand, it was absolutely a success that you did this (!) and you should be proud of that. On the other hand… it’s okay to not feel good about it. You’re allowed to own your own reactions.

    I’d never seen the site before just now, but it looks like a lot of the other models had similar experiences. In the bios I see a lot of talk about how “the photos don’t look like me” and “it’s hard to see myself in these photos”, and a few instances of “I’m just not sexy” too. (Always on quite sexy photos, in my opinion!) Reclaiming our bodies and self-images is something we have to work on our whole lives, I think.

    I think you’re right that we shouldn’t need external validation – but that doesn’t mean we don’t want it, or like it when it happens. Do you have to *need* something to enjoy it when it happens? Anyway, for what it’s worth, the photo I can see of you (without paying) is very sexy. You look happy and funny and are covered in exuberant colors; you’re someone who makes their hair fantastic and then doesn’t mind laying it against a dusty rock. You look beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t know if this helps, but the dominant aesthetic is male-gazey mediated bullshit, and not a ruler anyone should feel obligated to use to measure themselves. I think it was you who noted how we are all soaking in it, and even if our rational minds are aware of this, decades of conditioning will still kick in and helpfully supply us those f-ed up male-gaze goggles.

    Hugs, because this stuff is insidious and pervasive.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Kira JD

    It sounds like you made a discovery about yourself. And you’re not ready to completely accept your body at this point – but you are beautiful. I love this picture, and it gives me the chance to see how incredible you are. Every time I see you or read your incredible blog you give me pause to think, which is not actually as common as others think. And so much of the time I don’t know what to say or how to respond to a lot of what you write, whether I should tell you that you’re not the only one, others are going through the same thing, whether you’re incredibly strong or amazingly brave or both. Because that is how I do see you – and it’s not bad to want validation for how beautiful and incredible you are. I know you will keep on learning about yourself, and keep finding and sharing your insights. Hopefully, in the future, you will be able to look at this and feel the empowerment that you looked for.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kira you are so wonderful, and I so appreciate every time I hear from you. I am appreciating that if nothing else this experience has pushed me to be more intimate with my body and the way I look in a way I have avoided for a long time, and it’s good to be reminded that I’ve learned something, even if it’s not what I was seeking. Thank you for reading and validating.


  4. M.T.Noah

    You are beautiful. My whole dysphoria thing is right here, too. Every photograph of mine I seem to stand as though I’m about to grab a sword and attack the viewer of the image. And I’m getting ok with that. I shouldn’t be surprised, I studied martial arts for years and it’s ingrained. But it is definitely not flattering or beautiful. Anyway, I support you.


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