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Self Portrait Marathon – Session 5: Sticks & Stones

Updated: Jan 30

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”


Do y’all see where I’m going with this? I think we all know words are far more powerful than a childhood saying. I totally get where they were going with this. There is a good lesson in letting words roll off your back.


And as impermeable as some of us may seem, we don’t get through these negative occurrences unscathed. Someone else with their negative comment validated our worst fear about ourselves.


You’ve been there, right? Are you picturing the school bully, your frenemy, maybe a family member, or even your spouse.


And overtime you figured out how to mask that pain by adapting your emotions and maybe the way you deal with people. That shock and awe from being degraded by another person caused us to beat them to the punch. We identify anything less than perfect in ourselves before anyone else sees it.


And one step further we now provide disclaimers before we reveal ourselves to anyone. “I’ve gained weight so don’t judge me.” “Please excuse the mess.” “I didn’t get to put on makeup today.”


We call out the flaw before anyone else can beat us to the punch. Does that cushion the blow?


Women, are we really this hard on ourselves? Worse! Are we really this hard on each other? Why?


Disclaimer: I’m going to be sharing photographs of a part of me that I am insecure about. Even worse post motherhood (Don’t worry, it’s not nudity). If you’re not fine with that, here is the point where you exit. 👢🚪


There is no shortage of opinions about our lives, our methods, our choices, our bodies. But I’d like to address our bodies in this post. Specifically, the aging woman and especially those who have carried children.

Stretch marks on plus size woman showing her belly.

It is quite an experience to watch your body age. To see the marks, the pounds, the scars, & gravity pile on over the years is a roller coaster of emotion. Surrounded by impossible beauty standards in media doesn’t make that emotional process any easier.


What is sad to me is not that there are so many opinions about a woman’s body but that so many women allow those opinions to dictate the way they view themselves.


I can’t tell you how many times I hear, “Oh I’ll do the photoshoot when I lose weight.” And maybe that is a healthy goal for you. Maybe you want to reward good behavior with a fabulous photoshoot. Nothing wrong with that.


However, that says to me that you don’t think you’re worthy of this now, but you’ll be worthy of it when you lose weight because you will look more worthy.


And then when you do the photoshoot, we suck it up with Spanx, cover it up with makeup & retouching, dress it up with gowns & fabulous hair… Again, nothing wrong with it in the right perspective. Playing dress up with my clients is one of my favorite things to do. I don’t mind retouching to remove anything from the photo that someone doesn’t want to be distracted by.


Stretch marks on plus size woman showing her belly.

But ladies, so much of that is geared towards covering up what we don’t like about ourselves. We’re tying our value to something superficial.


Is it possible for us to age gracefully & actually enjoy doing that? What’s with all of the energy we put into hiding parts of who we are?


So, that being said, when I stepped into the studio for the 5th Self Portrait Marathon, I had no intention of going the route it went. I know I wanted it to be a black & white more natural session that was geared towards my expressions.


Then, I had a thought. While wrestling with my jeans, I wondered what it would look like if I photographed my belly. Y’all I full-fledged was playing around and did not intend on ever showing these to anyone. But as I sat there, pants unzipped, shirt pulled back, I started really loving the result. I remember looking at the photographs and thinking, “Wow, why do I find this so beautiful?”


Why did I find this so beautiful? I think it was the comfortability at which I found myself revealing something I thought was ugly.


Stretch marks on plus size woman showing her belly.

What a harsh word. I went through the countless words that would be associated with a photograph series like this.


Ugly, disgusting, shameful, unhealthy, nasty, gross. These are all words I had associated with my belly. These are all words I assumed others would associate with my belly.


Isn’t that sad? I started thinking about all the other women who look at their body and associate these types of words. It broke my heart.


I got emotional during this session because going through each shot, I didn’t see any of these negative words. Instead, I felt words like beautiful, strong, brave, free, boundless, worthy.


My body has done one of the most incredible things in existence. A true miracle designed by God. I have gestated, carried, and nurtured another life. The process of being a mother and sharing a body, I honestly can’t think of anything else that is more beautiful than that.

And yet, after our bodies have done all of that, we feel like we are broken, used, second hand and anything less than worthy. How backward is that?


When I was looking at the extra weight, extra skin, and countless stretch marks it reminded me of what this body did and what it continues to do. It’s my vehicle.


Stretch marks on plus size woman showing her belly.

Do I long for youth? Would it be easier to be 100 lbs lighter? In my opinion (which is the only one that matters in this case), yes. It probably would be. Am I any less of a person because my body is not in everyone’s taste? Absolutely not.


Should I feel guilt & shame towards this body that has produced life, has produced creativity, has contributed to my family & friends? Absolutely not.


Ladies, we care far too much about the superficial things. If you love getting dressed up and the whole shebang then that is wonderful, more power to you. But if you’re using that as a way to cover up what you’re ashamed of then it’s not a healthy interest. It’s a toxic mentality.


I’m not saying you have to take pictures of your belly in order to feel worthy. This is an extreme example to make a statement to take your gorgeousness seriously.


You’re not beautiful because you know how to dress it up. You’re beautiful because you’re created by God and accept yourself where you are right now.


Don’t let self-value or self-worth be dictated by a number on the scale. If you need to get healthy to save your life, that’s a different issue. Work towards those healthy goals, but know that you’re incredible right now. You’re beautiful how you look right now.


Stretch marks on plus size woman showing her belly.

Also, the amount of energy we spend hating parts of ourself because someone in some form assured us that we weren’t beautiful and this, this, and this is ugly… Well, it’s a waste of time. Let’s knock it off.


We are busy, beloved, and have no time to give weight to those negative thoughts and opinions.


I’ve been called all kinds of a names. I know those moments you have been harshly criticized don’t go away overnight. It takes time and healing. And if you were at a crucial point in development, I don’t know that those degrading names ever go away. They tend to mold who you become. But there was a lesson in all of it.


The bottom line is you’re resilient, you’ve persevered, and your body is a roadmap of your endurance. Be proud of it. Own it.

Embrace your double chin, embrace the belly, embrace the arms, embrace the weight, the stretch marks, the scars, and the wrinkles.


Sticks and stones, baby.

Here is the entire belly gallery completely un-retouched...

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