Beauty & Strength

In this post, I share with you my client’s story.  She shared this in my private Facebook group so that other ladies could catch a glimpse into her WHY!

Here she is…….

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I had my first shoot with Maura 6 years ago. At the time, my marriage was failing, and I had made myself so small that I was really struggling with my self-worth. That first session was empowering and encouraging, and I still love those photos, but it feels like me from a different life.

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A year later my marriage imploded and a year after that I finally left. I had to cry to my new landlord so they would lease to me, maxed out my credit cards to buy what I needed, and crossed my fingers. It was scary, but I’m also lucky. I have a great support system and it turns out my ex and I get along better as exes. I got remarried last August and, to be honest, even when it’s great it’s been scary too. I’m still working on healing myself. Years of small traumas led to lots of unhealthy emotional coping. I struggle with not just the emotional side of things, but chronic physical pain too. I’m more accepting of how I look than I used to be, but the function of my body is frustrating. When Maura sent me my first sneak peek this time my immediate reaction was, “That’s not me. I don’t look that good.” But I do. That IS me. My body is a good body. She is a strong body. She has created two amazing children. She has been to hell and back. She deserves the same love and respect that I give to everyone around me.

 

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When asked about the what/why for my shoot, I said, “Me. This day is for me.” I needed to remember that I existed. Just as me. For me. It’s why I encourage everyone I know (and even people I don’t) to step outside of their comfort zone and book a shoot. Not for anyone else or for any other reason than to see yourself through Maura’s lens. Maura is hands-down the best hype woman out there, but it was in the quieter moments with her, when she listened to me talk about how things have been hard… how they’ve gotten better… how they’ve sometimes been hard again… that her love for what she does and the people she works with truly shone through. I’m so grateful for the way that she captures us all, for the strength and beauty that she reflects back to us so that we can see what we’ve been missing in ourselves. Thank you isn’t enough, Maura.

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The Right Foundation

I thought I would share with you today a story about one of my clients, Sarah (note, Sarah is not the one pictured in this post).

I never miss a chance to use my self love and body image coaching certifications to have a a deeper impact on my clients.

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One day, Sarah was getting ready for a fancy event and was struggling to fit into the dress she wanted to wear.  Her daughter, who was 12 at the time, came into the room to help her get dressed.  Sarah was struggling to get into the dress, the zipper wouldn’t come up, she did all the tricks we try when we struggle to get into our clothes – laid down, couldn’t zip it up; sucked in, the dress wouldn’t zip up; put on some shapeware, and her daughter still couldn’t zip up the dress.  She got so upset and said, “Ugh.  I am so disgusting.  My body is so gross.  I have to change, I am so fed up with looking this way and feeling terrible about myself.”

I am sure we’ve all done the same thing – we can’t fit into our clothes and then start to talk badly about ourselves, which then causes us to feel badly about ourselves.

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So Sarah went down the rabbithole of dieting and weight loss in an effort to feel more confortable with herself and to be confident.  She thought “looking good” was going to help her feel better about herself.  She quickly dropped 50 pounds in 4 months, and felt great and confident.  Then, as most of us do, she gained some of the weight back and lost all that confidence.

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That’s when she entered my world.  She got fed up with the cycle of always trying to lose weight or look a certain way in order to feel confident.  She saw me feeling confident regardless of how I looked and wanted what I had.

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When she told me this story, I immediately illuminated something critical to her.  While she was at the mirror trying to put the dress on and it didn’t fit, she made her body the problem – she immediately started to berate her body and make negative comments about the way she looked. Not her clothes, truthfully maybe it was her clothes that were the problem, not her body.  No, her thoughts weren’t the problem – she didn’t even consider that the way she was thinking was an issue.  She made her body the problem and her body took the brunt of her anger and disgust.

I asked her a critical question:  When you fail to fit into clothes and you blame your body, what message does that send to yourself?  Now, I know the answer but I needed her to identify the message she sends to herself so that she can begin to make the shift in her thoughts.

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Her response was this:  The message is that my body is the problem. I am only worthy of confidence when I look a certain way.  My body needs to be thin, to feel confident; otherwise, I am gross and disgusting.

Exactly.  This is why you try to change your body whenever you don’t feel confident.  All that does is perpetuates the negative cycle with our body image and why we can’t be confident with the way we look right now.

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Then I had to ask her the hardest question:  What message did this send to your daughter?  Remember, her daughter was there, heard what Sarah was saying to herself and watched her go through this cycle to change her body.

Her response, through tears:  My daughter believes her body will be the problem whenever her clothes don’t fit.    She saw that the solution to not feeling good and confident was to change her body.  That I only felt good about myself when I lost weight.

Exactly.  Those thoughts and the words you use, send the message that your body is the problem.  Therein lies the issue.  You have to stop focusing on the body being the problem, you have to focus on that maybe JUST MAYBE the thoughts are the problem, the words you speak are the problem, the inner mean girl that controls your thinking is going into overdrive.  Your body isn’t the problem, how you treat it, how you act, how you talk to your body IS the problem, and that has a direct impact on the level of confidence you feel.

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I will say this until the cows come home – your body will ALWAYS change and fluctuate in your life.  As much as you try to force your body to be a certain way, it’s going to adjust to your life, the situations and experiences you deal with, the stress you feel, all of these things have an impact on your body.  What you look like at 20 or 30 will never be what you look like at 50 or 60, but we all live in a society that celebrates youth and thinness, and you believe that you need to maintain a certain look in order to feel good about yourself.  Ultimately, your goal should be that your confidence should not be built on the foundation of what you look like.  When you hold your confidence in the balance of your appearance, you have built your confidence on the wrong foundation.

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When you build on the wrong foundation, the story you have told yourself is that you need to look a certain way in order to be confident, and that any deviation from that ideal look you have made up in your mind is a failure to you and destroys your confidence. All you do in this case is put even more pressure on yourself to look a certain way.

The biggest problem you make is by giving far too much weight to your outward appearance, and when that doesn’t meet what you have defined as acceptable, your confidence (and body) bears the brunt of your anger, hurt and negativity.

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Would you love to have confidence regardless of how your body fluctuates? No matter how much weight you gain or lose, do you want confidence in yourself? Listen, I am not against you doing what is right for you and your body; however, if your confidence leaves you based on changes to your body, you DO NOT have true confidence. When your confidence disappears as your body fluctuates, it means that your confidence is NOT built on the correct foundation.  In order to have lasting confidence, you need create an indestructible foundation and let your body off the hook.  It’s about time you give your body a break.

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A Purpose in the Pain

A personal share today about how the death of my mother and my fertility issues inspired an event I had at the studio.
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If you don’t k now, my mother and I had a mother/daughter photo shoot in May of 2018.  It was a surprise for her, we had a fantastic day, laughing, smiling, enjoying each other – we were very close, and I had wanted to have our relationship captured for years.  But, like most women, my thoughts about how I looked held me back from doing so.  After working through my confidence and body image issues, I realized that it didn’t matter how I looked.  It mattered that we have our relationship captured.
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May 2018 we had the best day.
August 2018, a mere 3 months later, my mother unexpectedly and suddenly passed away.
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The regret and heartache I could have lived in had I not had our photos taken would be unbearable.  I am so thankful that I worked passed my issues and we had this photo shoot.  I took action so that no woman ever feels that regret.  Stop using every excuse to hide from the photos – you need to be seen!
Here’s what I wrote…
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The pain and heartache won’t stop me.
This past Saturday, I opened the studio and welcomed in women with free portraits for Mother’s Day.
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I had this idea for awhile. I wanted to give women a chance to get in the photos, to stop hiding from being captured and to celebrate the relationship they have with those they love.
It is too easy for women to shy away from the camera, to take the picture instead of be in the picture, to let their appearance dictate whether they exist in the memories.
Honestly, I was worried leading up to the event.
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Not having my mother here – would it be too much to handle, would I break down in tears, would I be able to be around so many mother/daughter relationships and only be able to focus on my pain.
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Not being a mother myself – would I be able to relax, would I keep questioning when it was my time, would I be able to enjoy seeing the relationships between mother and child.
All of this leading to one singular worry – would my pain cause me to not be able to connect with everyone that was there. Would I be enough for them…
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It was difficult. I did, in fact, cry –
mostly tears of joy getting to bring this event to life,
to see these relationships,
to offer women a chance to see their photos differently,
to release the way they look and celebrate the relationship they have with another.
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I have learned how to take time for me though when something hurts deeply.
When I got home, exhausted after serving others for 6 hours, I didn’t talk much. I kept to myself. I took a warm bath, I did some meditation.
I allowed myself to cry and feel the hurt that exists within me.
To witness the emptiness that only the motherless can feel.
To embrace the childless woman within.
But I also rejoiced in being able to turn my pain into a deeper PURPOSE.
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A purpose that I can pour in to, a purpose that lifts me up, a purpose that fulfills others.
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I have found purpose in my pain and heartache. Though it’s awful sometimes, I am still committed to this work, to serve women, to help them on a path of confidence and self love.
I encourage you as you deal with the pain life throws at you to figure out a way to find purpose in that pain. That does not mean that what you’ve been through doesn’t hurt, that you push your feelings aside, or that you downplay what has happened. It’s simply a way for you to move forward WITH that pain knowing your will be able to impact another on their healing journey.
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To Gabbi, Jenna, Andrea, Jamie, Chelsea, Rebekah, Jessica, Brandy, Lori, Wendy, Sam, Brenda, Linda, Candice, Suzanne, Jean, Emily, Leann (and anyone else that came) — THANK YOU for bringing those you love to the event. I loved the time we got to spend together and I hope you got something out of it!
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To Amanda and Shannon – THANK YOU for being with me and helping with the event. I appreciate your love and support in my pursuing my passion! Thank you for seeing my pain, and helping me through it all.
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When I sent the images off to the ladies that attended, I reminded them of this:
Remember, those who love you don’t love you for how you look.
They love you for how you make them feel, what you bring to their life, and the relationship you have.
This is what the event was all about – making sure that the relationship is captured as proof that love existed!
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At the end of the day, you won’t look back at these photos and focus on how you look, you’ll focus on the relationship and love that was shared.
That’s how I now look back at the photos of my mom and me – I don’t even see me, I see her, I see our relationship, I see our love, I see our lighthearted spirit!
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Don’t let the way you look hold you back from living your life fully and letting your inner beauty SHINE THROUGH!
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The pain has created a deeper purpose to help women EMBRACE who they are, be CONFIDENT with every part of themselves, and SHINE BRIGHT in everything they do.
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Mary’s Story

I will leave this blog post in Mary’s words.  Her story is powerful and redemptive.  I adore the time I spend with her!
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I just had my photo reveal yesterday with the marvelous Maura! Her love, energy, and talent are always the most uplifting experience. My second time around I was blessed to use my story to promote self-love and of course to step in front of her Camera!! If you haven’t done it yet, then I pray my story makes you decide to throw away the IF THIS OR IF THAT mentality.
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Three years ago, was the first time I stepped in front of Maura’s camera. I was broken, had no self-worth, no confidence, and no love for myself. I cried maybe the whole shoot because Maura was telling me how beautiful, sexy, and powerful I was, and I just cried because at that point in my life I couldn’t believe any of those words she was saying. At that moment in my life, I was a brand-new mother and soon to be divorcee.
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My story is it took me 3 years to have my miracle child and because of my fertility struggles I had to take so many hormones that ended up making me the biggest, I’ve ever been in my whole life. It took a toll on me and my marriage. I was not self-confident in anyway and didn’t even want to look into the mirror anymore.
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The majority of people just said awful things to me, how fat I was, I look like I ate myself, I’m Fat, I’m ugly, I’m not attracted to you anymore. Basically, I fell apart and was left with a broken shell of who I used to be and I still needed to start my son and I’s life all over again on my own.
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When I stepped in front of Maura for the first time, I lost 60lbs if not more because of the stress, post partum, and just the fact that I had no hope left for myself. I can honestly say I was the skinniest I’ve ever been in my life since High School. I was still the saddest person even when I finally accomplished my goal of losing all that weight.
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I was lost, hurt and seeing myself through everyone else’s eyes and hearing their words about how they define me instead of my own eyes and thoughts.
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Then I go and meet Maura.
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This amazing beautiful soul with so much joy and love to share to everyone. Maura was such a blessing in my life and such a bright star! I didnt know how much I needed her until I met her. That day I walked in broken with no hope of anything being better. When I walked out of the shoot, I felt stronger than I ever felt before.
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Maura lit the fire under me and reminded me of who I was and who I can be again. I honestly can say those words and her being there in that horrible time in my life started my healing process.
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I saw my first photo shoot pictures and I was jaw dropped that the broken, divorced, single mom, unlovable, unattractive person, unworthy of anyone loving her…was absolutely GORGEOUS!! I saw myself through Maura’s eyes. Her eyes showed me what I should have been seeing all along. The weight gain/weight loss, the up and down yo-yo that was my life. The me that couldn’t look into the mirror because I didn’t like who was looking back at me. That viewing changed my whole world. I saw what she saw for the first time in a really long time.
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I felt beautiful, strong, powerful and most of all unstoppable. Maura’s love and encouragement gave me the strength to start again!
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I can never repay her enough for being the light in my darkest night I’ve ever been in!
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Now fast forward three years later. I wanted to do this so that any woman that has those awful thoughts could see it’s not FOREVER!!!
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When I stepped in this time I was beaming. This time she got to see the fierce, loving, great mom, and the light back in my eyes, and the strength in my heart and soul.
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Ladies, I am so much better now. I love myself now and I mean all of me. Not because I am the skinniest girl or the sexiest woman ever, but because I am right where i need to be. When you love yourself, forgive yourself, and stop saying those hurtful things to yourself. You can be happy!
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My second shoot my hair is completely gray, my hair is thin from all the stress I have endured with the struggles that life has brought me, my legs are big, and so on and so on. The difference is this time…I love ALL OF IT!!! My scars, my cellulite, my dimples in my butt and legs. This I can say is the happiest I have ever been in my life and who would have though all those years ago, I would be happy when I wasn’t the skinniest girl ever. I have been on my own for 3 years and I have moved mountains since that last broken girl stepped in and stood in front of that camera.
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I was able to finally tell Maura my weight didn’t bother me anymore. I told her how I knew I was finally healed from all the damage people’s words have done from me and what my words have done to myself. A comment was said to me…well more a statement. “She will never show in her pregnancy, she is so much skinner than you ever will be!” Three years ago, I would have been a mess and fell to pieces.
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Not this time, this time it didn’t matter what that person said to me because I knew I am strong, beautiful, loving, unstoppable, bundle of joy and look out world because here I come. I got big hips, big thighs, and a booty I love. You know why I love these attributes that used to haunt me. My big hips carry my miracle child on them daily. My big legs carried my child and I’s stuff right into our VERY FIRST HOME ON OUR OWN!! My big ole booty helped me bounce right back up every time I was knocked down! Loving yourself and seeing that what you think is flaws is actually your strongest attribute!
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Ladies don’t wait until “Oh when I lose the weight”, or “you know I don’t look like those other girls”, and my personal favorite…”I don’t have anyone to show them too”! I am still a single mom and you know who I did this for….ME!!! Girlfriend’s ME!! I told Maura 3 years ago I will be back when I am happy again. I’m back and I am better than ever!! I don’t need a man, anyone’s approval, or anyone else’s love, but myself and my beautiful miracle child that stole my heart. Take the leap and do it!! I promise you won’t regret it!
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Maura, thank you because I don’t know where I would be without you being in my life at that moment. These photos that you have given me started my healing and every time I was down, I would look at myself and remind me I’m a BAD ASS BITCH!! Now these photo’s below you can see my attitude is back, my smile is back, and I own this shit! When I’m down, I look at these and I get right back up again. Ladies, we are all beautiful no matter what anyone says or makes you feel like! That mirror LIES to you and if you give Maura that chance to show you that is life changing.
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Just do it and no more waiting! You won’t regret it! I don’t and I can’t wait to show the fabulous Maura the woman I will be in 3 more years!
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It Matters How It Feels

 

It doesn’t matter how it looks, it matters how it makes you feel.

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I was standing in my bathroom a few weeks ago getting ready to head out to a family function. I had my black bra on with my tights. I can’t wear clothes while doing my hair and makeup for fear of the back sweats that inevitably pop up when I’m putting myself together.

As I was curling my hair, I recognized this feeling that has been becoming familiar. I felt so good and sexy…..In a bra and tights.

That feeling overwhelmed me and I began moving and grooving around the house. Damn. I felt good.

It didn’t matter how it looked because it made me feel something.
A feeling I relish in, a feeling I welcome, a feeling I don’t judge or criticize.

I did decide to look in the mirror, don’t we always. Does it look as good as it feels, so I mirror checked. Guess what. How it looked didn’t matter. I realized standing there that I didn’t care whether it looked good to even me, let alone someone else. Those tights and bra made me feel empowered, unstoppable and unbelievably sexy.
THAT’S what I was wearing.
I was wearing all those good vibes and feelings, and it felt damn good.

I encourage you to focus on the feeling, not the look!
Wear something that makes you feel good.
Walk out the door with those feelings on display.
When you do, you will be unstoppable!

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