Your Worth Isn’t Dictated By Your Appearance

Your worth isn’t dictated by your appearance.

There have been so many times in my life where I fell into the trap of believing that my worth is linked, completely and wholly, to my appearance.  It’s what I learned when I was young from various sources.  

Thin and pretty is good.  

When you are thin and pretty, amazing things will find you. 

You will succeed. 

Your life is perfect.

Everyone will love you.  

Fat and ugly is bad.

When you are fat and ugly, you will be ridiculed and made fun of constantly.

Nothing good will come from your life.

Everything in life will be miserable, and you’ll be faced with challenges constantly.

When you are fat and ugly, you’ll never be happy.  

No one will love you.

This thought pattern only increased in intensity as I went through my teenage years and into adulthood.  

And I was so indoctrinated into these thoughts that everything that happened in my life PROVED that these thoughts about my body, my confidence, and my value were truth.  

It became my belief.  

My belief about myself.

My belief about others.

My belief about how the world sees me.

I believed that how I looked should determine what I did and didn’t do.  

It was the be all and end all of my life.  

If I didn’t look a certain way, I stayed hidden.  

The shame within me about how I looked grew larger and larger.  

Every time my body fluctuated in life, I felt defeated.  I could never win.  

But I’d keep up the battle, because each time I had hope that I’d be able to lose weight and be a success in life. 

It was an exhausting game to play with myself.  

I have so many regrets from that time in my life.  

Too many moments and memories that passed me by because I couldn’t dare step out and do the things I wanted.  

Friendships I didn’t pursue because I thought I’d be judged by the way I looked.  

Vacation and trips that I missed out on.  

LIFE passed me by because I wasn’t worthy of these things when I didn’t look like how I thought should.  

So many thoughts like this drove my actions.  

My body and looks ruled my life.

Until I stood up, and said enough is enough.

I couldn’t live this way anymore.  

I started to work on myself, developed a better understanding where these beliefs came from, identifying the truth of the situation, and how I needed to build my worth on a foundation that has NOTHING to do with how I looked.  To be confident as I am, without having to change my body.

You see, my life had all been about fixing an internal issue with external change.

How could I possibly see all the other wonderful and amazing things about myself if I ONLY focused on how I looked?  

I couldn’t.  

My view of myself was clouded by a body that I hated.  I couldn’t work past that hatred to see what is beyond the exterior that makes me ME.  

I only saw my outer shell, and that view either told me I was good or I was bad.  

I was a moral failure most of the time because I didn’t look the way my beliefs thought I should. 

What I WORKED to believe is that I am MORE than the way I look, no longer giving my body the control over my life.

I have found freedom. 

Freedom to enjoy my life just as I am.

Freedom to fully engage in relationships with others.

Freedom from the judgement of others.

Freedom from the mind control that my body had over me.

At the end of the day, regardless of what my exterior looks like:

I am a success.

I am loved.

I am valued.

I am worthy.

Just as I am.  And so are you.

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“You Look Great, Have You Lost Weight?”

Today I got the “Maura! You look great, have you lost weight?” greeting. I sat down this afternoon and reflected on how detrimental these kind of comments used to be to me and what it made me believe about my larger body. So happy to have broken free from this

For the record: I have not lost weight.

Caveat before reading: I always have to preface these kind of posts by saying that I don’t care what you do with your body. You have body autonomy to do what you wish. Your body is insignificant to me, it’s the least interesting thing about you – I like to focus on what makes you YOU, and that has nothing to do with how your body looks. ❤

***

Congratulating, celebrating and praising my weight loss only validated the negative thoughts, feelings and emotions I had about my larger body.

Those thoughts were reinforced and more deeply ingrained in me with every adulation I received. I knew my worth, my acceptance, my lovability was based on how my body looked. People praised me when I lost weight, they must have been completely disgusted with me when I was bigger. They confirmed all the negative views of people in larger bodies.

This reduced me to believing that my body was the most valuable thing about myself, and it made me focus more on how I look and less on who I was.

Which resulted in me ignoring all the wonderful attributes of myself and solely focusing on my looks. I was blind to seeing who I really was, I was blind to the uniqueness I bring to the world, my confidence was fleeting.

My body is simply my shell and has nothing to do with the human I am, the heart that is within, the soul that wants to shine. My weight will never reveal my passionate pursuits in life, my weight will never show you my sense of humor, and it has nothing to do with how I love others. I can be my confident, authentic, loving, fun, empathetic self regardless of my weight.

When receiving this praise, I felt everyone’s love and admiration.
I witnessed for myself how they finally saw my beauty.
If they feel this way about me now, how did they feel about me when I was larger?
“Oh you look so beautiful now” was “You were so ugly when you were bigger” in my head.

In my large body, did I even exist to them? I mean, how could they possibly love someone that looked like me?
When I gain the weight back, how will I be able to face them?
Will the disgust they feel be obvious?
Will they think I’m a failure?

To me, my weight loss was not worthy of the amount of praise I received.
How about when I got that big corporate job?
How about when I got promoted?
How about when I bought my house or when I left that big corporate job to follow my passion?

I NEVER received as much recognition for those amazing achievements than I did for losing weight. That makes me incredibly sad.

I want to praise you for more than your weight.
I want to see the remarkable woman within.
I want to recognize your worth.

I am not a failure if I gain weight.
I am not a success if I lose weight.
I am not nothing if I stay the same weight.

And neither are you.

You are MORE than your weight.
You are WORTHY as you are.
You have SO MUCH in your life that should be celebrated and praised.

So, what can I praise you for?

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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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