When Amy asked me to take photos at the first Wild Woman Photoshoot, my initial reaction was ‘yes!’, followed by a small amount of apprehension. I thought it was an absolutely brilliant thing – empowering women to represent themselves as they want to be represented, promoting body positivity, celebrating ourselves and our bodies as they are, encouraging self-acceptance and boosting self esteem. But as someone who has my own particular body confidence issues, I wasn’t sure how it was going to make me feel.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, at the age of 31. Since then I have had a mastectomy (and opted not to have reconstruction), and have gained over 2 stone in weight due to ongoing medication. So while I was fully on board with what Amy and Soulshine were doing, and very happy to take the photos, there was a small part of me that thought it might make me feel a bit sad, that here were all these women with their beautiful, whole, perfect bodies, and I’d never have the confidence to be so free and comfortable in my own skin, and get in front of the camera like they were.
Within a very short time of arriving at the first photo shoot, I realised the reality was so far from those doubts and fears that I’d had. Amy and the Soulshine team held the space so beautifully, and I quickly felt very much at ease. I soon realised that the main fear I had – that everyone else is totally confident in their perfect bodies – was completely unfounded. As I photographed women of different shapes, sizes and ages, I started to really see the truth – everybody’s body is different, unique – and beautiful. There is no such thing as the ‘perfect’ body. It’s a myth created by society, the media, whoever. Seeing these women gradually increase in confidence and become more comfortable in themselves throughout the day was really empowering, so much so that by the end of the shoot I was starting to think ‘I could do that – I could get in front of the camera next time!’
The next time came around, and again Amy asked me to be the photographer for the day. I had at the back of my mind that maybe I’d ask someone to take some photos of me at some point, but I wasn’t sure. It was a bigger group than before, and I didn’t know everyone… but I shared a little of my experience at the start of the day, and immediately felt heard and accepted. And again, as the day went on and the Soulshine team skilfully led us through exercises to help us connect to our true selves, to let go of the things that are holding us back, the ‘shame gremlins’ that stop us from achieving all we’re capable of by telling us we’re not good enough/pretty enough/thin enough/etc… I felt it again. That feeling that ‘I could do that’.
And so when I tentatively suggested that maybe I could be in some of the photos, it was welcomed with open arms (literally – I’ve never known a group hug like it!) Before I knew it I was wearing just a sarong, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with a group of friends, some of whom had been complete strangers just hours before, with a camera pointing at us – and I didn’t feel self conscious at all. All that shame about how my body looks now just dropped away, with that realisation resounding in my heart – our bodies are all different, all unique – and all beautiful.