Growing up I never thought I was beautiful. In fact, most of my adult life I’ve battled with the ideals and condemnations from men and society. Whether it was from memories of my childhood, my awkward and invasively humiliating teen years, being spied on by horny teenage boys and then publicly mocked afterwards, or social medial and their unrealistic expectations that prey upon women every day of our lives, it took me years to fully accept myself for who I am and as God intended me to be. I even carried a painful burden in my heart from believing I was a failure because I hadn’t developed into what I was taught to think a woman “should look like”. Ideas that took seed and drove deep roots into my heart at young age.
My father who died when I was 14, told me the year before he died, “Your body is too hard, girls are supposed to be soft and voluptuous.” That was his response to my daily workouts, running track and cross country, and doing pushups and pullups to try and become stronger so I wouldn’t feel weak or be an easy target. Sadly, I thought about such things as a child.
Later that year, I rebelled and chopped my long hair off to my shoulders which had been down to my butt. His reaction was devastating, “You look like a butch.” He shook his head with a look of disgust and I walked away in tears. I don’t think he even thought about what those words would mean to me, a young girl trying to find some confidence in who she was.
I don’t think he even considered that those words would hurt me. I’m sure it wasn’t his intention. Perhaps it was his own internal compulsion to try to make me turn out the way he thought a lady should be. Knowing him, he probably felt it was his duty as a man’s man to make sure his daughter didn’t embarrass or shame him.
I think that is why I grew my hair back out. I kept it long or at least past my collar bone until I was thirty-one years old. Then, one day I realized, why am I letting what other people think of me keep me from trying something I’ve always longed to do? So I chopped it off! Not just to my shoulders this time. I cut it ALL off. Short like a pixy and I’ve loved it ever since!
Let me clarify something here. My insecurities and self-doubt weren’t all my father’s fault. It was a combination of having an impressionable heart and an open mind to the negativity and judgment of others in my life, as well as other family members, friends, those mean girls at school, even my oldest sister had belittled me and made me feel less than. I saw the models and actresses on television and in magazines and thought how beautiful they were, how elegant, how perfectly feminine. I felt like I was built like a boy. Straight hips, flat chest, bulky muscles, wide shoulders like my father, red hair, freckles…Ugly even. When I’d wear makeup I felt like a fraud. A masquerade to meet social expectations.
It took me years to realize I could wear makeup for me; to make me feel good and to make myself feel pretty. But even then, when I wouldn’t wear it, jerks at work would say, “You’re so ugly without makeup, why aren’t you wearing it?” I don’t know how some people think they have any right to say that to someone else. I wasn’t their sister, girlfriend or even their friend. They just wanted to be mean and act like a pig. So I would say a few choice words back to put them in their place and I’d walk away, all the while resisting the urge to punch them in the throat. They’d just smile or laugh as I’d walk away proving that they’d had fun making the young nineteen year old girl feel bad about herself. Those men could be mean. And I felt myself begin to hate men. I really had to fight it. I even had to pray and ask God to help me not hate men in general for always making me feel like a joke my whole life. I had to let it go and not give their coldhearted words penetrate my heart anymore. I knew not all men were that way. Unfortunately, from my young woman's hurt and insecure perspective, it just felt like most of the men I’d met were like that.
It wasn’t until I met my husband, the first man who ever truly made me feel beautiful, attractive and even sexy, that I honestly began to see myself as acceptable as a woman. The others just made feel slimy or mistrustful, players just looking to score. I despised being hit on and being looked at like a piece of meat at the market to be chewed up and tossed afterwards. I wasn’t going to be anyone’s entertainment. But Luis wasn’t like that. He was so sincere, a gentleman, admiring and affectionate in a way that didn’t make me want to cringe away or vomit. Slowly with his love, kindness and encouragement, I began to feel feminine and sometimes, even a little sexy.
It’s amazing how having someone love you so purely can help heal so much hurt and pain. But it isn’t up to that other person to fix you. It just helps to have them there. The real fight was in my mind and in my heart. I had to let God heal me and learn to love myself. It was hard. Sometimes, it still is. But it’s been getting easier. When you take the weight of the self-criticism off and refuse to give it power, it is liberating and you’re free to be you.
Recently I went to a painting class taught by an amazing woman named Athens Abell. She is also a photographer. Last year she put out a Calendar called Banjo Beauties and was in the process of shooting for her 2016 Calendar A Sentimental Journey Calendar and asked me to be in it! Never in my life did I think I would even be a model. Me—The redheaded, now slightly overweight, not quite so hard-bodied, woman who still doesn’t like makeup. I’d always wanted to be a model but didn’t even put a wish on a star for such an unrealistic desire.
It amazes me how God works to give us the desires or our hearts. Even the ones we don’t share with anyone. Well, I mentioned to my husband earlier this year that I thought it would be fun to be a model, but I’m too short (just under 5’ 6’) and not a size negative 2. He reassured me that I was beautiful and that I could be a model. I laughed it off and hugged him for his sweet love.
Within a month after meeting Athens, we had two photo shoots scheduled for her upcoming 2016 calendar. She decided to make me her Miss April (I’ll be featured as the month of April) and she’s also doing a “One and Only” with twelve months of just me! Unbelievable!
What I loved about doing the calendar with her, is that she looked for women who represent the real populous. We are all different races, ages, heights, and sizes. She saw the beauty in who we were and brought it out. Coached it out one shot at a time with laughter, good humor and her honest humanity. We are all women with substance, pasts, careers and even hidden talents! We are real women. Creatures of beauty, strong, independent and yet feminine.
Knowing I’m also an author, Athens decided to make a special set for me for my second photo shoot (yes, she even makes her own sets!) She did an incredible job setting up space to feature my writing, even including my books in the background. I was blown away! How thoughtful and professional of her to consider doing that for me. And what a blessing!
Here are some photo teasers of the coming calendars! Please order yours today! She ships these around the world so don’t let distance stop you!! I am so excited but also still a bit shy. This is a huge step for me. I hope you enjoy them and can see the beauty in what a real woman is. Not some unrealistic social expectation that demands perfection and anorexia.
To order My One and Only 2016 Calendar:
To order the full 12 model 2016 Calendar: A Sentimental Journey:
She is even doing a 2016 Banjo Babies Calendar: