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Sunday, June 8

body image journey


self portrait diptych, canon digital rebel xti

Since I was old enough to grow curves on my body, I have spent my life trying to embrace them and encouraging others with curves to do the same. In a world where the media has influenced us to believe that thin is beautiful...it leaves those of us that are curvy, even at our thinnest or fittest, to search within for our self esteem.

Growing up and into my adulthood, all of my sketches of women were very curvy and soft. I also found myself attracted to the most curvy of celebrities. If I was blessed enough to have a curvy friend, we would combine forces and empower one another to be confident and sexy in a crowd of thin people. Sometimes I wondered if I adopted this attitude because I simply had no choice but what it always came down to is I find curves beautiful. I especially find them beautiful when women embrace them and march on to their own womanly tune. Like this sexy goddess in the kitchen.

Throughout my life until now, I have heard from many people that they appreciate the way I embrace my body and curves, even when I am 10 or 20 or more pounds heavier than I am "supposed" to be. I loved the fact that this confidence inspired others to search within and feel the same. I have always responded to them admitting that I struggle with it at times but at the same time, I try to practice self love and look within rather than at others.

Although, lately I've noticed that now that my abundance of energy is resurfacing and I am able to incorporate exercise into each day the way I used to, I've managed to be really tough on my body image. When I became aware of how far I have to go to get back into shape, I quietly started tearing myself apart, betraying my body and heart with that critical inner voice. Not a way of being that I am comfortable with and something I have always tried to nurture so that it won't fall to a damaging place for my self esteem.

I became more aware that this was happening when I spent some time in Santa Monica with some of my girlies. We were walking downtown and I noticed all of the perfectly coiffed LA Ladies that appear as though they get facials, manicures, pedicures each day all the while fitting in time for their trainer at the gym for five hours (bless them). For a few minutes, I allowed my inner critic to convince me that I need all of these things to be beautiful too. Oy!!

I had gone to Santa Monica for a photo shoot and then was invited along to a few girly festivities, which I was ecstatic about. Although, when I realized that I only brought along with me photo shoot attire along with flip flops, I started feeling very self conscious. As we walked in a line of four down the street, I felt myself cringing about not having stilettos on and sexy duds like my girlfriends. I felt the ache of inadequacy hit my belly and my inner voice tell me I was not enough (not pretty enough, skinny enough or dolled up enough). It was sad for me to even entertain these thoughts when my priorities have been focused on deeper issues in my life lately. Issues that are more important to me than the right shoes to wear to a particular bar. It felt distracting and annoying because I rarely allow myself to go there long enough for it to penetrate my mood or being.

As we entered the bar, I took some deep breaths. I put my thoughts and energy towards feeling centered and bringing myself back to a place of gratefulness. Grateful that I was with some extraordinary women and while most everyone around us was talking about the latest styles over martini's, we were all discussing Buddhism and meditating. As time passed, those feelings of not being enough subsided but it made me realize that I haven't been nurturing that part of me where some deep rooted insecurities live and surface when I least suspect them.

Yesterday, I took a shower and then sat in front of my one and only long mirror in our home. Rather than look away from those parts that appear bulgy, rolled or dimply, I stared at them tenderly and gave them love. I said out loud that I love that part over and over again. Then I looked in my eyes, searching and waiting for that sincere moment when I believed it. Yes, some very cleansing tears were shed and I felt like I was breathing life into myself again. As much as it is wonderful to hear from my loved ones "But you ARE enough"... it reaches deeper when it is my voice I hear.

I left this exercise feeling lighter and more kind to myself. I'm just now starting a new journey of re-introducing regular activity into my life. That is one way to love myself but then the rest is up to my inner voice and what thoughts I choose to believe or let go of. It's a whole body and soul body thing, its a body image journey I am working on and I need to remember that gentle balance.

Every journey ebbs and flows and this one in particular is especially tender for all of us.

47 Comments:

Blogger pERiWinKle said...

Loving every bit of you, even the bits you are tenderly learning to love again xx

June 8, 2008 at 2:26:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous nikoline said...

beautiful photos. beautiful post.

June 8, 2008 at 2:48:00 PM PDT  
Blogger BJ said...

Delurking to say hello to a beautiful you! And that your post is just so honest and lovely. But truthfully, I love what your heart tells about you not so much what a picture shows. I have and still do struggle with my body image even at my age of 57. It has many imperfections....and I would like to be many pounds lighter. But our society makes it difficult for us to be accepting of ourselves. Something that I need to work on too.

I have been following you for a while now and I admire you for so many reasons. Your beauty is deep within.....

June 8, 2008 at 3:10:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous she saw things said...

i have spent my entire life loving the idea of LOVING my very curvaceous bod, but never actually DOING the loving. Maybe if I could stand in the mirror and profess my love, it might cooperate with me a bit more....

loving you and your ever lovin' openness.
xoxox..xlxl

June 8, 2008 at 3:30:00 PM PDT  
Blogger I AM said...

2 posts came up in my reader this afternoon. Both were about beauty. Maybe you'd like to read the other one? http://spiritualcowgirl.com/?p=276

June 8, 2008 at 3:48:00 PM PDT  
Blogger one little acorn said...

What a lovely post. I read your blog regularly and wonder at your magical photography. You have such a way of capturing the beauty in others and yourself in your portraits.
This 'inner critic' has a lot to answer for. And the media, and our peers, and our retailers. No wonder it is a constant battle.
I love your positive attitude and your post is a reminder that we all need sometimes - energy and joy is such a beautiful look - one that make-up or facelifts can not replace.

June 8, 2008 at 4:34:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Frida said...

wise and beautiful. find the balance to keep my inner critic's voice gentle and compassionate has been the theme of my week too and you know you've played a catalytic role in that process too. thank you my friend. xoxox

June 8, 2008 at 4:51:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Christianne said...

wow, denise. thank you so much for writing this. i continue to respond to your authenticity and openness. you talk out loud here about the things you are processing yourself, but you speak in a way that invites us out, too, and we get to be part of the conversation. it amazes me how you do this.

this was so timely for me. i just got home from celebrating our two-year anniversary with my hub. we went away to the beach for the weekend. i felt self-conscious about my body all weekend, and i continued to be amazed at my sweet hub being all into me when i felt so ucky about myself. :) we just got home and finished unpacking. as i pulled on my comfy pajama bottoms with a comfy tee, i couldn't help but stare at my tummy in the mirror and think so many low thoughts toward myself.

see why i needed your post tonight? i would do well to think on some of these things you voiced here. thank you. much love . . .

June 8, 2008 at 6:03:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Schmoops said...

i love how you are being gentle with yourself and your body. your entire post is why i live in Silver Lake. LA is hard enough without the pressure of being a 5'4" pale skinned brunette with a booty (me) amongst the sea of amazon blondes with tans that LA is known for. who, by the way, couldn't hold a candle to you.

i know this post is not about LA, but this is why you need to come hang out on the eastside in Silver Lake with your kapha sister sometime. We are all laid back bohemian and flip flops in these parts... even in the bars. ; )

i heart nigella...

xoxo

June 8, 2008 at 6:27:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Georgia said...

Thank you...

I needed this reminder today, as I just finished staring at my reflection in the mirror and feeling very low over the imperfections... very low indeed.

You have no idea what this reminder means to me today.

xoxo

June 8, 2008 at 6:47:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Jenny said...

I think you are perfect. I think everyone is perfectly who they are supposed to be.

June 8, 2008 at 7:12:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Honey said...

Thank you for baring and sharing. Negative Nelly invaded my head space last week and blessedly your words, strength and beauty will arm me for the next.

June 8, 2008 at 7:35:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous andrea scher said...

Just love what you shared here... so beautifully said, I can only add my own voice to the chorus and say how grateful I am at how gently you love yourself and others.

and me.
xoA

June 8, 2008 at 7:42:00 PM PDT  
Blogger mccabe said...

oh wow this is just beautiful.
we need more energy just like this for women in our society!!!

i also enjoyed your mediation with the mirror.
very empowering.

we all have beautiful bodies
we do...

mccabe xx

ps i feel like you described every time i am in santa monica. when i come home though, i feel more "me" in my flip flops and yoga pants and funny hair. its weird.

June 8, 2008 at 9:07:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous marybeth said...

I love your photos. I hope to hire you someday!!! This was such a good post although yours usally are!!

June 8, 2008 at 9:23:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Carol said...

What a lovely post Denise.. so honest. Beautiful.

I'm working towards the point where I too can stop thinking of my body has something full of faults. I'm actually nearing the point in life where I am just about to refuse to try even one more diet. I'd rather focus on enjoying life, but just making sure that I exercise and care for myself. And that 'care' involves loving myself.

Great post!

June 8, 2008 at 10:29:00 PM PDT  
Blogger calissa said...

It is impossible (right now) for me to look at that diptych of you without crying... something in your eyes, your expression, speaks to my heart. thank you for this post as it is a large part of my journey.

June 8, 2008 at 11:15:00 PM PDT  
Blogger jenica said...

i needed this today.

the only time i REALLY see my body is for a few seconds before i jump (literally) into the shower. i've been pleased to see that image getting smaller, but regardless of my size the stretch marks and cellulite will never fade. it's learning to love even the stretched and torn parts of myself that has been the hardest.

xoxo

June 9, 2008 at 1:09:00 AM PDT  
Blogger kristen said...

i love to hear your words here. because whenever i see photos of you, i always (always) think of you as one of those ladies; the one that's turned out amazingly, that looks beautiful and has it going on.

i feel so much more connected when i read posts like this because i realize that i'm not alone with my body issues and that despite all of our differences, everyone of us are sisters that share similarities.

it's truly a lovely message.

June 9, 2008 at 4:35:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Brandi said...

I affirm your inherent goddess-ness.

I affirm mine. I affirm for all women, all sizes and shapes-our amazing uniquness, our goddess-ness, our oneness with each other.

*namaste*

June 9, 2008 at 5:31:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous melissa said...

You are so beautiful...inside and out! xoxo

June 9, 2008 at 5:53:00 AM PDT  
Blogger echo said...

Like many smart woman, I not only feel bad that my body isn't a little smaller and firmer but I also feel bad that this matters to me. I want to be somebody who loves myself and my body (and a lot of the time I do). But, it makes me sad that beautiful, intelligent, funny, feminist women (such as myself) can let something like a couple pounds make us feel so bad about ourselves. I'm slowly moving toward acceptance rather than wishing for changes (which isn't very effective). Great post.

June 9, 2008 at 5:58:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Megan said...

This is such a powerful post.

If only I could do that right now. I try. I really do. Only when I'm sitting in front of that mirror, I say horrible mean things. I guess I'm still mad at "her"...

Glimpsing in your mirror, though, is soul-stirring, and I feel a little more gentle for having looked. :)

June 9, 2008 at 9:52:00 AM PDT  
Blogger magicaldamselfly said...

Curvalicous is beautiful girls. The focus should be on healthy curves not skinny, unhealthiness.
As for Mrs. Boho, I'm thinking Mr. Boho liked what he saw, delicous curves. He may not have noticed a skinny mini.
Love who you are inside because that is what counts in the end and then just keep the curves healthy.
You, Dennise, are a very strong and inspiring young woman who should be proud of who you are, ALL woman.

June 9, 2008 at 10:26:00 AM PDT  
Blogger AnnaC said...

Thank you...
as is often true, your loving approach to life is greatly appreciated today and sorely needed!

June 9, 2008 at 11:48:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Tami Kaufman said...

Denise
It's your friend from DI days, Tami Kaufman..Had to respond to this as you said something to me on this subject years ago that I never forgot. It was "elevator presentation day" and I was wearing a black dress that was a little body hugging and feeling self conscious--me being 40 something amongst 20 year olds! I had made a comment to the fact that I felt fat and you said that I looked great, that you loved the fact that I had the womanly curves and that I should celebrate and embrace my curves. It must have been the right time for me to hear the comment because I have never forgotten it and often remind myself of your comment. It is a wonderful memory of you.

So I guess I just wanted to say thank you and to let you know that when I look in the mirror and have self doubt I think about your comment to me.

June 9, 2008 at 11:56:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous jen gray said...

hi you , this is such an incredibly beautiful entry.
nothing like pure honesty and vulnerability to make me love you even more than i already do.

i have recently entered the curvy stage of my life.
and you inspire me so much to love it rather than reject it.

thank you for giving us this space to be free about all this stuff that goes on with women and with our bods.

you are a wonder woman indeed.

jen gray

June 9, 2008 at 12:03:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Boho Girl said...

Tami!!
My design school bud...

This made me cry spilly tears. I remember that day and I remember how beautiful you looked in your black suit. None of those twentysomethings held a candle to you. ; )

I am so glad you still remember those words and in honor of this, I am going to dance around my place and celebrate my own womanly curves.

I am so touched. Good to hear from you old friend. Am humbled and delighted all at once.

And to all my other commenters...YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL and I am grateful for your support and encouragement. Every morsel.

Love,
Boho

June 9, 2008 at 12:05:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Colorsonmymind said...

Darling-
oh how your honesty and openess always touches me so deeply.

You are the most stunning of women, the beautiful curves that are so amazing-and sexy, your beautiful hand, stunning smile, flowy gorgeous perfectly golden head of locks-full thick shiny, the eyes that have that perfect dip in the center-framed with the perfect cheekbones, nose eyebrows. Truly breathtaking beauty that looks stunning right up from bed. The way you move and dress so gracefully.

And the inside that shines through your shining eyes and tinkles beauty with your giggles on anyone around to be lucky to hear.

Even your voice is gorgeous.

To me you are beauty at it's finest.

I love you so dearly.

Thank you for sharing these etheral and deep photos. They are fabulous.

XOXOXOXOXO

June 9, 2008 at 12:24:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Debbie said...

you have such a beautiful way with words.

what a gift you are to the rest of us!

curvy women rock! as do round, thin, short, tall, lean, soft, pear, apple, light, dark ...

we all rock! and we rock even more when we remind each other of that fact on a regular basis.

(psst ... you ladies rock!)

June 9, 2008 at 1:16:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Chelsea Talks Smack said...

Thank you for this post, its exactly what I needed ot read.

June 9, 2008 at 6:32:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Rebecca F. said...

Wow. I always find you so sexy that I assumed you nearly always feel you look sexy.

Hmmm...something to ponder....

Rebecca F.

June 9, 2008 at 9:00:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found this article today, powerful powerful stuff

http://www.self.com/livingwell/articles/2007/03/enemywithin_page_1_of_4?mbid

June 9, 2008 at 9:52:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Jen Diamond said...

Boho,

Thank you. I have recently become active and have begun to also transform my body through altering my eating and walking. This is the first time in my life that I have felt this success. I find that I have been focusing too much on getting thin. I got so excited about fitting into all of my pants and having a body I felt more proud of. I forgot about loving the one I am in. Thank you again. I look forward to meeting you at Squam!

Love,
Jen

June 9, 2008 at 10:05:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous amy said...

simply beautiful. your post evoked lots of thoughts and feelings but i think i will leave my comment at those two words. simply. beautiful. thank you.

June 10, 2008 at 12:07:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you for your honesty and willingness to share the happy and the sad, whatever your heart is feeling and your mind is thinking. it helps me alot.

i want to pass along one of my favorite quotes (though am sorry to say i don't know the source):

"don't judge your insides by someone else's outsides".

:)

June 10, 2008 at 6:31:00 AM PDT  
Blogger enchantedartist said...

Like so many others, this post has really struck a beautiful chord in me.
Your openess, and willingness to share always inspires good things! :)
When I was a teenager, I was very thin...and not by choice...it was just my body. Anyway,I can distinctly remember thinking I would never have a boyfriend because no one could love a skeleton!
Now...at almost forty I can say that,for the most part, I love my body. I am slightly more curvaceous. I have found that by finding my way to really accepting, and loving who I am at my core led me naturally flowing into caring for my body more.


And...incidently...a boy did fall in love with the skeleton...and we've been together for twenty-three happy years, and counting.

Love to you sweet Boho girl!
xo

June 10, 2008 at 6:47:00 AM PDT  
Blogger pERiWinKle said...

Hi Boho,

I've been thinking about you the whole day...was wondering what change for me? And then with a jump I remembered this poem that changed my life!

To all the beautiful women out there!

Phenomenal woman


Pretty women wonder where my secret lies
I'm not cute or built to suit a model's fashion size
But when I start to tell them
They think I'm telling lies.

I say
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips
The stride of my steps
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenally
Phenomenal woman
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please
And to a man
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees
Then they swarm around me
A hive of honey bees.

I say
It's the fire in my eyes
And the flash of my teeth
The swing of my waist
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenally
Phenomenal woman
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.

I say
It's in the arch of my back
The sun of my smile
The ride of my breasts
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman
Phenomenally
Phenomenal woman
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.

I say
It's in the click of my heels
The bend of my hair
The palm of my hand
The need for my care.
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenally
Phenomenal woman
That's me.

Phenomenal Denise!

YOU.ARE.PHENOMENAL! XX

June 10, 2008 at 9:08:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Angela Marie said...

:)

i love this post and am holding it near and dear to my heart... my daughter will be reading it.

thank you sweetie ~

June 10, 2008 at 9:11:00 AM PDT  
Blogger kirsten said...

hello bodaciously gorgeous boho girl -

the body image journey is one that is so close to my heart (a lot of my writing of late has centered on the relationship i have with my body, both in regards to image and the health-related things beneath the surface). i don't know a woman alive who doesn't contend with this in one way or another. as you wrote so beautifully, there are fits and starts, there are places along the way where we're ecstatic and confident, and others where we're doubtful and unsure. i hate it when i realize that i'm measuring myself against women who aren't me, that i'm creating a measuring stick for beauty that is outside of me ... i hate it. i try to capture those thoughts before dig their fingers into me, but it's not so easy. we're inundated with those cute perky blondes in short tight skirts & stilettos.

it is definitely a journey, & i think we're all empowered when someone is brave enough to share openly & with utter honesty. you can hear a collective sigh of relief -- you can really see it in this space as your readers surround you with all this yummy love saying, "oh, me too! me too! i feel that way."

thanks for your vulnerability & mindfulness, for giving us all the permission to come here, to breathe, & to say ... me too.

June 10, 2008 at 1:48:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always assumed that because you are so stunningly beautiful, that you always felt this way no matter what.

It was so refreshing to hear that you have days like this too. It makes me adore you more. I adore that you are beautiful and humble about it. That's very rare.

Keep sharing the way you do.

Erin

June 10, 2008 at 3:20:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Susan said...

This is a wonderful post. I read your blog every day and I always go away with thinking how beautiful you are...inside and out! I've seen you Flickr photo stream and the pictures that you've shared on here and well, gosh, you're just so stunning.

I know how those "ugly" thoughts can creep in and can do a real number on us. And seriously, I think if you were walking around Santa Monica in a potato sack, you would still turn heads. You exude beauty.

June 11, 2008 at 4:30:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous e.darcy said...

it feels like such a breath of fresh air to be around, listen to, idolize women who are comfortable in their own skin...
I wrote this-
'I am my own enemy' a few days ago...
Wish that I would have found this entry before that... You made me feel so much better, so much more secure. so much more healthy. I feel like I can breathe.

June 11, 2008 at 5:38:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Frida said...

Gorgeous, sexy, beautiful YOU...I am with you as you love every inch of your fabulous self. Every. Single. Inch of you.

June 11, 2008 at 7:37:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Swirly said...

P.S. That was me - Swirly - I didn't realize Marianne was already logged on at this computer!! xoxo

June 11, 2008 at 7:39:00 PM PDT  
Blogger KEYNOTER said...

I have you on my google reader and just wanted to delurk to say what a lovely post. I do so enjoy your gently writing style.

I still have to come to terms with my body. I am 43 with 4 kids and a stomach to remind me. I have learned to love it a little more since I gave it a name. Johnathan. This makes my four girls laugh when I pat it and say nice things about 'him'. As my sister is getting married and I am to be a bridesmaid I do want to slim down more and am going to try out your sitting in front of the mirror exercise. What a good idea. Maybe if I accept Johnathan I will find it easier to change him into Johnny, then John, and finally J before I allow him to disappear altogether!

Thanks for sharing.

Ellen from Ireland

June 16, 2008 at 10:52:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Denise said...

I love this entry. Very thought provoking for me. Thank you for sharing.
~Denise

November 30, 2008 at 12:03:00 PM PST  

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