Background for Body Image and Self – Body and Self-Image
Recently, I decided to do a nude photo shoot with my friend Chris. He had dragged me to a couple of sessions of his new passion: life drawing. One day he’s showing me his most recent work which he published on Instagram and I noted he was using an account different to his usual one. When I asked him why he told me he had gotten pretty negative feedback for posting ‘pornography’ on his IG. I was astounded and quite upset. He gets so much joy out of being creative! Having a medical background additionally brings a deeper understanding to his life drawing. After a few days of stewing over it I contacted him and asked him whether he’d be willing to do this project with me.
The pictures I am posting here are the result of our photo shoot. They about checking in – with myself and what is portrayed on social media. Over the time of my practice of martial arts and yoga I thought I had developed a pretty good idea of my body and it’s expressions. Recent encounters with the ‘nudity debate’ led to me deciding to do this nude photoshoot of which you are seeing some pictures here. Only when I saw the pictures did I begin to realise the extend to which my self-perception had been shaped by what I daily see on social media. My body certainly does not conform with what is being publicised out there. And only now that I am looking more closely do I begin to see how these perceptions are being manufactured. So even though I don’t feel I am overly critical of my physicality, I certainly feel I have been judging myself against something that simply isn’t true. It’s a bit like looking at a chicken and trying to find characteristics of an elephant in it.
I can only encourage you to go and take photos of yourself. Relentlessly. Honestly. And expose yourself to the realisation that you are beautiful and constantly changing and growing.
Your response to this project has been strong and appreciative; and I am enjoying the conversations resulting from me posting the photos. One comment keeps coming up again and again: “You’re so bold/brave/courageous”. And so far, nobody has been able to answer my question: “Why do you say that?” Your comments have made me think “What could be the worst that could happen with these pictures?” And the one worst scenario I have come up with has far from come true; I feared seeing those pictures might hurt some people in their deepest place of self-criticism and self-loathing. That other women would compare themselves to the photos and feel worse about themselves. But so far, I have only been given your appreciative responses. People feel inspired, feel like they would like to take photos of themselves, feel like they would like to examine their self-image. You go!
What I would love to happen from here is a dialogue with you. About why you feel uncomfortable taking and/or posting pictures of yourself. Why you feel uncomfortable taking your clothes off. What is your inner dialogue like? Don’t get me wrong: while I might be German (and that seems to account for a lot!) I too have that inner dialogue; I am critical of my appearance; I am noticing, and at times very much resenting, the signs of ageing. Compared to what I have been ‘fed’ as ‘normal’, my body does not comply, is not perfect and has bumps in all the wrong places. Yet, YOU look at those pictures and give me feedback on how great they are. So which voice do we listen to? And when and why? Who do we give the power of voice to when it comes to our bodies, and why? Why is the first statement you make to me that I am “brave”? Why is it brave for me to show my body to you – when all you do is have a positive response? What might make it something I don’t want to do?
A friend of mine warned me about the vulnerability of those pictures. Yet after I posted the first one (she only told me afterwards she felt it was the most vulnerable one) I felt I had to hold space for you to be able to encounter me with this new knowledge in your minds. Those of you who know me personally and are encountering me on a regular basis: I would like to hear from you about how this went down for you.