Finding Empowerment in Myself - How boudoir photos did not change my life
A couple years ago I honestly believed the best way to find empowerment for yourself was to do a boudoir shoot. It is supposed to encompass everything you need to feel beautiful, powerful in your own body, and to promote acceptance as you are. But does it?
I have had two boudoir sessions done in the last few years and I enjoyed both. The photographer is a friend of mine and her work is so fucking good! I am so proud of her growth and success over the last few years. This post has nothing to do with her approach, technique, or the results from my session. Enjoying the session, for me, did not translate to feeling empowered.
I had some photos I loved from both, and some that I felt nothing towards. Honestly, I even have some I dislike from both sessions. The problem is, boudoir doesn't work as empowerment for everyone in all situations. Boudoir at it's heart is about looking and feeling sexy, but who sets the standards for what sexy is? If you think of boudoir photography it is generally lingerie, posing that accentuates what is typically considered sexy, and lighting and posing can be manipulated to hide aspects of your body you don't like. If you're avoiding what you don't like about your body, are you really feeling empowered? Maybe. I can't speak for everyone.
For me, boudoir photos provided me an opportunity to view myself through someone else's lens, and, because I shared photos in the group I'm in, it let me see that other people can find beauty in what I consider to be my aesthetic flaws. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it and that I took nothing positive from my experience, I definitely did. It just isn't the most empowering thing I have done for myself in the last year.
So if my experience with boudoir isn't what empowers me, what does?
You might want to shrug this off, but it's hiking. You're probably thinking that hiking seems like a really weird thing to be empowered by, but hold on a minute. Hear me out. Hiking is not just going for a walk in nature, especially when it is long hikes in remote places or when you get into backpacking.
Nature is a crazy place. You have a lot of aspects to prepare for: wildlife, weather, food, water, a lack of shelter, and medical emergencies. Now you factor in all the person luxuries that are usually found in our societies and remove them. No more running water for washing your hands. no thermostat to adjust your body temperature. Learning to be be comfortable (enough) with the idea of encountering wildlife, getting lost, or hurt and knowing how to address the situation. You have to overcome obstacles even on the most well planned adventure.
Boudoir can make you feel sexy - 100%.
For me, I feel most attractive in jeans a sports bra, so we incorporated photos in my ripped jeans and sports bra. Those are some of my favourites. The ones I feel powerful in. We did some semi-nude and nude ones, and I felt just as empowered and strong in the nude as I did in my jeans and sports bra.
Lingerie doesn't do it for me so while I love the posing and lighting in most of the photos, when I look at them I remember feeling fairly uncomfortable. I remember how I felt like my green body suit was a little too tight and I should have tried a little harder to lose some more weight before the shoot. My white body suit was good on the fit, but did nothing to flatter my stomach - the part of myself I am most insecure about. My two piece outfit I was the most comfortable in, but besides the fact that it doesn't have much (any) support for my boobs, it shows my stomach.
My issue with my stomach is that I look like I have had kids, which I don't. Stretch marks, saggy skin, too much fat. I'm not sure if I would mind as much if I had kids; at least then I would have a good reason for it. I try to accept myself how I am...body acceptance you know?....but it is HARD to break through allll the things we're taught our bodies should be. So, overall, boudoir was fun and I had a great time, but I didn't feel empowered. Beautiful, happy, and in awe of the photos, yes. Empowered...no.
If boudoir can't empower me, how can hiking!?!?! There's nothing sexy about being sweaty, dirty, tired, and dehyrated...right?
Maybe not? I couldn't really tell you. That would be a personal choice for sure. But what I do know is that feeling of strength that comes from hiking. The knowledge that I can turn around when things get hard, and choose not to. When I summit a mountain and the view isn't there? It's okay because I made it. I put my mind to something hard and I did it! I climbed over the boulders, I scrambled up the shale, I slipped five times on the mud, but I did it. I may have gotten bloody, scraped up, bruised, overheated, or got really cold, but I succeeded. I set my mind on a goal and I did it. Hiking never gets easy for me. Easier maybe but then I instinctively push myself to go faster, so the result is the same.
Boudoir on the other hand, I don't feel like it requires anything of me. I show up, someone else does my makeup, another person does my hair and then I'm told where to go, how to pose, where to look, etc. I can add my own ideas, sure, but it isn't really challenging for me. I understand that this is not the same for everyone. For some people even getting in front of a camera is intimidating, let alone in lingerie to feel sexy! I am fairly confident and open to things, hence the nude images, so it doesn't take much for me to be comfortable in front of the camera. I don't expect myself to look like a model because I'm not one. I don't really consider myself sexy in a traditional sense I guess, which is okay by me, but it doesn't lend well to posing in ways meant to be sexy.
Hiking made me feel empowered for my shoot. It made me feel strong, capable, and accept my body. I hiked more this year than ever before and I even when it felt like hell I still enjoyed it. When it was 25+ degrees, when it rained, when I fell and hurt my knee; It was always worth it. I used to not hike because of my body. I wanted to but I wasn't in good enough shape to go hiking...or so I thought. This last year I have been on many hikes with The Adventure Bus in Prince George and it has taught me that there is no such thing as a hikers body, despite what marketing and social media would have us believe. It's getting better but I still have this imagine in my head of what hikers look like - thin, fit women with lean muscles.
Even though I don't have my dream body, my body is what allows me to keep moving forward. It allows me to carry 45+ pounds up a mountain, cross over creeks, and sleep outside with no light pollution of nearby cities. Hiking in groups has shown me that body composition isn't what makes a hiker a good hiker or a bad hiker. Attitude, preparedness, and a willingness to overcome obstacles is what makes someone a good hiker. So if it's not about my body, it's about me and my mind.
Knowing that it is 100% my choice and that I am choosing to concur goals that intimidate me and make me question if I can even accomplish it....That is the most empowering thing.
Do what scares you. If that is a boudoir shoot, it will probably be empowering. If it's not though, you might find empowerment in a different way.