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“Just” a survivor?

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I have been working with Ann Evanston, Warrior-Preneur for the last few months.  She is an incredible coach and social networking strategist.  Anyway, part of the process is figuring out WHO you are, not just WHAT you do—literally the first third of the training is focused on this, even before you get to the actual social networking! I have to say, it was *tough*, and adding to the fact that I have been going through what author Brene Brown calls an “unraveling” around my last milestone birthday, it was quite emotional and a little gut wrenching. But good, I promise, all good!

So, one of the exercises was focused on getting who you are into one succinct statement. It took me about a week and a half to wrap my brain around what I wanted to say. I had to shut the whole thing down at one point and go back to my strategy I used when writing term papers in college: I pushed as much raw information into my brain about what needed to be included in the final product, then completely disconnected from it for a few days. When I felt like it had percolated enough in there, I sat down with a pen and paper and voila, there it was, already written. (And before you ask, No, I will not be telling my kids about this strategy, even though it resulted in many A-graded papers!)

What did I find on the page?  I am a survivor of the body wars, an archaeologist of beauty, and a creative soul bent on using my lens to redefine sexy. Yeah, I thought, that about covers it.  The next step was to call a girlfriend and run the whole thing by her. She stopped me before I even got to the end. “Hey, why are you just a ‘survivor’ of the body wars?  I’d like to see you as a conqueror of the body wars.”  Interesting question—but the word was not accidental…

As the owner of a photography studio dedicated to women, I am blessed to witness a major transformation of self esteem and the way my clients *see* themselves after a portrait session with me.   It is one of the most gratifying experiences of my life. I receive emails, letters and phone calls from women who have a totally different relationship with their bodies than they had before they walked into my studio.  My greatest hope is that the new feeling lasts, and that these beautiful women can pay it forward to other women and especially their daughters.

Still, there are some days I experience self doubt, and I know my clients still will, as much as I hope their portraits give them a barrier against it. You know, those days I don’t want to leave the house because of a big ol’ pimple or not fitting in the outfit I really wanted to wear…I hear that familiar voice in my head that’s been there since I was about 8 years old screeching, “You look horrible, fat, nobody will want to talk to you, etc., etc., etc.”  Most of the time, I can talk back to it (her), tell it (her) to shut up, to go away and it (she) usually does. Other days, though not as frequently as I used to, it (she) wins and I end up at the bottom of that pit most of us women have sat in–questioning my self worth, my beauty in this society, how I measure up.   Until I can silence it completely, or it is no more than a dull white noise, I will consider myself a survivor and not a quite conqueror.  Still, I consider it forward-motion.  Being a survivor is so much better than a victim, don’t you think?

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