To own our truth is to embrace our personal freedom.
We are told every day who we should be, what we should look like, and even what roles we should aspire to. From the time little girls are first born, it’s a constant montage of images, labels, and stories that promote certain body types over others, that praise looks over intelligence, and that still try to direct us all on the path of wife and mother.
But what about those who refuse these labels? Those who have even tried them on but found they’d never fit. For these women, it’s not just a journey to self-awareness but also to freedom so that they might write their own rules and define their own lives.
They get to determine what it means to be a woman, and a confident one at that.
More recently, the #bodypositive image has become a popular hashtag and presence on social media. Body positivity is all about accepting ourselves as well are—rolls, lumps, scars, pimples, bones that protrude—all of it. It’s a movement that isn’t centered around just the acceptance of a particular body type or one that only appears to be traditionally beautiful, but to truly revel in the deep self-acceptance and confidence for the body we were born into.
It’s not about looking a certain way, nor is it about the clothes we wear or even dressing for men. This movement, which is open to any gender or those identifying as gender-neutral, is specifically making a splash across women’s newsfeeds everywhere. But it is a journey, and one that it seems we don’t intentionally set out on, but instead find ourselves on after we’ve tried to conform and mold ourselves into what we have been poisoned to think beauty is.
Artist and photographer Megan E. Labonte, chose to take back her self-confidence in her recent photography project, Boudoir Self-Portraits. Familiar with the process of self-portraits after her 366 project a few years back in which she documented herself each day for a year, this project took on a different tone and has proven to evolve with the artists on journey into what it specifically means to embrace herself as she is.
Over apple cider smoothies and lattes one morning, Labonte and I sat down to discuss the meaning behind this project. As an avid follower of hers, I’ve come to look forward to and celebrate her journey with her, but this project drew me in particularly, not just because of the artistic poses or fashion that was present, but in many ways it seemed as if I was seeing Labonte return to her artistic self.
We know that often life takes meandering paths and while even though something doesn’t work out as we had planned, it doesn’t mean that it was a waste. Everything that we experience in our life, including endings of relationships or marriages, are all for a greater purpose and help become the foundation that we build our future on. Like so many of us do when life takes a detour, Labonte found herself unsure of where to go from here when her marriage ended earlier this year.
She hadn’t planned on being single once again and now, like so many women, it’s not just about where does life go from here—but more importantly, who am I now? Who is this woman who is separated or divorced, who is this woman who is striking out on her own once again, older, wiser, and on her way to being more confident?
This project was born from a period when Labonte felt like a stranger in her own body—an idea I am sure many of us can empathize with. As a mother of two girls myself, when my own marriage ended, I was incredibly self-conscious of the three-inch scar on my stomach from my C-section, my stretch marks. Not only was I now having to create a life I never imagined, but I was a stranger to myself both inside and out.
And so, it’s no surprise that her work drew me in with the curves of her body, and the confidence that I saw grow through each image she posted. There was more vulnerability in her pieces, in her words. She took chances once again and that artist spirit had once again been set free.
This is the journey to the body positive mindset, but it’s also one of owning our truth.
We all have a choice. We can let what happens in life define us, we can let others make us feel bad about our size 10 stiff hips or our A-cup breasts, and let that define how we move within the world—or we can take back our power. We can decide that our bodies, while beautiful, don’t actually define who we are—that’s where our hearts come in, our soul, and our dreams.
Life happens. What we’re told as children we come to see as lies as adults. What we aspire to in our 20s, we realize isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in our 30s, and that while being healthy is always the goal, a dress size doesn’t actually ever determine that. A-cup size doesn’t determine that. A clothing brand doesn’t determine that. And the sexual opinions of others does not define that either.
One interesting aspect to Labonte’s journey was that because of the nature of her boudoir series, it attracted sexual comments from both men and women which is another aspect of specifically American sexuality, in which the body itself is seen as a vehicle for sex. Not only did this ask her to look at her own body differently, but it let her explore the themes of sensuality versus sexuality. It enabled her to take her power back over her body, her own idea of sexiness without it being validated or defined by others.
Owning and living our truth means starting with accepting the body that we were born into. It means that while life happens, we are in control of how we respond to it, and it means that we are always given a chance to grow and learn to accept ourselves for who we truly are.
When we are confident within ourselves, we move differently, we speak differently, and it’s within those moments that it’s not just about being body positive—but we’re wholly self-positive, because living our authentic life begins with first being authentic ourselves.
And that includes owning the authenticity of our bodies—curves and all.