“I still have those days when those old thoughts about my appearance nag at me. The sagging skin. The wrinkled face. Sometimes it’s about how my body responds now to certain foods that I’ve always enjoyed, which it now rejects and wreaks havoc. Currently I am feeling positive. I am post menopausal and have come to grips over the last 5 years or so with the changes that have come with that process. If my body could talk to me, I think it would say thank you for recognizing what I need now, in a healthy way. Thank you for honoring and listening to the signals that needed to be attended to.”
"I am not a fucking victim."
“My age does not define me or limit me. I can be strong and compassionate. I do not go by the societal standards that say, “act your age” or “dress your age” etc. I do and wear what makes me feel good. Whatever makes me smile or heals my soul.”
“My hips. They’ve always been wide, always out there. I remember daily dreading getting on and off the school bus because of the narrow walkway. It was my nemesis and the kids who taunted me in their seats as I walked by were in cahoots with it. Sometimes they’d throw themselves against the window as if my gelatinous self was gonna ooze into their bubble and consume them. It was a daily painful reminder I wasn’t like everyone else and it furthered my downward spiral into loathing what I’d been given.
My goal is to be healthy. Be it fluffy or fit, I just want to be healthy so my body doesn’t get the crazy idea to tap out early. I want to be able to run amuck with my crazy kids and fully enjoy every experience with them. More importantly, I want to love myself. All the good and bad, all the insides and outsides. How can I tell my children to love themselves if I cannot do the same? I want them to know we aren’t all the same, we all have our flaws and insecurities. It’s the good and bad in of each of us that makes us wonderful, fearsome, and incredible and we should celebrate it.”
“The idea of being exposed in front of strangers and on camera is terrifying. Plain and simple. However, I think this is what I need. I need to show myself that I am worth loving and embrace all the quirks. All the scars and dimples, the stretch marks, the tattoos — this is me. I may not be beautiful in the conventional way but that doesn’t mean I’m not beautiful. Years of ups and downs, tears of happiness and hurt, have all brought me here and I am fucking perfect.”
“My relationship with my body is a love hate never ending rollercoaster of emotions kind of thing. I’m literally my own worst enemy. I’ll go days convinced I’m some sexy nerdy beast and feeling awesome. Then there will be days I can’t find anything to wear and suddenly I’m crying like some sea cow, calling up my best friend lamenting my woes. It’s comical and frustrating but I’ve accepted this is me.
If my body could talk to me, it’d probably be a pretty sad conversation at first. I imagine a lot of tears and questioning why I loathe it so much. However I think it’d probably go all Bad B on me and say ‘Ok drama queen, you need to recognize some facts here. This body you berate is pretty god damn strong. Its kept you safe through adolescent misadventures, stayed strong through abuse, and brought into this world three gorgeous beings who love you. Chickety check yourself lady you are incredible. Now give me that cake, you owe me.’”
“Pre-transition I hated everything about my body, particularly those parts deemed ‘feminine’. My chest was the biggest part of my dysphoria, as I could never fully conceal my large chest. Now, having transitioned and having had top surgery, my relationship with my body has turned from shame to pride. I think showing off that pride and that happiness in my experiences is something the country needs to see. There is still so much discrimination and judgement towards transgender individuals and the statistics on acceptance are directly linked to individuals actually knowing a transgender individual.
I take my relationship with my body day by day. Some days I still question my choices in transitioning as the hurdle was so hard. Other days I feel like my experiences never happened and I always was a man both internally and externally. My true goals in terms of my relationship with my body are to continue to love not only what I look like but also what I've become. Sure there are parts of my body that I'm self conscious about, but the dysphoria I previously experienced does not rule my life but rather only shows itself on occasion. There will be a day where I don't experience dysphoria at all, but in the mean time, I must check myself and remind myself that this was all for a reason and that I am exactly who I was meant to be.”
“Honestly, the only thing I'm truly self conscious of is my stomach. Being overweight is the only thing that I struggle with being comfortable with. If only my stomach were as flat as my chest.
There are some times where I'm accidentally misgendered. Previously during my transition I would frequently be called ‘ma’am’ or ‘she’ and there were those who were visibly confused by my gender. While this doesn't happen anywhere near as frequently, that accidental barista or server who calls me ‘ma’am’ reminds me of the question I asked myself for a long time: am I man enough?”
“I think my body and I are now on the same page. My body, like my brain, tell me I'm a man. I'm my true self not just internally but externally as well. Like the mental struggles I endured admitting I was transgender, my body struggled with the changes. The day I started testosterone, my body changed. I knew that what I was doing just felt right and my body and my brain reiterated that. That first shot was the most freeing moment in my entire life and my body gained the pride it needed to endure the changes that were to come.
Before having top surgery, I was a 38 DD. Two sports bras and even my binders never truly hid the lumps of flesh that didn't belong there. There grew this resentment of my own chest. I hated this characteristic, a flaw, that made me visibly female. I couldn't even look at myself in the mirror because all I could see was my horrid attempts at hiding my breasts. For several summers I endured the heat while wearing an undershirt, a binder, a white shirt, and then a button up shirt as it was the only way I could comfortably hide my ‘lumps’. Top surgery was very expensive and insurance wouldn't pay for it so I resigned myself to believing I was stuck with what I had. In a blessing in disguise, my wife and I were given jobs that allowed us to save up the full amount of top surgery: almost $6000. So, on August 13th of 2016, I was freed of the final part of my body that I hated. The recovery process was not easy. As the healing process endured, I took the time to show everyone just how amazing my scars and my new flat chest were. While I don't show off as much anymore, I don't have to fear things like swimming or being outed at work. Now, I can comfortably walk around my own house without a shirt on.
Being treated as the man I always was inside has been the most freeing experience. I take pride in the experiences I endured to reach this point. My scars are my pride, my physical reminder of what I went through. My chest is now how it should have always looked.”
“I’ve always had a complicated relationship with my arms. Strong on the monkey bars, holding me upside down through a cartwheel but pudgy and covered in pink stretch marks. At swim parties, friends would ask ‘what are those,’ innocently, without malicious intent but I would be embarrassed and call it a rash. Somehow ‘a rash’ was better than just telling them what they could see, my arms have fat. My mom reinforced that spaghetti straps are evil and cardigans are always necessary. I would always choose T-shirts, not tank tops. As an adult, I’ve given myself permission to let my arms be free… to a degree. I would wear the sleeveless dress out to a club but I hold my arms back from waving in the air. I carefully pose with them behind the group in photographs and cringe when unsuccessful at hiding the evidence of my fat arms.
I feel worse about my body when others around me criticize their own bodies. I feel worse about my body when my mom makes a “wardrobe suggestion.” I feel worse about my body when I notice a new change (my right breast is suddenly hanging lower than the left, my tummy pooch is more pronounced overnight). I feel worse about my body when I sprain my ankle and I blame my clumsiness on my weight. I feel worse about my body when I can’t get comfortable in assigned seating, at a concert or on a plane, and I can’t prevent myself from invading someone else’s assigned space.
I feel great in my body when my cat climbs up and finds the perfect squishy spot to snuggle. I feel great in my body after a sweat drenched yoga class. I feel great in my body when I get dolled up for a date. I feel great in my body when I am using my hands to create.”
“If my body could talk, it would tell me to stop holding it back. Cut loose, go out into the world everyday with joy and abandon and don’t worry or care about what people think. Take more yoga classes and splash in the pool. Claim my space in the world and don’t apologize for it. Be comfortable and jubilant. I am beautiful, I am bountiful, I am blissful.”
“My relationship with my body has a rhythm, an ebb and flow. My body has taken me around the world on wonderful adventures but it has also trapped me in bed under layers of depression. My body is full of energy and imagination. My body can easily feel exhausted and withdrawn. Each day I have to remember to treat my body with love and compassion even if others do not and quiet the voices telling me otherwise. I have to remember that my body helps me create beautiful things, my body is stronger than I give it credit for, my body is here to help me love. My body is unique and my body is enough.”
“The one thing that makes me feel consistently good about my body is climbing. And to be honest, I think that’s because when I am climbing, I don’t really think about my body looks. When I am climbing, the part of my brain that worries about what I look like turns off, and my body goes into autopilot. And it is amazing what my body can do when my brain shuts the fuck up and lets it do its thing. More than any other activity in my life, climbing forces me into this mindset where I can’t help but feel gratitude for my body and the things it has carried me through. And it’s amazing when you can get yourself into the state of mind where you start thinking of what makes for a beautiful body in terms of what you are rather than what you are not.”
“My relationship with my body is complicated. I’ve struggled with anorexia since I was 15 years old, and although I am doing better right now, eating disorders have this horrible way of lurking under the surface, ready to pull you under when you’re at your most vulnerable. I do weird things when I am feeling depressed or unworthy or lonely. I find myself restricting calories, or trying on clothes that I know no longer fit me at my healthier body weight, or stepping on the scale just to prove to myself that I am as disgusting as I feel.”
“I just want to be okay with myself, I guess. I want to stop seeing my body as a tool for punishing myself. I want to feel like my body deserves the space it takes up.”
“My relationship with my body is an ever evolving relationship but one full of love. I have never been ashamed of how my body appears to others. My body is my temple and I treat it with respect. I adore it and I show my adoration with tattoos. My favorite form of attention to my body and the way I show it the most love is through long hot baths to soak away any tension it may be holding.
I learned a long time ago that I should not let social media or Hollywood influence how I feel about my body. Rarely do I let things influence my feeling poorly towards my body. Modern society preaches that the perfect body is an unachievable goal full of photoshop and starvation. My goal for my body is to continue to be forgiving and loving towards it. I may join a gym and lose weight, gain muscle, gain weight or stay where I am. I want to make sure that I will love me no matter what. My body is the only vessel I get in this life and it should have love and passion for it no matter its shape.”
“My thighs tell a story of my life. At eighteen I moved to a foreign country, a terrified but ecstatic quiet girl. Forced to become a woman, I grew and became someone who can be friends with everyone. While living in France I gained weight because the bread and cheese were both the cheapest food and the best food. My thighs had never been small, but they became hefty and I loved them. Upon returning to Tucson, my home, I decided to document my journey of coming into myself and by proxy, my travel. The first thigh tattoo was that of my passport and all my passport stamps. Something I envision growing over my lifetime and something I can add to. My right thigh piece came about two years later. Tucson is my home and is one of the great loves of my life. I decided I wanted to document this self love and love of Tucson. Local artist Lisa Cardenas brought to fruition a piece of artwork better than anything I could have ever imagined with the Tucson Inn sign and local desert plants. I appreciate the love my thighs have shown me over the years. They are thick, and full, and always life-giving for me as well as documenting my life for all to see.”
“I am unique. I have my own strengths and weaknesses wrapped up nice and neatly within my body. My vivaciousness and eclectic personality makes me feel good about my body. I do not compare my body to anyone else but my own because my body is just that, my own. The way my boyfriend looks at me makes me feel good about my body, even on days when I feel bloated or tired. Even the way my body tends to bruise at the slightest touch makes me feel good because it is a trait of my body and its wellbeing.
If my body could talk it would say that I am incredible, beautiful and warm-hearted. It would tell me to continue to do what I believe is best for me.”
“I would describe my relationship with my body as like an abusive relationship. I constantly find flaws in my body and focus on the negatives with everything. I will stand in front of the mirror, and pull/tug on every bit of extra skin that needs to be taken off. My inside voice tells me I’m ugly and gross, and makes me think that I am not pretty enough or good enough. My goals are to become nicer and happier with my body. To not be constantly talking down to myself, and to let myself be happy.”
“If my body could talk to me, I feel like my body would say ‘I am lazy.’ That my arms are too fat, I have five chins, and that my stomach isn’t good enough to show off. My thighs, my arms, my face, my stomach, my ‘cottage cheese’ on my butt and legs, the stretch marks on my chest and stomach, how I can feel my cheeks pulling on my face. Back when I was dealing with an eating disorder, I was obsessed with my collar bone. I wanted it to be so noticeable, that I could imagine myself grabbing the bone. I was obsessed and thought that was considered sexy.”
“I hope in this shoot to be able to capture what my fiance sees in me. We have been together for four years, and he tells me everyday how beautiful and sexy I am. I just want to see everything that he sees. I want to be able to look back at these pictures and truly believe that I am everything my fiance sees.”
“I was pretty obsessive in college about the way my body looked. I don’t exactly think that I had an eating disorder, except in the sense that everything about the way we’re taught to relate to food and exercise is disordered. But I was REALLY preoccupied with nutrition, fitness, ‘clean eating’, various trendy exercise programs, etc. It was beyond the point of dedication; it was an absolute obsession. I would spend hours and hours scrolling through ‘fitspo’ Tumblrs and Pinterest boards looking at picture after picture of ‘hot bods’ and thinking about the next step I could take to bring my body closer to them. I never really thought of it as coming from a place of hatred of my body. Some of the pseudo-empowering narratives in those online fitness communities allowed me to trick myself into thinking that it was possible for me to simultaneously love my body and want to change it so drastically that I would deprive it of its basic needs and punish it when it stepped out of line. It’s not.
I still don’t really know how to have a relationship with exercise that’s divorced from all that. My relationship with my body has completely transformed since those days, but I still don’t really know how to rewrite the way I think about the purpose of exercise. I know that there are so many other ways that I benefit from working out that have nothing to do with the way I look, but I’ve never found any way to relate to exercise that is as consistently motivating as those gross aesthetic goals were. It makes me so angry because it feels like all of the bullshit we’re taught about why and how we should exercise robbed me of something that could be so fulfilling. But it feels poisoned.“
“Dance is my body’s home.”
“I had a breast reduction when I was 20. I started developing VERY early, and it was a constant source of embarrassment and unwanted attention. As they kept growing, I started developing back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain. I couldn’t exercise comfortably. I had trouble breathing. Sometimes I would hold them up with my hands just so I could take a deep breath. It was miserable.
I made the choice primarily for medical reasons, but the aesthetic changes were even more exciting to me. The first time I looked in the mirror after my surgery I remember feeling like I could actually see my body for the first time in my life. It didn’t feel like a part of me was missing; it felt like the thing that was obscuring what my body was actually supposed to look like was finally gone.
It took some work to reconcile how important body love and body acceptance are to me with the fact that the best decision I have ever made in my entire life was to surgically alter my body. I think for a long time I thought that loving your body meant that you couldn’t exert any agency over it. But my post-surgery body felt most like the real me.”
“Training makes me feel great. Usually, at least. When I do well, and my body does what it should be doing, e.g., I do a drill correctly, or nail a sweep, or can run whatever distance without stopping. That makes me feel great.
I love my body, but I admit that I’m never really happy with it. I want it to be better looking, stronger, faster, more flexible, better cardio, etc. Now that I’m getting older, that’s getting harder and harder to chase. These days, my body hurts a lot.
I’d like to learn to listen more closely to its needs, and treat it better, not put it through so much hell, and continue to grow and flow as I continue to age. I’d also like to learn not to hold it up to whatever I believe are other people’s expectations, but instead celebrate it as it is.”
“Being made aware of my shortcomings makes me feel worse about my body. Being compared to perfect bodies. Whenever somebody posts photos of impossibly handsome men with captions like ‘Yummy!’ or whatever, I know that I will never measure up to that standard; I will probably never have defined abs, never be taller than I am now, etc. Seeing beautiful, half-naked men posted on social media is so disheartening. I almost refuse to watch anything with Jason Momoa in it for the simple reason that it makes me feel bad about my body.
A few weeks ago I was topless in front of my son - I think I had just gotten out of the shower - and he said, ‘You almost look like you have abs, dad!’ I deliberately didn’t look, but I just basked in that compliment for a while. My son often describes me as strong, and I love that.”
“If my body could talk, it might say not to take things so seriously, and learn to love being embarrassed. By which I mean it may say, ‘Dance more! Or, dance at all even.’”
“I love when I can accentuate my curves. So much of my identity is tied to being a plus sized woman. I have never been thin, and have always tried to embrace my curves as a positive thing.
For a plus sized woman, clothing options can be limited. Going into a dressing room and trying on clothes can be an incredibly depressing activity. There are times when it feels like my self esteem drains with each clothing item that does not really fit. It’s hard to be positive in that moment.”
“I have a complicated history with my arms. I can remember the first time a bully called me out for never showing my upper arms. At that point, it wasn’t a conscious choice to keep my arms covered. I was just a tomboy who wore a lot of t-shirts. But from that moment forward, I always wore a cover up with tank tops, or made sure that my tops always had sleeves. It has only been within the last year that I’ve been able to wear tank tops in public. And even then, I fight with myself over it for a long time before leaving the house.
If my body could talk it would tell me to stop constantly stressing yourself out. You think people notice all of your minor imperfections. They don’t. Quit feeding yourself negativity.”
“My relationship with my body is like a Facebook relationship status: it’s complicated. I go through cycles where I am able to be incredibly positive and happy with my body, and then others where I wish I could wave a magic wand and change everything.
My goal is to stop putting a numerical value on my self worth. I would really love to capture my positivity and light. I try incredibly hard to be a positive force in people’s lives. As a teacher I aim to be a beacon of positivity and safety. I would love to showcase that light and strength.”
“I have a pretty awesome relationship with my body. Of course, I experience some momentary insecurities from time to time, but mostly I really love and appreciate my body and its beauty and capability.”
“I am somewhat narcissistic. I probably spend more time than the average person admiring myself in the mirror. I have a lot of privilege because of how my body looks, and that is a huge self-esteem booster for me, but also provokes some difficult feelings about worthiness and how others are judged.
A lot of my body positivity is derived from performing a lot of conventional beauty and body standards. That is actually an incredibly vulnerable place to be in.”
“When I was in 7th grade, another girl who I’d been friends with started a rumor about my vulva – because I had somewhat visible labia minora, she told people that I had a ‘weird thing hanging out of me’. This was, of course, mortifying. I carried a lot of body shame about one of the most intimate parts of myself for a long time, and it had a huge impact on my sexual development. That experience shaped a lot of how I felt about my entire body as a teen and young adult.
I would like to feel less dependent on what others say about me. I would like to give a sense of worshipping my own body, taking the power back from another’s gaze.”
“I love that my body proves to me over and over again that there are things that I can do that I always thought I couldn't. That I can be sexy and strong and soft all at the same time. That my curves do not limit me. I absolutely love being able to describe myself as a woman who has breasts and hips and a Buddha belly.”
“My belly has what I call a flap. When I was five months old they discovered that I was starving to death due to my intestines telescoping. So I had to have surgery to save my life. It left me with a three inch scar, and the scar tissue has long since adhered to an inner portion of my abdomen, creating a flap. This flap breaks up my belly, giving me an extra bump.”
“There are two parts of my body that I am struggling to love. One is my flap. The other is my double chin, which is why I don't do a full smile very often.
I hope to capture the sexy, playful, loving spirit that I finally see in myself. And that I deserve to feel that way and to put it out there for all to see.”