This week has been an amazing one. “Amazing” actually doesn’t describe it at all.
Last week’s night of honesty, peeling back layers, sharing, comforting, and understanding has impacted me in a way that is just that: indescribable. I have been approached by women just in my day-to-day errand-running that have seen and read these blogs (https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/women-raw-honest-loved-part-1-2/ and https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/women-raw-honest-loved-part-2/) and were touched in ways they hadn’t expected, as well. Hearing that from people that were essentially “strangers” has been overwhelming to me.
Honestly, my goal with this whole project (at least for the eighteen of us involved) as I had pointed out, was for us to remember this night – these women – and check ourselves before we disparage another woman, seeing that we all are so similar deep-down and we therefore have no right to judge, especially not knowing another woman’s story.
This did happen, thank goodness. All of us involved have benefited in that way, for sure, being quicker to have compassion and understanding than how quick we once were to judge and trash-talk.
But there is more.
I have been blown away by the descriptions from women of how this has brought them to confront their own insecurities, how it has opened a path of communication between themselves and their family members and friends, where once they were struggling with these things on their own…now they don’t have to. They are willing to bare these things and welcome the positivity that those close to them not only have to offer, but WANT to.
On that note, I encourage all women to do this. Have a night in which you choose an insecurity that you are willing to share with each other – promote some healing – see that you can relate and identify with other women even so much more than you might have ever thought. It was awesome to have a mixed crowd – women who were friends with some and had never met others. By the end of this, we all ended up with super close, super dear friends to take away.
**I am offering my photography services, and help with format and facilitation of an evening like this, to women who are interested. The fee is small per person, just to cover the photography and materials involved. If you are interested, definitely contact me either on facebook (alana t photography), or email: firstname.lastname@example.org** but this is something that you can very well do on your own, I promise. 🙂
For now, I leave you with some words from women who have contacted me and allowed me to share how this has affected them. The first few are women who were readers of the blog…the rest are from some of the women who participated that evening.
Thank you to all of you for your words. ❤
“Wanted to take a minute and tell you how incredible your project is. It is moving and raw and brave. It’s honest and ugly and heartwarming. I have been reading (obsessing and internalizing and relating) to each of your images. You captured an essence. I love the experience you created around capturing the images. You showed strength and forethought and sensitivity. You gave each woman an incredible gift into the window of herself and into the perception and place she holds with those closest to her. Bravo. I in general have really appreciated your work- now I am a huge fan. Thank you for conceptualizing this project and bringing it to life. It’s led me to a couple of very important conversations with women in my life and it’s also led me to an internal dialog full of questions and thoughts to travel. Wishing you all the best and with very sincere appreciation- thank you for sharing this project.” – Summer
“Logically I know, and I think most women know, that we all share many of the same insecurities and completely obsess over them. With that said, seeing it in writing with a photo attached makes it so real, not just a thought. Especially since I’ve actually spoken to a couple of the faces photographed. Reading Melissa’s was like reading my own life. Everything about being so shy and people being mean (because they could get away with it), not standing up for myself, and even the game of pretending! So me, at least in my ‘professional’ life. I would try to pretend to not be so shy at work because, you know, retail shit. But, I always felt I failed a lot at that game. Ultimately, my conclusion was: what’s so wrong with being a bit introverted? I believe it’s why I can read people so well. One of my biggest life lessons is learning to stand up for myself without putting someone else down in the process. It was so interesting for me to read her story because from my perspective she really did come off as very self assured, confident, a cool girl, not shy at all.
I think it is such an important conversation! I mean when it boils down to it just initiating these talks can snowball into so many lives, most importantly our daughters. When I look back into my childhood trying to pinpoint where my insecurities stem from I can’t really say it’s any one thing or blame my parents. What I realize now is if I had had this kind of talk with my mother or someone close to me, I would have been equipped with an understanding and power that very well may have changed the course of my life.
Anyway, I know we don’t know each other really well, but I wanted to let you know that this has really helped me reach another catalyst in my life to propel forward. I’ve been going through a lot emotionally and internally over the last couple of years; sometimes to the point where I don’t recognize myself. So, just know that I am grateful and that it meant something to me. I am sure it did to many, many others as well.” – Melissa
“I had a 41 year old friend of mine break into tears today on the phone with me, telling me that she was picked on and bullied her entire childhood for a physical deformity and your photoblog gave her the strength to confront it this weekend
and realize it has shaped her entire life. That is how fucking powerful this was.” – (for privacy’s sake, not having been given permission from the woman mentioned, I’m not including her name.)
and now, words from a few of the women who participated in the project…
“Alana, thank you for making this happen and for pushing me out of my comfort zone. For probably 25 years, I have felt the insecurity I shared for the first time that night. After saying it out loud, receiving the love and support of the strangers (now friends) in the room, and hearing the amazing words from my family and friends, I realized this ridiculous thing that had a hold on me for so many years was just that – ridiculous.
I do deserve the love I receive and, because of this project, I am going to work hard on internalizing and living that.
Thank you for your time and effort on this, and I hope this blog can help others realize that everyone has a back story and we should treat them the way we want to be treated.” – Mona
“Ok, so, I feel insanely lucky to have been apart of this because I truly believe in the message. It’s time to stop being judgmental, jealous, and territorial. We all have insecurities. Instead of bringing each other down, we need to build each other up. Stop seeing other women as competition. We are who we are. And we’re all so beautiful.
The night of the shoot, I remember feeling anxious on the car ride over. The butterflies flying around in my stomach got stronger and stronger as I parked my car (crooked, I should add) and got out to walk inside. Those stupid little butterflies didn’t leave my belly until I had a drink in my hand, and my ass planted on a seat. I didn’t know what to expect. I knew it was going to be a night full of women (women I did not know) talking about their insecurities (plus, a photo shoot), but it ended up being so much more than that…
I didn’t think I would cry, but, damn. I was crying 37.2 seconds into the very first insecurity. I related in so many ways. I had no idea that other people felt that way, too. I felt her pain. We all felt each other’s pain that night. It was extraordinary. I can’t think of one insecurity I heard that night that I did not relate to. Every single one hit me, in one way or another.
Now that the project is over and everything’s out there (including the nice words written by our dearest friends & family), I see how almost silly we all are for having these insecurities. Obviously, they’ll never completely disappear, but it’s so comforting knowing we’re not alone. And we are loved. And awesome!
Alana, YOU ROCK!!! Thank you for being SO awesome & welcoming, and for including me in this project. ❤ ❤ <3” – Mallery
“This was one of the best nights of my life. One of the best things was just the atmosphere. Started out nervous, anxious and shy but ended with tears, awesome hugs, laughter, love, new friends and a better appreciation of old ones. I honestly feel it changed my life. I was intimidated by these ladies at the beginning but by the end I realized, hey, we’re all not so different, I don’t need to be scared. I’m sure my insecurities will still rear their ugly heads, but when they do, I’m ready for them. All I have to do is remember this night and these amazing lovely women. I think everyone should do something like this, even without the photos, although they’re a great added bonus.” – Becca
“In part, the project came from the tendency that women have to tear each other down, to even bond over negativity. I think of how many times you hear people talk about women just not being able to get along, and that is just the way things are. This night proved the opposite. The positive energy, understanding, and relationships built in just one evening were incredible to experience. A testament to what can happen when we listen, support, and lift one another up.” – Kerri
“ 1) It reinforced to me how important our jobs are as parents, some of the deepest wounds were caused by what our parents did or didn’t do. 2) Never judge a book by its cover! 3) What amazing things women can accomplish when we come together, 4) We are insecurity sisters now.” – Katie
“This whole thing was hard for me. I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to write about my insecurities, I did’t want to ask anyone to say anything about me and I definitely didn’t want to hear any of this back.
But I did, and it sucked. I spent a long time building my walls, being that rock for my family and friends and hiding my insecurities. I was very honest with my insecurities but played it safe with the list of friends I gave. I didn’t give you my husband, my sister, my mom because, whether good or bad, I can’t hear what they have to say.
I’m glad you started this conversation of self, sisterhood and our journey together. It scares me that I put all this out there. It was an amazing experience that touched my soul.
I just gave my husband the booklet to read. I will give it to my daughter and my son to read as well. I want them to know I, too, struggle with who I am.
Alana, this is a testament to you, our friendship and how much I trust you. I love you and am thankful for the friends that I now have because of you, Mara, Jamey, Aarde & Eden. – Melissa
I am hoping, that by writing this down, the hypersensitivity that I’ve experienced the last 207.5 hours since participating in this project will abate to some degree.
I thought being the oldest woman in the room, that perhaps I’d have some exceptional wisdom to share. The old saying, ‘with age comes wisdom’ is true. (If you don’t believe me just think back 5 years and consider all of the truths/lessons that you’ve learned during that time period.) After reading, listening and an evening of camaraderie, I had no special wisdom. We were all on the same level. Open, honest, hurt and most importantly, we were healing.
I believe that we were all surprised at the outcome.
During the past week, I have been approached by women that I know, who have given me encouragement and also have scolded me for ever thinking such negative thoughts about myself at anytime.
I appreciate their sentiments. In the past I would have listened, but while listening, my heart would not have been able to hold the compliments, however sincere the bearer seemed.
This week is different.
They talk , I listen, I begin to accept and then my eyes blur with tears and I have to excuse myself so that I may go and weep in private.
The walls that I have built up to survive within my ‘self’ have been weakened and the mortar that held them together seems to be leaking out through my eyes.
I feel more fragile, yet I also feel revived, as if the scar has been torn open to receive the oxygen it needed to heal properly.
I listed the most negative things that I felt. The four words that have made me feel unlovable. Four words that have run rampant in my psyche and been allowed full rein too often. How ridiculous I feel now, for letting them inside, allowing them to touch, let alone grasp the reins.
How awful we can be to ourselves when it should be just as easy to speak highly of ourselves to our ‘self’.
I am trying hard to do more of that now. I will be kinder to myself. I will move towards the light and give myself what I now believe I deserve more of. I will believe that there are people who value me and indeed, love me, just the way I am, warts and all.
Reading aloud my insecurity made me realize how senseless the negative thoughts have been. It clicked somehow. It has helped me take control while allowing a feeling of freedom.
Yes, the chalkboard in my head now says all of the positive things listed to the right of my photo, plus so much more.
Thank you Alana. ❤ ” – Cheryl