Category Archives: self-esteem

challenging negative self-perception… in your boudoir!

Photo courtesy of Lori Berkowitz

by guest blogger Lori Berkowitz, of Lori Berkowitz Photography!

At 43 I am more comfortable in my body today than I have ever been. It’s been a 25 year process to get to this place but here I am. Today I can easily quiet the voices that insist something about my body needs to change for me to be truly happy, and those awful comparisons to other women don’t happen quite as often.

In addition to decades of therapy, my work with women as a boudoir photographer has been a tremendous part of healing my relationship with my body. As clients have come in over the years I began to see how distorted our image of ourselves often is. Here is one example of story I hear almost daily.

When Dawn, a vivacious mother and business owner, arrived for a boudoir shoot a few weeks ago it was easy to think at first glance that she was thin, toned and had no body issues. As we started working together and I wanted to take some pictures of her back, she explained that she always hated her back and believed it to be fat. Somehow she had gotten this in her head and now it became her truth, regardless of reality. She couldn’t even remember when it started.

When I took these images and showed them to her in the back of my camera she cried. Dawn could see that her back was beautiful and the healing of her constant negative self talk began.

Photo courtesy of Lori Berkowitz

Clients having an “aha” moment about their bodies when they see their images is part of my passion and joy as an artist. It’s also a daily practice of self love, I heal my own body image issues as I help other women do the same. It’s my small contribution to showing women how beautiful we all are. Everyone has their body issues no matter their size and I want every woman to feel confident in her own skin. Without comparison. I’m thrilled to have found my calling in helping women feel incredible about themselves.


the secret to the perfect bikini body

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The weather is getting warmer! Talk and anxieties of the perfect “bikini body” are in the air!
Do this exercise, spot train this area, don’t exercise this area, don’t eat this food, definitely eat this food, only eat these foods, blah, blah, blah.

I have a secret – I know how to get the perfect bikini body! Are you ready?

Okay, here we go… grab your favorite bikini – or any swimsuit for that matter.
Put it on and stand in front of the mirror.
Stand up tall and proud with your shoulders back and your chest open.
Throw your hands in the air and gleefully shout “WOO HOO!” with a smile on your face. That’s it!
Yep, you already have the perfect bikini body!
Now it’s up to you to honor and love love love it!!!

Go on with your life and stop worrying so much! You’re already fabulous and you’ll be even more fabulous once you realize how awesome you are!

OH! That reminds me of one more thing. The other thing that makes for an amazing bikini body is confidence! Own it, flaunt it and shake what your mama gave ya!

Now get out there and enjoy yourself!


What do you love about your body?

Men and women spend an enormous amount of time using negative self-talk to minimize, judge and criticize themselves. Most people aren’t even aware of how incessantly this internal tyrannical tape plays. Think about it in your own life – how much negative self-talk to you engage in? If you engage in any, it’s already too much!

I decided to reach out to a bunch of women and ask them what they love about their bodies and why. While this question was easy for some, it posed a challenge for others.

Here are their unedited responses. After you read them, I encourage you to take a moment to pause, reflect, answer the same question and give yourself some love! Feel free to share your love in the “comments” section below!

What do you love about your body and why?

Wow. My gut response was so overwhelmingly negative – I love NOTHING! – that now I have to do this and come up with a list, not just for you, but for me. 

I have always wanted to be able to fold over and touch my toes… I have discovered ballet barre and now I can!!!

Today I love my legs because they are strong and powerful and look super cute in my patterned tights right now!

I love that my body carried my children and gave them life. When I see my stretch marks and scars I try to remind myself of that rather than pick my body apart.

I love my body because it is made of the same stuff as the stars we wish on. It allows me to dance and move out into the world with you. My female body is so beautifully complex it reminds me that it has allowed for all human life to exist. Now how could I hate on that?

This is a really hard task and cause for a great deal of reflection. I think it has different meanings for each age and stage and for me causes me to look around and internalize all that is happening around me. I love my body because (so far) it is keeping me healthy and whole. It is allowing me to maintain my family and home, and giving me the opportunity to actively engage with those I love. My body is giving me the gifts of running in the park with my grandchildren and taking an 11 mile walk with my daughter, when we thought we were going for a stroll. How lucky I am. Thanks for affording me this wonderful time for reflection. Yes we take so much time in our lives using “fat talk” and hating our bodies….but rarely do we hug ourselves to say thank you.

I love that my body is so strong and resilient. It really doesn’t fail me and I feel blessed. I love that it’s petite but still womanly, not skinny. On a more superficial level I love my flat stomach.

My instinctual answer would be my smile and laugh because that is what most people recognize about me which I find is a really nice thing, actually cause it exudes more than an exterior appearance.

I love that my body is strong and healthy!

I love that my body can dance because I am never happier than when I am dancing.

I can touch and feel and love up my babies.

What I love about my body is that it has/had the miraculous ability to grow a child! Despite the changes from my pre-baby body, every time I see the differences in my body now, as a mother, I look at those changes with gratitude. I think about my body as having the ability to grow an adorable and wonderful little boy! What a wonderful thing!

I love my legs because they are strong, take me to places, let me dance, and keep me grounded.

As a mother of two daughters that mean the world to me, I am blessed to have a body (regardless of what it looks like) that has allowed me to produce and care for my two precious girls.

My cleavage.

I love my lats! I used to be upset that they make it tough for me to find dresses that zip up all the way. But, then I realized that without them I couldn’t do pull ups. I don’t know a lot of women who can do pull ups so I will keep my lats and stick to skirts, woo!

I love my body because it’s strong and unique, and it hasn’t failed me yet.

One thing that I really love about my body is that it is strong.  I like to feel the muscle tone in my legs and ass.  It feels good to think about our assets for a change.

I love that my body could still support me in a headstand when I was 8½ months pregnant! I feel so healthy and strong knowing I can support myself and my little guy now whether he’s inside or outside of me because of all my years of yoga and Pilates training.

I love that my body is able to move and engage in activities that I love to do.

I actually do love how it can grow in strength and stamina, even sometimes when I am not initially convinced that it can.

The one thing I love about my body are my legs, because they are long and somewhat fit. 

This feels weird but here goes: I like my feet. I was always too klutzy to wear heels, but as a result nothing is misshapen or bent or bony growth where it shouldn’t be. I actually like my rear. A little dimply now but still shapely. Collarbone — nicely defined. Veiny hands and arms like my dad’s, so I’m partial to them.

Right now, I LOVE my belly!!  It’s huge but I’m growing another little person inside. And yes, with the big belly comes some extra cushioning, which can be, at times, harder to accept, but I know that all of it is for a higher purpose – to create a healthy, happy and strong baby!

I’m learning to love that my body is mine and unique to me.. comparisons need not apply!!!

I have loved my body most when it was doing something–skiing, surfing, yoga, Zumba…..having a BABY.  That is when I am grateful not critical.

I love my collar bones. They make me feel sexy.

When I stop and think about it, what I truly love about this body that has carried me through this life so far for better or worse for the last 40 years is that it is absolutely uniquely mine with all of its quirks, beauty and perfect imperfections. It’s been the vehicle through which my persona, spirit and soul has had the good fortune to experience everything from the extraordinarily mundane to the awe and the profound and I am utterly grateful for its functionality and intuition and guidance as well as all of its strength, exhaustion, muscle and flab, power and flexibility, aches, pains, tension and the relaxing, the calming, the sheen and the freckles and wrinkles, and yes even the wrinkles… ok well im still practicing with those ;) 

At the age of 36 I now love more than anything else that my body has the capability of growing life. When I was younger loved the freedom of movement, and ability to fully control my actions. While I still love those things, giving up control to let someone else grow is my amazement.

A few years ago I probably said I love my arms, abs, legs, butt, strength. Since not being as active and able to workout like I used to, not eat the same as I used to and with the medication I am on….my body has changed. I am feeling better mentally than I was last year as I am learning to love me and my body again… but it has been a struggle. I was so mad at ‘my body’ for failing me. I was so angry and felt like my healthy lifestyle was a total waste. I am thankful now, and think differently. If I didn’t have the healthy lifestyle I would have been more ill and unable to deal with this darn Lupus. I loved the body I created from working out and eating well. To be honest, I feel like I have lost my identity as a trainer. My body was proof of my lifestyle. Sounds crazy but this is how I feel. In the last few months I have made some mental breakthroughs and am learning that I am just as strong (even stronger) than I ever was. I work out daily and do what I can. I always eat healthy and that is all I can do.
What do I love about my body? My smile and positive outlook.

I love my body because it carried and delivered my children with such health and perfection, and it now allows me to hug them and chase them and carry them and love them. I am so grateful to my body for allowing me to do this that I feel like I owe my body lots of love and, in return for all it has done for me, I always really try to take very good care of it.

I love that my body has survived two major surgeries, adapted to the complications, and ultimately healed itself. I am truly amazed at its response to trauma and feel blessed that my body didn’t fail me and gave me second chances.


what is it like to be a male model?

Let me begin by saying that I am not at all opposed to the idea of modeling or to the industry as a whole. I do, however, believe that we can do a better job at creating a safe environment for these men and women and abolish unrealistic expectations that oftentimes push models to engage in destructive and dangerous behaviors in order to meet expectations and, quite frankly, to make a living. Sara Ziff addressed some of these issues in 2011 by founding The Model Alliance, an organization that looks out for the safety and wellbeing of models. My hope is that the industry continues to gain momentum towards empowerment.

Photo by Mathius Brandt

Photo by Mathius Brandt
(courtesy of Ryan Murray)

In a recent conversation with my friend, Ryan Murray, he matter-of-factly mentioned something about being asked to stay “bulked up.” It made me wonder what it must be like to be a male model. I recall sparks of concern for male models after an emaciated YSL male model walked the runway this past January. We hear so much about what it is like for women to be in the modeling world but times when I’ve heard about the experiences of male models don’t come to mind as easily.

Ryan agreed to answer some questions about his experience in the world of modeling. Thank you so much, Ry, for sharing your experience!

How did you become interested in modeling? How old were you when you began?
My family entered my brother and I into a Modeling runway show when I was about 12 or 13 for Neiman Marcus and we both walked the runway, modeling Neiman’s hot fashion of the 90′s for youngsters!  I guess you could say that is where my interest began.  Then a few years later, in High School, I auditioned in a line of about 1,000 people at a cattle call for a Ralph Lauren runway show sponsored by Bloomingdale’s and Seventeen Magazine.  I was shocked when I was one of the 7 that were chosen from the crowd.  They said they liked my walk and that I had a stand out confidence!  I also had long-ish surfer hair and a pimpley sophmorish face… guess confidence really does shine thru!

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Photo by Gian Andrea Di Stefano
(courtesy of Ryan Murray)

What do you like about your modeling career? Is there anything that you don’t like?
I like the different experiences it brings to my life, when the jobs do come around.  They are few and far between sometimes because the supply of “good looking male models” is WAY above the demand of jobs!
Things I don’t like:  I wish I worked MORE! :)

What do you like/hate about the modeling industry?
I like the opportunity it provides and the trends it sets!
I don’t like how the industry is so narrow minded. It is very hard for some to think outside the box and many models get the short end of the stick because we don’t “look” a certain way, weigh a certain amount, stand a certain height… beauty is subjective and when you do not get jobs because of one person’s idea of the “beauty” they are looking for, it can be hard to swallow.

We’ve all heard about the tireless scrutiny and pressures for women in the modeling world. What pressures do you encounter as a male model?
There are definitely pressures as a male model.  Staying in a specific weight class depending on the “type” of modeling jobs you want to get; underwear, sportswear, bathing suit, lifestyle, runway, etc.
Body image is a very HUGE part of the job and I find that I am always comparing myself to other male models and thinking that I must need to look like “that” in order to book more jobs.

Photo by Mathius Brandt

Photo by Mathius Brandt
(courtesy of Ryan Murray)

What pressures do male models encounter to alter their appearance? Bulking up, slimming down, losing body fat, etc.?
ALL OF THE ABOVE!  Before many photo shoots I will not eat, or not drink water in order to “shrink wrap” my skin and muscle per se.
Oftentimes, if a job listing calls for rock hard abs or something of that sort, I know there will be a handful of other male models that will have more or better abs than me so I make sure to work out even harder… then it will all come down to the type of look they want as well. “Ethnically ambiguous” is VERY popular right now!  So there are so many factors but when it all comes down to it, if you don’t look a certain way, whether beauty is a factor or not, you don’t get the job.
I always feel if I can just get bigger biceps or a bigger chest or a harder butt, maybe THEN I will be what they want. It’s a lot of pressure, self-inflicted some of the time I will admit, but pressure nonetheless!

Many female models have shared the experience of having to compromise their principles in order to get jobs. Do you encounter this same pressure as a male model?
Well there is definitely a “sex sells” mentality and it is NOT just with regard to women!  There are times I have been on a casting or even a job and advances are made and the thought goes through your head, “if I say no will I get the job?”  More often than not though this happens when models are trying to update their books and looking for good photographers to shoot them. Many times they will make advances or want you to be a bit more suggestive than you had planned on!  You never quite know, in the beginning, what is acceptable, a true threat, if it will get you hired, or if it’s just the “way of the biz.”

How does not succumbing to these pressures impact your career?
It puts you on the slow track, a more moral track, a more freed conscience sort of track!  Good things come to those who wait, or at least to those who stay true to who they are.  There is such a need to feel wanted, to feel talented, to feel like you have an equal chance, and it is hard not to do “whatever it takes” to obtain those things.

Modeling is one of the most objectifying and sexualized careers out there. Has this ever impacted your self-esteem?
Constantly!  Even today, I woke up feeling puny, untalented, out of the loop, all because I have not been able to muster up the energy to lift weights after all of the spinning I teach.  I sometimes feel like I will never get a job again!  “Bulky muscles” are the key to being attractive and getting noticed, the voices in my head tell me. It is a constant battle I face because my body is my package and I am constantly having to “reinvent” in order to feel relevant, attractive, etc.

What advice would you give to someone who was interested in a modeling career?
Be happy with who you are and remember, confidence and self worth REALLY DO SHINE THRU!
Even though I had a horribly red and pimple ridden face and long hair when I went to stand in a line of 1,000+ people for that Seventeen Magazine/Ralph Lauren runway show, it didn’t matter to me because I believed in myself and KNEW I could do it!  (I should take my own advice!)

Photo by Charles Victor

Photo by Charles Victor
(courtesy of Ryan Murray)


how do you define beauty?

089 La Paz Butterfly 15

Merriam-Webster defines beauty as “the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.”

Pythagoras and Euclid attribute beauty to the geometric concept of the Golden Ratio (a+b is to a as a is to b). Science has even backed up the idea that this physical symmetry seems to be more attractive. But what does that mean, anyway?

So what really defines beauty? The good news is that it’s totally up to you! YOU define beauty. YOU decide!

How do YOU define beauty?
Do you define beauty by physical attributes that you have very little control over?
the size of your jeans?
the color of your hair?
the number on your scale?
your age?
your height?

Or do you define beauty by inherent characteristics?
how you carry yourself?
your morals?
your values?
your personal ethos?
your confidence?
your energy?
your character?

Consider what you find beautiful in and about others and what makes you feel beautiful. Are these things that you notice and value every day? How much do you focus on physical attributes? How much do you focus on inherent characteristics? What would it be like to focus more on who you are as a person (your innate awesomeness) rather than focusing upon your external appearance? How would that shift your relationship with yourself? How would it change the ways in which you interact with others and move through the world? Perhaps it’s worth experimenting with. Spend a day or spend a week making this conscious shift. What do you notice? How do you feel about yourself?

In the meantime, I want to know… how do YOU define beauty?


vulnerability

I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

My favorite quote… “Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness. But it appears that it is also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.” – Brene Brown

Watch this and then get out there and allow yourself to be authentically seen!


boy toys + girl toys

The fact that eating disorders cross all gender, race, age, culture and socioeconomic lines has been clear for decades. Somehow, the fact that there is increased pressure on boys has escaped much of the spotlight.

A recent study published in Pediatrics yielded statists that show both boys and girls engaged in muscle-enhancing behaviors (e.g.: changing eating habits, increased exercise, used protein powders/shakes, used steroids, used another muscle-building substance), the large majority of which were boys.

Beginning in childhood, heroes like G.I. Joe and The Incredible Hulk model bulging muscles. If G.I. Joe Extreme were life-size, he would have a 55-inch chest and a 27-inch bicep. In other words, his bicep would be almost as big as his waist and bigger than most competitive body builders’. Seems like in this, and many other ways, buff is the new skinny!

We continue to creatively perpetuate new and unrealistic ideals and expectations for our little boys and girls, who grow up into our men and women (and us!), and in some ways shaped by these confusing paradigms. You may have heard about 13y/o McKenna Pope’s petition to Hasbro asking them to make gender-neutral toy ovens. Ultimately, McKenna was saddened by a pushback by Hasbro explaining that boys do play with their products but never addressed the fact that these toy ovens are marketed towards girls.

And what is Barbie doing these days? Saying nothing about her unrealistic shape (in real life she would stand six feet tall with a 39″ bust, 18″ waist, and 33″ hips), she’s still hanging out in her Dreamhouse, tho, she has upgraded to 3-stories, has a beach house and a castle (in the country?). She goes camping now but sports high heals and a denim mini while doing so. The “Barbie I Can Be…™” series is impressive however, again it seems that Barbie can be anything she wants so long as she wears her high heals and a mini skirt! It would be great if they made a “Barbie I Can Be…™” ME doll.

I can go on and on about gender specific toys and the impact of them on the psyches of boys, girls, men and women but you get the idea. I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts/experiences (in “comments” below). Since the holiday season has already begun, I encourage you to be a little more mindful and aware of the toys that stock the isles (and your shopping cart) and form an opinion about it! What do you think and feel about what you see? About what your kids (or children in your lives) see? You can empower yourself, like McKenna Pope and many others, to take a stand and push back. If not by creating a petition or writing to these toy makers, by choosing where you spend your money and on which toys fill up your playroom!


honor yourself

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I can’t believe that it has taken me until now to write about “honoring yourself.” If you know me at all, you know that this is an immense part of my personal ethos. So let’s go there!

Among other things, “honor” has been a tenet of religion (e.g.: honor your father and your mother) and culture (e.g.: honor your country). Not nearly as much focus and attention has been paid to honoring yourself. Scratch your head about that one!

What does it mean to honor yourself? Well, that’s up to you. It’s all very personal. What do you find self-honoring? Nourishing? Fulfilling?

What honoring yourself does require is for you to cultivate a healthy relationship with yourself. One that, at minimum, includes self-care, being attuned to yourself and being connected to yourself both physically and emotionally. After all, how can we honor ourselves (and our needs) if we don’t know what they are? If we are not connected to how we are doing?

If you already consciously honor yourself, ask yourself if there are any ways in which you don’t.

If you realize that you don’t honor yourself, get curious! What prevents you from doing so? What would it be like to shift this idea into your values, ethos and consciousness?

Here’s a challenge for us all… as the brisk air, whistling wind and occasional flurries remind us that a new season is swiftly approaching, take this opportunity to notice how you are doing. How do you feel physically? What do you need more/less of in the cold weather than you do in the warmth of other seasons? Notice shifts in your body. Perhaps your body tightens when it’s cold. What need must you honor in order to address this? How about food? Are you honoring your hunger/satiety? And emotions? How is your mood? What need(s) must you honor in order to take care of yourself emotionally?

Pay attention and notice what you notice. What feels easy for you to honor; what feels more challenging and why. Off you go!


WARNING: this is my body, not yours!

Stella Boonshoft’s blog, The Body Love Blog, has gotten a lot of well deserved attention over the past few days. If you haven’t heard, she posted a scantily clad photo of herself showing off her body. Stella explained, “I found that after years of struggling with my body image that really there was no way to justify the bullying and the torment I endured as a child and as a teen.” She went on to say that, “we don’t have the authority to make assumptions about other people’s health based on the way they look. And I finally came to a place where I was really happy with the way I looked… I wanted to give a message to the bullies who had tormented me that it didn’t work.”

Stella’s blog post:
WARNING: Picture might be considered obscene because subject is not thin. And we all know that only skinny people can show their stomachs and celebrate themselves. Well I’m not going to stand for that. This is my body. Not yours. MINE. Meaning the choices I make about it, are none of your f****** business. Meaning my size, IS NONE OF YOUR F****** BUSINESS.

If my big belly and fat arms and stretch marks and thick thighs offend you, then that’s okay. I’m not going to hide my body and my being to benefit your delicate sensitivities.

This picture is for the strange man at my nanny’s church who told me my belly was too big when I was five.

This picture is for my horseback riding trainer telling me I was too fat when I was nine.

This picture is for the girl from summer camp who told me I’d be really pretty if I just lost a few pounds

This picture is for all the f****** stupid advertising agents who are selling us cream to get rid of our stretch marks, a perfectly normal thing most people have (I got mine during puberty)

This picture is for the boy at the party who told me I looked like a beached whale.

This picture is for Emily from middle school, who bullied me incessantly, made mocking videos about me, sent me nasty emails, and called me “lard”. She made me feel like I didn’t deserve to exist. Just because I happened to be bigger than her. I was 12. And she continued to bully me via social media into high school.

MOST OF ALL, this picture is for me. For the girl who hated her body so much she took extreme measures to try to change it. Who cried for hours over the fact she would never be thin. Who was teased and tormented and hurt just for being who she was.

I’m so over that.

THIS IS MY BODY, DEAL WITH IT

Stella, you are right! Your body is her own, your body is beautiful and you are stunning! Thank you for your courage!

And for everyone else… let’s be inspired!


be naïve enough to not know what you can’t accomplish

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Kevin Plank, creator and CEO of Under Armour, Inc., said one of the most inspiring quotes I have heard in a long time. When asked about the experience of building his brand, he remarked, “[I was] smart enough to be naïve enough to not know what I couldn’t accomplish.”

Here is a little bit about Kevin’s story. Frustrated about being weighed down by heavy sweat-drenched cotton shirts that he wore under his football jerseys, Kevin used $17,000 of savings from his rose business as the seed money to create a t-shirt that he, himself, needed on the football field. He personally went to fabric stores in search of synthetic fabric that would make a difference and then went through several prototypes. He handed some shirts out to his friends, telling them that if they liked them, wear them. If they loved them, give one to the guy at the locker next to them. And so they did.

I realize that we’re not all out to be the likes of Kevin Plank and that my blog is not a “business” website. But when I recently had the opportunity to hear Kevin tell his story, I was personally inspired. Not by how lucrative his business has become (tho, truth be told I do think it’s incredible that he turned his $17,000 into a billion dollar business), but by how he came to be where he is today. He had a need and out of that need, he created something. He believed in his product. He became passionate about how his shirts could positively impact sports by keep players light on the field (rather than being weighed down by heavy cotton shirts). The rest is history. He was, indeed, smart enough to be naïve enough to not know what he couldn’t accomplish.

Everything starts with an idea. Ideas grow if they are fueled by passion. Hopefully that passion is fueled by the desire and belief that you can do “anything,” or at least what you are setting out to do. So the next time you set out to do something, with wisdom and a little naïveté, go for it!


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