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Body Image and Art Making

photo credit : Darina Neyret

“Please don’t take my photo,” I said to a friend some years ago when we met up for coffee. “I don’t want to break your camera phone.”

Such was the dysfunctional relationship I had with my body, a lifelong tumultuous relationship for as long as I can remember.

It started when I was a little girl. I had a kidney malady that had me in and out of the hospital during my pre-school years. One of the procedures I had was quite intense and invasive while I was awake. In those days parents were not allowed to accompany their children. I was terrified. I kicked and screamed so hard that four adults had to pin me down in order to sedate me.

It has taken me many years to realize that in that medical trauma I did what many assault victims do : I disassociated from my body.

I remained disconnected from my physical self for decades. This meant that I had little regard for my appearance or taking care of myself. I was the girl in school who was dowdy and awkward. I washed my hair only when I was told to by my mother who worked many long hours. I was teased many times as a young girl for my lack of fashion and beauty. It did not devastate me for I agreed with my tormentors.

My body was my enemy, not my friend.

It was in the mid-years of my life that I began to realize how disconnected I was to my body. I would watch women who were confident in their skin, the way they walked and carried themselves. When I encountered a woman with high body and sexual confidence I would shrink back as if to make myself invisible. My body esteem was so distorted that another woman’s confidence would add to my shame, for though I could not describe it to you then, it was my unrealized longing for that same confidence that was stirred and would make me retreat. I did not believe that I could ever be a woman at ease in her own skin.

I was working with a therapist after my divorce when my long history of body shame surfaced. With the compassionate guidance of my therapist, I was able to confront the root causes and traumas and transform them.

I did this with a few tools :

  • I started talking nice to my body.

  • I began to try new clothes that felt good to show my body’s curvaceousness’ instead of hide my shape.

  • I began a practice of movement known as Ecstatic Dance with a local ecstatic dance group. As body love replaced body shame, I entered a remarkable season of profound transformation.

  • My confidence in all things in myself began to expand. I MADE MORE ART.

I no longer hid myself around confident women but instead attracted them! ( I know sooo many amazing badass women!!!!)

This photo here is not just about a great pose and awesome lighting. It is a marker of how far I have come in my relationship with my body. It is a shout from the mountain top that I have come to fully love and joyfully accept all of me Today. Not my future body or ideal size body… the body I have Today.

I had no idea that a loving body image could have such a ripple effect upon all of my life.

It feels good to be me and to Be Fully Seen in all that I do. I no longer hide. My art reflects that…. This is why I am making more body oriented art. All art tells a story. One of my stories is Body Love… despite the scars and traumas and lumps and bumps… despite it all, I am at long last a woman fully at ease in the body that is mine.

Self-portrait with watercolor, by Pamela Sue Johnson

I have become the woman I always wanted to be – I walk with a swagger wherever I go for I feel so centered in who I am and this body of mine. Capturing images of my body was a celebration of the pleasure my life has become. I am so Blissed as well as Blessed. Onward!

** Photo credit by the incomparable

If you decide to book a photo shoot with Darina, tell her I sent you...and let me know, too !**


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