As I briefly mentioned on my social media channels (instagram & facebook), I had the opportunity to be a part of Leah Hope Photography’s Natural Beauty Project: From the Inside Out.
In a world so enthralled by completely unrealistic expectations of beauty, being a part of this project was both refreshing & empowering. I never expected my first photo shoot to be without my hair or makeup done, but I am eternally grateful to Leah for allowing me in front of her lens. Although I felt vulnerable, more than that — I felt beautiful, empowered, happy, grateful, joyful, free & kinda cool — completely unfiltered, just as myself.
It’s no secret that being a woman is tough in our society. Hopefully, we can change the stigma we’ve created. People like Leah and projects such as this one are a great place to start.
So thank you, thank you, thank you.
Leah, you truly are a gift.
In the original post by Leah, you will see she includes answers to questions she asked us. Not all of the questions were included (likely to avoid a blog post as long as this will be), but I decided to include my answers here for you all to read (it is long, I promise all my posts won’t be this way).
Q: Who is the most beautiful person you know and why?
A: This is tough, maybe my Nana, she is stunning – like can’t take your eyes off her kind of beautiful and she has no idea. She is the mom of three and the grandmother to seven, and everything she does is with such grace. She speaks with a French accent, I always make fun of her for the way she pronounces things, but her accent is one of my most favorite things about her.
Q: When do you feel most beautiful?
A: I actually do not know the answer to this question. I think probably when I feel completely authentic to myself. What does that look like? Natural hair & a flannel (ha) | doing something I love | being truly heard, accepted, understood and seen as my true self | loving others | when I’m real, even if it’s scary or not received well. As much as I believe beauty is from within and it is a constant journey throughout our lives, I am so inspired by clothing. I would be lying if I said my journey to finding “my style” did not go hand-in-hand with my journey to discovering my true beauty and how I carry myself. Additionally, I have noticed the more authentic and true to myself, my beliefs, and my heart I am – the more beautiful I feel.
Or maybe on a softball field ;).
Q: What makes you beautiful?
A: My heart makes me beautiful. I have a huge heart and am a very forgiving and understanding person, but I also know when and how to stand up for myself if needed. I believe my beauty is continually evolving as I come to know myself better. My successes and strength make me beautiful, but so do my vulnerability and my struggles.
Q: What is beauty to you?
A: This is a multi-faceted question for me, but in short YOU. Beauty absolutely comes from within – from kindness, joy, struggle, vulnerability, from ACCEPTANCE, and lots of love – both towards yourself and others.
Realness, life is simply too short to not be exactly who you are, every moment of every single day. To me realness comes in various forms, but it always encompasses honesty.
Q: Describe what a beautiful act is to you?
A: A smile or a compliment to someone you do not know (or one you do know). We, as women, absolutely do not compliment each other enough. An old friend of mine used to always compliment other women (or anyone really) whether it was a softball swing, a smile, her sunglasses, a scarf – anything – somehow she had this ability to see something in someone and always thought to say it out loud, but the way she could so genuinely say, “you have an amazing smile” or “those glasses look great on you” was a truly beautiful thing. The receiver of the compliment would instantly light up, it is probably the most beautiful trait, I have seen displayed so effortlessly in a person. One I try to emulate and remember to do on a daily basis. I always notice things, but it is the compliment and outward manifestation of our thought that can change someone’s whole day.
To listen to someone and truly hear them. Their joy, their pain, their truths without any intention of adding your own agenda to their story. I’ll admit, as strong-willed as I am — this is a daily challenge, but an act I appreciate so much in others.
Q: Tell me about a beautiful act you’ve witnessed?
A: I think I covered this above — I have witnessed many beautiful acts. Kindness is my favorite.
Q: Is there a song that inspires you or makes you feel beautiful?
A: I do not really have a song that makes me feel beautiful, but I surely do love jumping around my house or singing in my car to “Love That Girl” by Raphael Saadiq or “Freedom” by Beyonce.
Q: Where do you find your confidence?
A: I would be lying if I said that accomplishments and other outward recognition was not a source of some of my confidence, because I get really excited (and very relieved) when I get good grades in law school (getting excited about grades is a new thing for me, thanks law school). However, other sources of my confidence are: my dog (silly, I know) she gives me confidence in my ability and capacity to love unconditionally; God and knowing that no matter what, I will always be enough in His eyes; my tribe of support from friends to family to mentors to coaches to teachers – I really am the most fortunate person to have the people I do surrounding me and rooting for me.
Yet, I’ve noticed in my life that my confidence ebbs and flows. More importantly, I think this experience is completely okay. In life, law school, softball, relationships, etc., I am in a constant state of growth. In the times where I felt less confident I worked harder and saw success as a result of that work. I’ve realized the ebb and flow of my confidence is essential to me and my individual growth toward my goals. This realization has helped me identify when I am in an “ebb” and get the heck out of there – the flows are so much more fun (think view from the top analogy — struggle & hard work on the bottom makes everything a little bit more beautiful from the top).
Q: When did you start truly loving yourself?
A: When I learned that thinking I loved myself & really believing it were completely different things. I spent about three years (probably more) finding validation outside myself. It took completely losing that source of validation to realize that I was better at providing myself with love than any other thing (except maybe Pais 😉 ). This realization, I think, completely took shape this summer while I was living alone in Europe.
Q: What inspired you to start truly loving yourself?
A: I do not know that it was so much inspiration, or the fact that I did not feel I had a choice. I needed and wanted to completely love myself. The more I got to know myself, my entire being (good & bad), and accept my strengths and weaknesses the easier it was to love myself. Understanding that life is a journey and so is love. Also understanding that my relationship with myself is the most important one I have because this relationship establishes my framework for every other relationship I enter into.
Plus, in order to truly love others we need to love ourselves, and I think we love ourselves more by loving others – a beautiful circle of love – that is inspiring.
Q: What is your favorite inspirational quote about being confident or loving yourself or being yourself or beauty?
A: “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” – Oscar Wilde
I live by this, daily & have it on a canvas in my room.
Q: If you could go back and tell your 12-year-old self one thing, what would you tell her?
A: Be yourself always, trust your instincts, follow your heart & your dreams. Be deliberate with your time, and get more sleep! It is okay to think through things and analyze internally – one day this will be one of your greatest assets, but do not forget to be present and listen/hear the other side of the story. It is okay to not be okay, but don’t stay in that place for too long. Find the things that make you come alive and gravitate to them, especially in times of struggle. The things that make you come alive will save you.
People will come and go from your life* – some experiences will hurt more than others – appreciate the time each person gave you, whether for years or a few minutes – take the good, the lessons learned, and keep moving forward with a smile & grace.
*I was fortunate enough to meet a person, a few actually, who brought out a lot of things in my life I didn’t know existed, and one of them was seeing myself as beautiful. I am not sure exactly what caused this to transpire, maybe it was my age and knowing myself better or maybe something else, but I am eternally grateful for that little bit of time. Unfortunately, this person is no longer in my life, but I believe sometimes, the only reason people come into our lives is to pull out something that was living inside of us that we couldn’t pull out ourselves. I’m thankful to have experienced this type of encounter first-hand.
Q: If you had the opportunity to say something to a large group of women, what would you say?
A: Be kind, through every moment, good & bad. It is an easy thing to say, but it is not always easy to do. Support each other and be honest with each other. Our word and loyalty is one of, if not, the most important thing we can offer to people, never take someone’s kindness for granted. It is more important to be a good person than to be a liked person, and more often than not, being a good person will take you farther in life and relationships. Appreciate what other people, minds, and perspectives can bring to the world. We are stronger when we work together.
Q: What is your favorite thing about yourself?
A: 1) I don’t know the exact word for this trait, but my favorite thing about myself is the soul-searching, self-reflecting, vulnerableness (sp) to my personality. I feel things extremely deeply. I fought this aspect of myself for a long time, once I accepted it, I found real happiness in myself and what I bring to a relationship – friend or otherwise. Feeling deeply is truly a beautiful thing and something I greatly appreciate in others. Also, while oftentimes in the moment I hate this trait, the fact that I try to always see the purpose or big picture behind good or bad things (some may call it over-thinking, I choose introspective). I can never just “give in” or “move on” without putting work in on the issue. I think this is my subconscious way of damage-controlling my life, if I deal with it now hopefully I won’t have to go through the pain again. Not everyone works this way or is willing to go through the trenches with you, but I believe this ‘thing’ about me is the cause for my constant growth as a human, partner and friend. More than I hate overthinking things, I hate remaining stagnant in anything. My ‘thing’ is constantly pushing me to a new and better version of myself. I try not to allow any experience pass without taking something from it, big or small.
2) I believe the best in people, I am the opposite of a cynic (the law has not ruined me yet) – it has left me completely broken at times, but I love seeing the world and people with clear, hopeful eyes.
Q: What is the best compliment you’ve ever received? (Whether it has to do with physical beauty or about WHO you are)
A: This is long, but without a doubt one of/if not the best thing that anyone has said to me in a time where I needed to hear it (which could be why it is so valuable).
“Heidi, as your friend I must acknowledge your resilience to each of your challenging relationships, past & present, especially as of late. Continuously watching you blossom into a better and stronger version of yourself is not a small feat that should be undermined. I know so much happiness is within your future and every ounce of it is deserved . . . It is a shame that some people will miss out on the gifts and light that you shed upon this thing we call life.”
These words may not be the sort of compliment one thinks of when you think about a compliment in its basic form, but to me, this was a huge piece of validation on something I had been consciously working towards. As stated above, I consider myself a very introspective person, and I constantly analyze myself and search for a meaning or purpose in the littlest to the biggest of moments. For the year or so before the timing of this message from a dear friend, I was doing a lot of soul-searching, a lot of doubting, and to be honest was just broken and trying to pick up the pieces. So, the words above mean the world to me, and when I revert back to old habits — I read them.
Q: What do people compliment you most on?
A: My joyful approach to life and capacity to love, even in the hard moments. My kindness – even when the world says someone does not deserve it. My strength & insight into life (even at a young age I was constantly called an “old-soul”, I’ve never truly given meaning to this classification, but I think it plays a large part into my insight into life) and ability to view both sides of every story (a quality I have developed more in law school, but my friends and family love to hate my devil’s advocate way of looking at EVERYTHING). Oh, & my dog-mom skills.
Also, my passion and light. People have complimented me on the light & energy I bring into any situation, life, relationship, the workplace, etc.
Q: What is something that the world might see as a flaw on you, but you find it beautiful?
A: Without a doubt, vulnerability.
**As Leah states in her blog post — I am wearing no makeup except for eyelash extensions and tinted brows. Additionally, photos have only been adjusted for color.