In a continuing effort to live authentically, or at the very least write that way, this post is horribly awkwardly honest and squirmy for me. I really hate admitting some of this, but I am trying really fricking hard to be honest with myself about a ton of stuff right now. This week, I did an assignment as a 'non-model' for my friend (and client) Kate. She's launching the exciting new yoga clothing brand Badd Karma, and of course I agreed to have my photo taken for her awesome project... I mean, it's like a selfie without the effort, right? WRONG.
The day before, I started getting a little bit hot and sweaty about the task that lay ahead. Modelling. Me. I'm thirty fucking nine ffs, I've had two children and my model looks extend about as far as a long reach downward angle with at least one Instagram filter and 73 rejected images. My only saving grace is that I'm not a Snapchat filter dickhead. However, the complexity of the emotional response I started to have absolutely terrified me. Would I be the old model, the fat model, the ugly model? Would I be the flawed model? The pity model? The last to be picked model? Would I be embarrassed, too shy, too uncertain? Would I stand wrong, sit wrong, look wrong? Would the photos haunt me? Would Kate come up with a creative excuse as to why my shots couldn't be used? And of course, the mother of all anxiety-related issues: HOW CAN I GET OUT OF THIS THING?
I knew I couldn't. I couldn't let her down. More importantly, I couldn't allow myself to be a slave to my own insecurities. These things I tell people all week to feel, to be, to push towards - this was exactly what I needed to do myself. I had lost track of all of my own wise words and became entangled in a yarnball of a muddled self-consciousness, which seemed perilously close to bordering on self-loathing. I needed - so very much - simply to find the courage to be myself. I needed to find the part of me who knows that she is 'worth' photographing, the part who truly believes that beauty is really only skin-deep, and that actually, it doesn't matter what the what actually is, because there is beauty to be found in everybody and everything.
In my turmoil and confusion, I turned to the philosophy of the fledgling brand itself, in an effort to truly understand what it was I had let myself in for.
The badasses of the yoga mat, from beginners to gurus. The young, the old, the bendy, the non-bendy, the spiritual, the irreverent. The wobblers and accidental farters. These are the real yogis. No matter where you practice, how or when, we want to kick imposter syndrome to the kerb and empower the yogi in you. You belong.
And then, it became easy. Sometimes it's hard to hold your head up high and walk into a room only because you haven't done it for so long. Sometimes it's only hard to find your spark because you haven't seen it or felt it in a while. When all that time passes, when life seems to have squished each morsel of confidence and passion from your soul, sometimes you have to force yourself to be the person who you know you are. You have to dig a little deeper, even if you feel like you might have to face every fear inside yourself first. It's so much more important to embrace who you are, no matter how impossible it might seem, than to stifle all the potential that you have.
That might all seem a bit over the top for a few snaps, but I assure you it really isn't. Every fear that anybody has stems from something painful they wish to avoid. I know so many women who are terrified of having their picture taken. They hide at the back, behind a friend, crouch down, look away, cover their face - whatever it takes. Where does the pain come from that causes this fear, a terror so strong that they risk never having a photograph with their child, their mother, or their best friend?
I can only answer for myself. Every fear is personal. In those moments where I questioned whether or not this photoshoot was something I could do, I felt a fear of judgment, of ridicule; fears of feeling less, of being inadequate, wrong, out of place, of not belonging. All of the emotions on the way to this thing feel like battles I have fought for a lifetime, scars that sometimes seem healed but never quite disappear - almost long-gone memories that might peculiarly explode to the surface at an unexpected moment. Yet, with every chance we are given to conquer fear, we also find ourselves with an opportunity to shine. Fear and feelings of inadequacy cannot rule our lives, or we cease to sparkle.
In one single moment, my perspective shifted. I was absolutely not fucking willing to be anything less than myself. I could take a broken mindset into the day, feel awkward and wriggle around a bit feeling like shit; no doubt, the end result would be photos that perfectly documented every squirm. Or, I could fucking sparkle the crap out of that day, knowing that I had given my authentic self: the Jo who loves being in front of a camera, can't get enough of Kate's clothes, thrives on being the focus of the room, and is, generally, a bit of an attention-whore - imperfections and flaws in focus, and uniquely treasured. Why are we (especially as women) encouraged to dim our light? Why is demureness to the point of neurotic insecurity now our expected default? What is this perfection we seek, and why? Why would we desire to be a mass manufactured, or carbon copy, of anyone who came before us? Be your own fucking beautiful, flawed sparkle. Be it, add it, sprinkle that shit everywhere. No matter who you are, you belong.