Every one of us has experienced a moment in our lives where the words of another have wounded us. Where the bullying has torn a piece of us apart. My question is... when does it stop? Well, Leslie Carpenter of May Faith Photography has decided to get the discussion started by putting a group of photos -- entitled the "Beautiful as I am Campaign" -- on Facebook to do just that.
I was creeping Facebook one morning, as many of us do while having our morning coffee, and I saw a picture posted by one of my friends. There stood a group of women in their undergarments, with derogatory words written on their bodies in black -- but across their outstretched hands, the words "I AM BEAUTIFUL" rang clear. The shot took my breath away. I was in awe of these women's strength and of the message this photo sent. We are all beautiful -- don't give into bullying.
There are women who are overweight, black, gay, straight... It's a collection of women. The words they have written on them, such as "butterball," "bulimic" or "worthless," are all words they have been called that have hurt them. Leslie gave them back their power and asked them to help give others back theirs. I was moved by the next photo that shows these women nude in a group of tangled limbs but with an empowering word now written in red across their chests. My favorite word was "unique."
The purpose of these photos wasn't to endorse obesity or encourage people to be unhealthy -- just the opposite, in fact. Leslie took the time to speak with me on the phone, and she said that the purpose was to remind us all that "no matter what we're called or other's opinions of us... that no matter what, we're beautiful."
The inspiration, however, turned to sadness when I began to read the comments left on the photos. There were a lot of positive comments, but unfortunately, there were a lot of negative comments, and some comments showed that people just missed the point.
My biggest regret was for the number of men who missed the concept that ALL of these women were beautiful despite what society thought and instead chose to tear down the women who were plus-size. One man in particular said that the women who had "anorexic" and "bulimic" written across them couldn't actually have these diseases because they weren't small enough. Pure ignorance.
When I asked Leslie about her view on the negative, she said, "It doesn't shock me because this is what we have to deal with. Us as women when we are little until we are in our adulthood have to deal with this. Everyone has to deal with it."
Bullying is such an epidemic in society today, and it's amazing to see that even with adults, our words are still so carelessly thrown around. Leslie's decision to do this was one that will impact so many others.
She didn't just gather random women. Leslie interviewed them and looked for a back story -- a true, conquering story. She wanted "women who had real stories, who had real meaning behind them... to make it as genuine as possible."
As an observer, I see the pain in these women's eyes, but I also see the bravery. It took a lot of courage for these women to stand in front of a camera at their most vulnerable and allow us to see the pain that was brought to them by bullying.
Take a stand against bullying. Control your words because they wound. The names we call others and the names that are thrown at us leave a lasting impression. Respect others, but most importantly, love yourself, because you are beautiful as you are.