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Your Body is a Masterpiece

Overcoming body insecurities as a model

When I was starting professional photography, one of my good friends never ran out of words in appreciation for my work. She would always end the conversation with this sentence, “Can’t wait to get a photoshoot done from you.”

To fix the date, I would say, “Tell me when can I book your session.”

And she would say the same thing every time, “The moment I lose some weight.”

This conversation repeated for a few years. It seemed she was not happy with her body at that time. I wondered what I could have said to make her love her body the way it was. I wanted to tell her how strong and intelligent she is. That her personality is to die for. That she has a beautiful smile and gorgeous hair. If she is reading this right now, I hope she would agree with me. :)

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It can be nerve-wracking to face the camera

Do you feel conscious when you see a photographer pointing the camera towards you? Does it almost seem like they are holding a mirror in front of you? Lens distortion besides, you come to terms with your true reflection, whether you like it or not. How you feel at the time the shutter is pressed, unknowingly seeps into your expression in that split second. Choosing to get photographed is rather a bold act and takes some leap of faith in the photographer as well as in yourself. In fact, when I did a poll on Instagram on whether people would like to face the camera or be behind it, about 60% indicated that they feel more comfortable behind the camera than posing in front of it. No wonder we have professional models for doing this job. Like any other skill, it requires loads of practice and experience. But the truth is- even supermodels don’t feel beautiful all the time.

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Thoughtful moody portrait. Photo credit: Neena Majumdar

Feeling confident as a model is not related to owning a standard set of physical attributes such as body type, complexion, and facial features. Self-confidence stems from loving your appearance the way it is. The way we look is greatly defined by the genes we own. But that should not stop us from indulging in self-care routines and paying special attention to fitness, healthy eating, and skincare. But how much your body is going to react to these regimes and how soon the changes will appear, differ from person to person.

What still remains in our control is our perception of a perfect body. If we constantly scrutinize our bodies and keep comparing them with the unrealistic, skewed beauty standards that media and our society feed into our minds, we will never ever be happy. The journey of loving your body is paved by a more conscious approach and built over time.

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A little introspection. Photo credit: Neena Majumdar

Experts stress upon finding the root cause of your current relationship with your body. Try to think about the first time you felt unattractive. What made you feel that way? Was it bullying in your school or casual comments on your physical appearance by your family members and relatives? Another exercise that helps with self-acceptance is drawing a side profile and a front profile of your body and marking the areas that you dislike. Next, mark the areas that you like in another color. Think about why you dislike or like these areas of your body. If we accept the way we are and appreciate what our body has done for us every single day of our life, we would feel grateful to live in this perfect vessel.

Another effective trick is making a list of instances when your body has supported you to push the limits. It can be cycling, dancing, jumping, running, playing a sport, catching a bus, pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. How did that make you feel about your body? Don't you feel your body is high-functioning and helps you in every way to make your life more joyful and fulfilling? This thought process can help you to realize the real worth of your resilient body. The fact that you are reading this post means your body has survived numerous external and internal challenges, including the Covid19 pandemic. So, let’s be grateful for that.

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Fitness is like true love and care for your body. Photo credit: Neena Majumdar

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The camera can look through your personality. Photo credit: Samyra M. Dasgupta

Decoupling the value of a person with their body type also improves our body image. Who are the people in your life who you really admire? I am sure, these people who have inspired you through their personalities and achievements belong to a variety of body types. When we engage in self-validation activities such as getting photographed, a good photographer tries to capture your unique personality and as a model, you are the sole storyteller of that personality. So, focusing on your physical features alone won’t do justice to your whole personality and who you are as a person.

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Spring portrait in Chicago. Photo credit: Neena Majumdar

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You are what you ingest. Photo credit: Neena Majumdar

When we accept our body, taking care of it comes intrinsically. The goal is not to reach a certain societal standard. The goal of self-care is to make sure we are strong enough to enjoy this life and contribute something meaningful to the world around us. That’s the whole purpose of having this body! Irrespective of body type, personal hygiene, regular exercise, eating healthy, and not treating food as a deterrent but fuel, are essential components of self-care. Some people even go to the extent of not having weighing machines and full-body mirrors at home. That might be a little extreme, but whatever measure works for you in reducing self-judgment and negative feedback loop, can be adopted for positive body image. Following people of different body types on social media also creates a more diverse feed for your subconscious brain when you scroll through. Unlearning to hate and learning to love your body is an undulating way but truly achievable.

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The last part of my pregnancy. Self portrait by Neena Majumdar

There have been times when I felt insecure about my body. I was seeing it through the eyes of critics. Other times, when I looked myself into the mirror, I was grateful for my body for what it has done for me. Every time I thought my body will fail me, it has emerged stronger than ever, especially during the whole motherhood phase. There is also a constant appreciation for certain parts of my body, which does not require any external validation whatsoever. Even though I sometimes fall prey to the body-insecurity-mindset loop, I have been trying hard to improve my relationship with my body over the years.

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All is well. Photo credit: Ronak Punjabi

This is my body image affirmation for now. You are welcome to read this aloud and make it yours:

I feel beautiful in my perfectly functional but ever-changing strong body with stretch marks, flab, bumps, moles, and all the so-called imperfections that make me unique.

If you don’t have a body image affirmation yet, I guess it’s time to write down and repeat it every morning while looking into the mirror.

I am thankful to one of my photography students who asked me to write on this topic. Reflecting on this issue has helped me and now I know exactly what to tell my gorgeous but self-critical models, every time they feel a little less attractive.

“Are you limiting yourself in any way because you think you don’t have the perfect body for it?

The more we challenge ourselves and push ourselves to go ahead, the better we feel about ourselves. So, dance your heart away! Wear that swimwear that you have been hesitating to wear! Buy that dress! Get that photoshoot that you have been procrastinating for ages! :D But most importantly, love thy body.”

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Love thy body. Photo credit: Neena Majumdar

I have been through so many different sizes in the last fifteen years. This is my journey from 2006 to 2022 (See below). On one hand, I know a lot of things are not in my control and I don't care. On the other hand, I have known more about my body and learned how to take care of it well. If I have too much fun once in a while, I accept the chaotic phase and welcome the next phase of taking care of my body and following an achievable fitness routine. I am confident of myself and I feel stronger than ever. Now, when someone comments on my little weight losses or gains, I just brush off their petty concerns and tell my body, "Hush my dear body, don't you hear them. Everything is fine!" :)

And here is to all the haters!

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