This is an excerpt from the I Am Project. Each woman is photographed nude and asked to author her own personal statement starting with “I am…“ and followed by one word that inspires her positively. For example, “I am courageous“. She is also asked to explain her statement and talk about how this project empowers her and why she wanted to be a part of it.
I am happy
(age 36 – Indiana)
This is a powerful statement for me. I-am-happy. I was trained to think that I suck and that my body is horrific. Even when I fit the “beauty” mold when I was young, I still didn’t think it was ok. I realized in college that it was a big problem and it was taking over my life. I needed to decide for myself what pretty was, or valuable, or what happy was. I’m relearning how to be… how to live. I’ve decided that it’s a choice. I am happy.
It is sad that happy is connected to how you look for so many women. I am happy even though I have cellulite or “too much” fat on my body. I’m slowly retraining myself to think differently. I don’t think I’m training myself into something that’s not true, I’m training myself out of something that’s insane. It is insane to think about yourself that way. The way that women in this country feel about their appearance is psycho. It’s not only crazy to think about ourselves like that, it’s sad. In the extreme it ruins peoples lives and smaller ways it hinders peoples lives. It hinders their happiness and their relationships.
My mom has been one of my biggest critics about my body and my appearance my whole life. She is so brainwashed, so bought-in-to that, “you have to be a size two and have liposuction and airbrushing to be naked in front of anybody” mentality. The more people can see real bodies the more it will become normal. I want to do what ever I can to contribute to how women actually look becoming the normal. Not the crazy fake thing that we see all the time in the media.
I think this project has changed me. During the whole process I got over a big hump that I’ve been stuck on since I was seventeen. How tragic is that? I spent a good portion of twenty years trying to like myself… trying to like my body.
I want women to struggle less with these issues. To not care so much how they look and to just be able to be free human beings. To be able to enjoy their bodies and what it can do for them, and provide for them. Instead of objectifying their bodies and thinking of it as something to perfect for somebody else, or for some ideal that can’t be attained.
I want girls to be free from this! Think about what we could do if we could have the thousands of hours back that we spend worrying about how we look, crying about how we look, trying to make ourselves look different. It’s such a waste. It’s like it’s stealing women’s life-energy. It’s like a conspiracy to un-empower us… to paralyze us.
I just want us to like ourselves. Just enjoy what you have been given. Enjoy being alive. Live! Be happy!