When you think of the words "selfie" and "self-portrait," most of you may think of a very confident woman posting a photo of herself on social media. For me, my self-portraits are my journey towards becoming that woman who radiates confidence and strength.
Throughout middle school and high school, I wasn't considered to be "pretty." I wasn't the typical makeup-and-perfect-hair girl you'd see in a movie. I was called names and ridiculed for countless things, like being a quiet girl or wearing no name brand clothing and shoes. I only had one or two friends until my sophomore year of high school and even when I had made more friends, I was still never very confident. In the span of one year (from the middle of freshman year to the middle of sophomore year), I went from no makeup to wearing a face full of concealer and thick eyeliner. In my mind, makeup equaled instant beauty and I hadn't even realized that I was trying to look like somebody other than myself.
During my senior year, I hit rock bottom. My sister passed away from a life-long battle with Muscular Dystrophy then six months later, my best friend committed suicide. At this point, I stopped loving myself -- I stopped caring about school and my future and had become deeply depressed. Losing a loved one is hard, but losing two in such a short period of time really destroyed me. I felt worthless, toxic, ugly and every other negative trait you could think of.
I have been taking photos of people and things since I was in the 7th grade. I would strive to make the world see how beautiful it is but for a while, I stopped seeing things that way.
I had to pick myself back up. I had to become me again.
When working on confidence, you have to start from the inside. I had to throw away these insecurities and tell myself, "I did all I could to help my sister and my best friend." I had to stop blaming myself for their deaths because it wasn't my fault. They know I love them deeply, so I needed to focus on the good things I had done with them. I had to focus on how they made me happy, and how I made them happy as well.
In doing this, I came to a new realization: Beauty isn't skin deep.
The ability to let your inner beauty emanate through every inch of your body is beauty. I realized that I'm beautiful inside. I'm somebody who can't go a day without giving compliments or telling someone they look amazing. I live to help people even if it's just holding open a door or taking a photo of them that makes them feel like they're a model. I have the ability to make any friend smile; even at their hardest moment.
It wasn't until I was about 20 years old that I stopped being so hard on myself about my appearance. I took a long look in the mirror and instead of pointing out what was wrong with me, I noticed the good things that were overlooked. My big eyes. My high cheekbones. My square jawline. The large bump on my nose. My crooked smile. They were all my little quirks. They made me, me.
In my self-portraits, I try to capture my inner beauty. I try to just let go of the insecurities and doubts. Every day, I am becoming more and more confident in myself, as a photographer, a model, an aunt, a godmother, a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend, a friend, a role model, an artist, and as a human being.
I see the world through a lens -- it's what I was born to do. In order to truly see the world in all of it's beauty, I had to understand that I'm part of the world. I matter... And if the world is beautiful, so am I.
One important thing to remember, if you ever find yourself feeling that you're not beautiful, is that the world is a beautiful place and you contribute to that. Always.