Taking photos of yourself can be a powerful tool. Seeing yourself through the lens of an outsider can put things in perspective and make you realize that the parts you’ve been afraid of showing aren’t so scary after all. In celebration of Dia Army, we’re sharing stories of women who represent Dia Army’s mission of loving every inch unconditionally. For Emily, that meant scrolling through unapologetic photos of fat women—and even adding her own into the mix. This is Emily’s story.
I love talking and writing about my body. Is that weird? If so, I don’t want to be normal. The more we talk about the awesome things we love about our bodies, the more we start to love the things we maybe didn’t before. Let’s be honest—we all have our “things.” I hear it every day. So how do we begin to love those parts of ourselves?
It hit me like a ton of bricks when I was about 28 that I didn’t have one plus-size friend. Not one. There was never a person in my life I could relate to and talk about things with—all I was surrounded with were skinny friends who were also taught to hate their bodies. If they were fat or ugly or bloated, what was I? I was absolutely ashamed of every inch of my body. And then Instagram happened.
All day we talk about not comparing ourselves to people on the internet, but I want to highlight the huge benefits I’ve experienced because of it. I could not have gotten to where I am without the women who put in the work before me. Kellie Brown and Callie Thorpe have both been huge inspirations to me. I’ve never been one to dress super feminine—to see these women step out, rock their bods, and dress super trendy and cool made me excited to express myself more.
I was finally, as a full-grown woman, seeing people who looked like me living! Experiencing the joys in life! In love! And slowly, without even noticing it, my life changed. It’s as simple as that. I was given permission to love myself by seeing other people love themselves.
With every scroll, pieces of me that had been shredded were being put back together. Every photo of a fat girl existing without apology walks with me wherever I go. None of the lessons I learned were self-taught. I have had a full, university-level education from all the experts I’ve filled my Instagram feed with.
Even with social media, it hasn’t all been easy. About a year ago, when I was feeling exceptionally proud of all the work I had done to start loving myself, I bought my first bikini. I was pumped. It finally came in the mail and I pretty much shredded the packaging to get at it. Once I put it on, I couldn’t have been happier. I loved it! And then I turned around and saw my back—I saw the strap cut right above my back rolls so that everything was out in the open. You know that first big drop of a rollercoaster? That’s what happened to my confidence in that exact moment. All because of a couple of rolls on my back.
Looking back now, I want to shake myself and yell, “It’s just a back! We all have them!” But it was a good reminder that it takes time—and certain parts of your body will be harder. Or, if you’re like me, you’ll take all the hatred you felt toward your whole body and direct it to one small section of your back. I needed to have that moment. I needed to have a reality check with myself and realize that there was still work to be done. So when you catch yourself being a butthead to certain parts of your body, take that as a learning opportunity. Address those feelings and figure out what needs to be done to tackle that next hurdle.
After hating my back rolls for so long, I knew I had to give them time to shine. So when I was approached about doing a boudoir photo shoot, I jumped at the chance. I put together a list of shots I wanted to get at the shoot and at the top of my list was a back shot. I knew I was about to spend an hour dancing around in my underwear, celebrating my body, and I had to give my back rolls the time and attention they deserve.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous to get those photos back. Nervous that as soon as I saw them, I would immediately spiral again. I was in my car when I received the email that the photos were ready. I parked, opened them, and immediately scrolled to the photo of my back. I wept. I had a full-blown sob session while parked on the side of the road in downtown Minneapolis. How could I have ever hated something that photographed so beautifully? What was the point? They are there and they are beautiful and they are mine. This perfectly good body is mine.
Loving your body, head to toe, should be easy. It should be easy to look in the mirror and not hate what you see. But if you’re reading this, you know that’s not true. You know every day that something or someone somewhere is going to tell you that you need to change. Or “fix” something about your body. I’m here to tell you that you don’t. All the confidence you admire about other people you already have inside yourself. You just have to let it out. Take it from someone who never ever thought that I would be posting pictures of myself in bikinis on the internet—I didn’t have to become a different person to be able to love myself. I just had to finally give myself permission to let the new Emily out. Rolls and all.
Plus-Size Fashion Lover & Fat-Positive Blogger