Have you ever looked at your child, partner, or friend and been filled with love because you could see both their inner and their external beauty? When was the last time you looked at yourself and felt that same way? If you are anything like most women, you dread having your picture taken and the conversation you most often have with yourself is in regard to your shortcomings. What would it be like to see yourself as those you love see you? To fall in love with yourself exactly as you are – not as you think you should be.
Join Lora and Julie Ulstrup, boudoir photographer and TedX speaker, as they deconstruct what it’s like to see and be seen.
BONUS BELOW! Enjoy an excerpt from Lora’s book, FLAUNT! Drop Your Cover and Reveal Your Smart, Sexy & Spiritual Self, detailing her boudoir experience!
- The power of being seen as you are, not as you think you should be.
- The importance of loving yourself, and how it launches you into your greatness.
- How venturing into that greatness (especially if you are a little bit frightened or intimidated) yields big magic!
- Why taking a few deep breaths before any photographs of you are taken makes you look so much better.
One day, in my weekly boot-camp class, a woman mentioned that her daughter had taken a pole-dancing class. Everybody giggled and Oh-myed, but the words pole-dancing class reminded me of the wild abandon that I felt as a little girl twirling on the bars at recess. I remembered the power and satisfaction I felt pushing myself to learn new tricks, and I suddenly longed to be that girl again, instead of just Mom, who always played it safe and knew exactly what to do.
The women continued to giggle about pole dancing. I smiled and laughed, too, but it was only to keep from crying. I don’t think I’m unique in feeling nostalgic or being somewhat saddened by the letdown of adult life. We all have times when we put too many expectations on a single moment, and we end up disappointed. My life was pretty darned good. I had mastered my suburban mom role perfectly, and I thought that adequately fulfilling the roles of lawyer, wife, business owner, fitness instructor, and friend “should” be enough. But it wasn’t. I had never considered Lora to be a role that also needed filling, so I lived my life feeling more like the manager of it than a participant in it.
Finishing class, I came home to tackle my backlog of emails. As I clicked away, a picture caught my eye. It was a tasteful-yet-somewhat-sexy picture of a woman about my age. It was an advertisement for a boudoir photo shoot done by a team of women. I had never heard of anything like this before! Curious and hoping to find out more, I clicked the “buy now” link. “Thank you for your order” popped up. My credit-card information had been stored from my last purchase!
What an expensive and stupid error! If you have ever made an impulse buy or spent way too much money and regretted it the next day, you know exactly how sick I felt. I had just spent ninety-nine dollars on something pointless and embarrassing. What was I ever going to do with a sexy picture of myself ? And who was I kidding? I was not sexy! I called the studio in an attempt to cancel, and unable to do so, I decided to schedule the shoot quickly so I could put this whole ordeal behind me.
The day of my shoot, I packed the kids off to school, shoved some lingerie and heels in my gym bag, and traipsed through the snow in my sweats and boots to my appointment. Feeling stiff, awkward, and stupid, I allowed the photographer to help me pose, as she explained which angles were good for my body. Before long, we were laughing it up, and I was having a ton of fun! It felt good to do something so outside my comfort zone that was strictly for me.
Two weeks later, the day of reckoning arrived. It was time to go see the actual pictures, which I really didn’t want to do. I knew that there was going to be a huge gap between the way I thought I looked and the way I actually looked, and I didn’t want my fun memory of the day of the shoot to be destroyed by reality.
Arriving at the studio, I was ushered into a private viewing room with a plush couch and a flat-screen TV. They handed me a glass of sparkling lemon water and dimmed the lights, and on the screen in front of me appeared a gorgeous, artistic black-and-white photograph of a woman.
While I loved everything about the picture, I was disappointed that I couldn’t just see my own photos and get back home.
But something was so familiar about the photo that I looked again. The lingerie was strikingly similar to one of the outfits I had chosen, except mine wasn’t that sheer because it had been a different color. Her shoes resembled mine, too, except . . .
The realization was staggering. The outfit was similar to mine because it was mine. Those were my shoes because it was me in the picture. Me. I was the beautiful woman, and I couldn’t figure out how that could be. Not only did I select a picture that I was happy with, but I bought the whole CD of images as well!
The simple act of seeing myself in pictures, from a totally different perspective, made me realize how much I had dimmed my own sparkle and light in order to fit in and muscle my way through life. How could I have looked into mirrors every day and not seen my own inner beauty, my own soul’s light? For some reason, those pictures reminded me of who I really am and empowered me to make myself a priority in my own life, to put myself back on my never-ending to-do list.
Which meant having the courage to purchase the three pole-dancing-classes-for-the-price-of-one coupon that I happened upon shortly thereafter, and confidently driving out of the suburbs and to the urban-chic studio for my first class.
After parallel parking the minivan, I grabbed my dance bag and hopped out, just in time to spot a young and beautiful woman in booty shorts, carrying a pair of platform stripper shoes, slip into the studio. I don’t know how seeing that might make you feel, but my heart sank. This was not what I had in mind at all. The urge to flee was so intense that I consciously rooted my feet to the ground to avoid running. Who did I think I was? Visions of Cougar Barbie danced in my head.
While I didn’t want to subject myself to the embarrassment of being the “frumpy mom” in a pole class designed for the young, strong, and beautiful, I was painfully aware that if I left now, I might never have the courage to stretch myself again. I took a deep breath and walked toward the door.
There were women of all different ages and all different body types milling around and getting ready for class. Although many of them wore outfits that left their cellulite and muffin tops clearly visible, nobody acted self-conscious in the least. Except me. I was used to hiding my flaws, and here was a whole room full of women wearing short shorts and bra tops, accepting their bodies exactly as they were, while I stood awkwardly by in my hundred-dollar tummy-control yoga pants.
Class started, and I couldn’t take my eyes off the instructor. You have probably heard the adage “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” It’s very true! Although I was initially shocked by how unperfect her body was, ten minutes in, I was utterly captivated by her confidence and lighthearted sex appeal, and I thought she was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen.
In the fitness classes I take or teach, I am used to hearing about the things women don’t like about their bodies, things they want to change. It was completely different in pole class. The women there were wild, beautiful, and free in their dancing. They weren’t covering their flaws or waiting until they lost ten pounds before they wore what they wanted, and they were stunningly beautiful in their imperfection. I saw how my desire to be perfect had sometimes limited me, keeping me from the enjoyment and happiness I craved.
I was ready to let that go and to join these women in the wild, beautiful, and free dance they were sharing. My tribe was here. They had been here all along. I was the one who had left them in my quest for the next best thing. I closed my eyes in gratitude and let my soul dance my body.
This is how I found my fetish. I was finally home, and I was never going to leave again!
Excerpted from the book FLAUNT! Copyright ©2019 by Lora Cheadle.
Printed with permission from New World Library —