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Today’s Fabulous Friday Female is Taryn Brumfitt

Fabulous Friday Female Taryn Brumfitt Body Image MovementYou may have noticed lately that there’s been a bit of a running theme to our Fabulous Friday Females… from the Real Mannequins, to Sheila Kelley and the Dove Real Beauty Sketches

I feel so strongly that learning to love our bodies, to accept and appreciate them for what they are, to see their natural beauty is so important for all of us.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’ve had my own journey with this, from my seeing what I thought was there, rather than what was actually there, or not recognising my own beauty, to a naked photo shoot and and my experiences with public nudity

So when I saw the picture that today’s Fabulous Friday Female shared of herself online, the movement that she has begun and the responses that she has received…she instantly went to the top of my list of ladies to celebrate.

I could tell you about Taryn, her journey and her mission, but instead I’m going to share with you an excerpt from her blog, that captures the power of the journey she’s on:

I’m sitting on the couch thinking about my impending surgery (boob job and tummy tuck) and I am watching my daughter play on the ground in front of me when, BOOM, I have and epiphany

e·piph·a·ny – “a sudden, powerful, and often spiritual or life-changing realisation that a person experiences in an otherwise ordinary moment.”

  • How am I ever going to teach Mikaela to love her body as it is if her Mummy can’t do the same?
  • How am I ever going to encourage her to accept and love the parts of her body that she doesn’t like without being a walking contradiction?
  • If I go ahead with the surgery am I setting my daughter up for a future of body-hating and self-loathing?
  • In 10 years time when she becomes a teenager will she want to be like her Mummy and have beautifully manufactured breasts and a flat stomach?
  • Am I setting her up to chase an unrealistic goal of perfection?
  • Will she place more value on her looks than what she achieves in life because Mummy has placed so much emphasis on her own ‘beauty’?

I was presented with a fork in the road and I needed to choose which path I was going to take. The decision wasn’t easy. I could go ahead and get the surgery done. I would have the body that I wanted but at what cost to Mikaela’s future? Or I could put Mikaela’s needs before my own and not go ahead with the surgery.

I chose Mikaela.

So where did this leave me? Right back to where I had been, stuck in a body that I didn’t love with no hope of recovery. There was only one place left for me and that was rock bottom. Things got worse than they had ever been. I hated my body more than I ever had.

You are disgusting, fat and ugly. My dark passenger was back, this time with vengeance.

As I sat there in my dark place with my dark passenger keeping me company, a little thought popped into my head. What if…? What if I could live with my body the way it looks now and be happy? Is this even possible?

As I picked myself up off the ground and wiped my tears I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I looked deep into my eyes and I heard some words of encouragement. It was the old Taz, the Taz that I knew and loved, it was the positive, happy-go-lucky Taz. And she simply said,

” You can do this”.

Then Taryn took it a step further.  She shared an amazing before and after photo, one that began to inspire thousands of people to like and share:

FFF Taryn Brummitt

With it, was this message:

Here is my non traditional before and after photo. Traditionally when we see a “before” photo, the person is represented as sad, overweight and quite miserable. (sometimes even holding a newspaper!) Miraculously in the “after” photos once they have shed a few pounds they are blissfully happy, confident and self assured.

Have we become conditioned to thinking that we should only love our bodies when it’s in “perfect condition”?

I just wanted to share with you that I loved my body on the stage, prancing around in a bikini as much as I loved my body sitting butt naked in my girlfriends studio.

Our bodies will go through many changes in our life. Our bodies change through ageing, pregnancy, illness, weight loss, weight gain the list goes on. One thing we must learn to do is love our bodies before, during and after….

Be loyal to your body, love your body, it’s the only one you’ve got.

So today I would like to to join me in celebrating Taryn and the very brave and vulnerable work she is doing to help women all over the world to appreciate and love their bodies just the way they are….and I encourage you to like the Body Movement Image Movement Facebook Page, and to check out Taryn’s message on her site.

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As you know, I would love to acknowledge, honour and celebrate the women who have inspired you as well. So if there is someone that you believe should feature as a Fabulous Friday Female, then send me an email (claire@feminine1st.com) with 3 simple details:

  • Who is your Fabulous Friday Female? (Her name and location in the world)
  • Why is she a Fabulous Friday Female to YOU? (How do you know her? What does she do? In what way is she inspiring?)
  • A photo or link to a picture of her online (if there is a reason that you would prefer not to include a photo, just let me know)

So help me to share with all of our lovely ladies the real women who inspire YOU. …and remember, as always, to Stay Fabulous too! Claire x

Today’s Fabulous Friday Females are the Women from the Dove Real Beauty Sketches

FFF Dove real beauty sketchesDid you know that only 4% of women from around the world consider themselves beautiful?

If you’ve been with me for a little while now, you’ll know that women’s body image, and more importantly our perception of our own body image is something that is very close to my heart.

Some time ago I shared the spoof “Fotoshop by Adobe” video and the Dove Evolution videos to illustrate how important it is for us to embrace our innate realness, to celebrate who and what we are and to understand that the perceptions of beauty that are perpetuated by the media are at best warped and at worst dangerous.

So when I saw the latest offering from Dove, the Dove Real Beauty Sketches, I instantly fell in love with it…and felt a real admiration for the women who were brave enough to be a part of it.

The concept is simple. The message is powerful.

The Dove Real Beauty Sketches shows several women who walk into a room where a man is sat at a sketching table.

She is seated in a position where they are unable to see each other.

He asks her to describe herself as he translates her words into an image on the paper.

A short time later a different person comes in, someone who is a stranger to the woman being sketched, but who has spent a short amount of time with her.

This person then describes the same woman from their perspective.

The man is a forensic sketch artist who worked for the FBI taking people’s descriptions and creating a visual image that can be used to identify others.

We then get to see the two pictures being revealed to the women…one described by themselves, one described by a stranger who has spent a short time with them.

The contrast is amazing.

The impact it has on these women is beautiful.

We spend a lot of time as women analysing and trying to fix the things that aren’t quite ‘right’ and we should spend more time appreciating the things that we do like.

Our perception of our own beauty is so distorted, and these beautiful women have had the courage to be vulnerable – taking part in a video where they didn’t really know what was going to happen, and allowed that vulnerability to be shown to the world, to help other women to see the reality of their beauty…rather than the perception they have in their own minds.

I know I said this last week, but I hope every single woman gets to watch this video.

…and I would like to ask you a favour.

Please share this video with any women that you know. I guarantee she’ll see some of herself in it, from some point in her life.

The Stranger’s was a little more gentle

That’s pretty different….which is very strange. [Looking at her self-described image] She looks closed off and fatter, kind of shut down, sadder too. [Looking at her stranger-described image] The second one is more beautiful. She looks more open and friendly and….happy.

I’ve come a long way in how I see myself, but I think I still have some way to go…

So today I would like you to join me in celebrating Olivia, Florence, Kela and the other women from the Dove Real Beauty Sketches…and hope that they inspire you to realise that you’re more beautiful than you think…and to start to look at yourself with new eyes, the way the world sees you, in all of your natural beauty.

Chloe’s perception was so clearly different. Her picture looked like somebody I tought I would want to talk to and be friends with, like a happy light much younger much brighter person.

It’s troubling.

I should be more grateful of my natural beauty. It impacts the choices in the friends we make, the jobs we apply for, how we treat our children. It impacts everything. It couldn’t be more critical to your happiness.

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As you know, I would love to acknowledge, honour and celebrate the women who have inspired you as well. So if there is someone that you believe should feature as a Fabulous Friday Female, then send me an email (claire@feminine1st.com) with 3 simple details:

  • Who is your Fabulous Friday Female? (Her name and location in the world)
  • Why is she a Fabulous Friday Female to YOU? (How do you know her? What does she do? In what way is she inspiring?)
  • A photo or link to a picture of her online (if there is a reason that you would prefer not to include a photo, just let me know)

So help me to share with all of our lovely ladies the real women who inspire YOU. …and remember, as always, to Stay Fabulous too! Claire x

Today’s Fabulous Friday Female is Lizzie Velasquez

fabulous friday female lizzie velasquezThis week’s Fabulous Friday Female is Lizzie Velasquez.

Lizzie is a truly inspiring woman.  She was born without adipose tissue, which means that she has no body fat, so despite eating up to 60 small meals a day she weighs only 4.4 stone (28kg).

Add to this the fact that she’s blind in one eye and only partially sighted in the other.

Her condition is so rare that there are only 2 other known sufferers in the world, and the syndrome has yet to be diagnosed.

But rather than hide herself away from the world, Lizzie’s only desire in life is to inspire others to recognise the beauty they have by being themselves.  Lizzie does inspirational speaking and has authored two books “Be Beautiful, Be You” and “Lizzie Beautiful”…sharing her wisdom with others, helping them to recognise that beauty comes from the inside.

See Lizzie’s inspiring story here:

On her journey she has faced a lot of challenges, but she won’t let the stares of strangers or the cruel remarks of cyber bullies stop her fulfilling her life’s purpose of inspiring others.  At the end of last year Lizzie appeared on CNN to share in a beautifully vulnerable and real way how this affects her “Yes they do hurt, but their judgements of me isn’t who I am, and I’m not going to let those things define me” hearing her say “These people are going to keep talking about me, but I’m not going to let it hold me back” brought joy to my heart.

See her appearance on CNN here:

So today I would like you to join me in celebrating Lizzie, and the inspiration she’s spreading to others about what beauty is really all about.  She is such a gift…and if you ask me her beauty shines through like a bright beacon.

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart ~ Helen Keller

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As you know, I would love to acknowledge, honour and celebrate the women who have inspired you as well. So if there is someone that you believe should feature as a Fabulous Friday Female, then send me an email (claire@feminine1st.com) with 3 simple details:

  • Who is your Fabulous Friday Female? (Her name and location in the world)
  • Why is she a Fabulous Friday Female to YOU? (How do you know her? What does she do? In what way is she inspiring?)
  • A photo or link to a picture of her online (if there is a reason that you would prefer not to include a photo, just let me know)

So help me to share with all of our lovely ladies the real women who inspire YOU. …and remember, as always, to Stay Fabulous too! Claire x

Today’s Fabulous Friday Female is Jill Brzezinski-Conley

Fabulous Friday Female Jill Brzezinski-ConleyThis week’s Fabulous Friday Female is Jill Brzezinski-Conley.

Jill’s story is very touching, and given that she is only a couple of years older than me it’s one that really resonates with me.

This beautiful video tells a little of Jill’s story and her desire to inspire and help other women around the world who might be coping with conditions that have affected how their bodies look.

Here’s Jill’s story:

I was 32 when diagnosed with breast cancer & had a double mastectomy. My battle has been brutal but I see myself as survivor.  All I want is to help others.

Jill’s story has spread fast across the globe and she is overwhelmed by the support she’s received from so many. This site was created so  those who love Jill and are praying for her,  can share her journey, and for Jill to share with you, her story. It’s a place for Jill to help others. This remarkable young woman will change the way you live.

“I think the hardest time for me is the summer time. I  feel my self esteem kind of gets tested. I sit at the pool and I stare at these women who are so lucky to have these beautiful breasts that I once had and maybe I took them for gratide. Then I find myself snapping back into reality and I then look down at my breasts and I think why am I even complaining, I AM ALIVE!!!”

Jill Brzezinski-Conley was diagnosed with Stage IIIC invasive breast cancer one day before her 32nd birthday on July 15th 2009 – just 6 months after she married the man of her dreams. Her journey began with the most progressive form of treatment available. Contrary to what most people think, the younger you are, the more aggressive breast cancer can be. Jill’s treatment included 16 rounds of grueling chemotherapy, 31 rounds of radiation and 4 surgeries including a double mastectomy with additional surgery ahead. During her treatment she suffered a broken rib and endured serious complications after her reconstructive surgery. However her strength and determination proved pivotal, and after 2 years Jill was in remission and now considers herself a survivor.

Unfortunately 12 months later Jill found out she had developed bone cancer and at 35 years old, the prognosis is terminal. Through all of this, Jill has kept her wit, determination, and never ending smile, with no room for self pity, while frequently making jokes about her baldness, lack of eyebrows and eyelashes. Her sense of humor, courage, positive attitude and inner beauty is truly remarkable. Anyone who has ever met Jill will tell you that she leaves you with a lasting impression. The room lights up upon her arrival.

In September 2012, Jill’s best friend Nikki Closser reached out to world acclaimed portrait photographer Sue Bryce. Sue was so overwhelmed with Jill’s story and the message she wanted to share with the world, that she was instantly determined to help this beautiful girl spread that message. Sue arranged for Nikki and Jill to meet her in Paris where she would photograph Jill, capture her incredible beauty and help to tell her story to inspire others and educate the world about Breast Cancer. In Jill’s own words, to help women – even one woman. A fabulous documentary was filmed in Paris by Hailey Bartholomew and soon after Sue and Hailey had created The Light That Shines.

“There are two ways of spreading light. To be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it.” – Edith Wharton.

What’s beautiful to me is that this story has three fabulous females in it.  Jill, her friend Nikki and the wonderful photographer who helped her to share her story, Sue Bryce.

So today I would like you to join me in acknowledging and celebrating Jill’s inspirational story, the sisterhood and support of her friend Nikki and the generosity of Sue to help to share this incredible woman’s message with the world.  

“Beauty is the light in the heart”…it’s important for every woman to know that light exists within her own heart (regardless of any scars on the inside or outside), and to let it shine for all to see.

To help and support Jill on her journey, you can connect with her here: https://www.facebook.com/JillBrzezinskiConleyBreastFriends or http://jillfightscancer.com/

 

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As you know, I would love to acknowledge, honour and celebrate the women who have inspired you as well. So if there is someone that you believe should feature as a Fabulous Friday Female, then send me an email (claire@feminine1st.com) with 3 simple details:

  • Who is your Fabulous Friday Female? (Her name and location in the world)
  • Why is she a Fabulous Friday Female to YOU? (How do you know her? What does she do? In what way is she inspiring?)
  • A photo or link to a picture of her online (if there is a reason that you would prefer not to include a photo, just let me know)

So help me to share with all of our lovely ladies the real women who inspire YOU.

…and remember, as always, to Stay Fabulous too!

Claire x

 

Do you recognise your own beauty? I didn’t…

Mirror Mirror

Mirror Mirror...

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

When you see photographs of yourself, what do you notice?

Do you see yourself as you are?

Or do you see what you believe is there?

The reason that I’m asking this is that for many many years I didn’t see what was there.

I saw what I thought was there.

You see, when I was much younger I got some very fixed ideas about my appearance.

At school I wasn’t one of the popular girls.  I didn’t get into makeup and hair very early on, and I certainly wasn’t obsessed with it as some of the people I went to school with were (the curse of an all-girls school I guess!)

I wasn’t one of the ‘popular crowd’, I wasn’t one of the girls that the boys were interested in or asked out…in fact I don’t think that many of them even noticed me.

Combine these facts with my grandmother’s insistence on describing one of my closest friends as ‘Claire’s Pretty Friend’ (…as opposed to…?) and my perception of my own personal appearance wasn’t very high.

…and, being perfectly honest, this perception stuck with me for a long time.

Even when boyfriends described me as ‘beautiful’ or ‘gorgeous’ I would often rationalise it by thinking that they were the exception to the rule, that they were talking about who I was on the inside or that they were saying that because ‘that’s what boyfriends are supposed to say’!

I spent years battling to be ‘skinnier’ than I was, trying diet after diet….I even tried the awful atkins and slimfast options at various points..  One word…yuk.

Taking on my ‘one of the boys’ mentality meant that I hid my body behind jeans and baggy jumpers for the most part.  I remember one ex boyfriend even commenting how surprised he was the first time he saw me in a dress…not just because I was wearing a dress, but he couldn’t believe how slim I was because he assumed my baggy tops were covering more weight than they were.

Over time I became more comfortable with how I looked, but I never saw myself as particularly attractive, and I certainly wouldn’t have used the word ‘beautiful’ to describe myself.

Over the last few years though, something shifted.

I started noticing some of the comments I was receiving…and how many positive remarks I was getting about my appearance.

Tweet from NelsonA random tweet from a friend I’d not seen in years introducing me to his followers as “One of the most beautiful woman I have ever met” really surprised me.

I have received so many lovely and humbling comments about photos that I’ve shared on Facebook and videos that I’ve shared…it got to the point that I couldn’t ignore what was being said to me anymore.

One day I realised that I wasn’t seeing myself as I was, or how anyone else was seeing me.  I was seeing myself as the plain, unpopular teenager who didn’t feel pretty next to her attractive friends.

…and I wasn’t the only one.

The mirror liesSo many women see something different to what’s really there.

Several years ago one of my favourite TV shows was called “How to look good naked”.  In it, the fabulous Gok Wan would take women who hated their bodies through a process to reconnect them with the beauty of their gorgeous real figures.

Part of the process was the “Gok Shock”, displaying images of their body somewhere agonisingly public and have people from the street comment on what they could see.

This video of the lovely Angela shows how drastically different a person’s perception of themselves can be from what other people see…she even manages to pick up a date along the way!

Another part of the process was to get the lady in question to do a line up with other women, looking at a particular area of her body that she disliked.  Gok would line up the other women from smallest to largest (of the body part in question) and then get her to position herself at the point in the line where she believed that she belonged.

Every time without exception the women would place themselves in the wrong place…always seeing themselves as larger than they actually were.  This video of the lovely Cindy shows that her perception of her tummy meant that she was walking around with an extra 2.5” of imagined weight on her waistline.

It’s no wonder with the bombardment of ‘perfect’ women in the media that we question our own appearance at times, but we need to see it for what it is…an illusion.  Almost every image we see is doctored, tweaked…or changed completely…it’s not real.

After all, in real life each and every one of us is perfectly imperfect…and that’s beautiful.

Love your reflectionSo I would like to invite you to take a good look in the mirror today, to release any past perceptions that you might have had…and to see yourself for the beautiful woman that you are.

Because it’s about time that we all recognise our own beauty…and start to celebrate it!

So smile, find three things that you love about your appearance and say them out loud….you deserve the compliments! 🙂

Stay Fabulous!

Claire x

Battling the effects of cancer on femininity…

Hey ladies,

I wanted to share a link with you – http://clicky.me/6kmV – I saw it a couple of weeks ago and thought it was absolutely fantastic.  The story is about an organisation based initially in the US which has now also extended all over the world called “Look Good, Feel Better” who hold free skincare and make-up workshops to help women combat the visible side effects of cancer treatment and, in turn, boost confidence and well being.

Look Good Feel Better LogoHaving known several people who have faced or are currently dealing with cancer, I’m sure that when anyone is diagnosed, their initial thoughts aren’t focused on their femininity.  The article however, points out that the effect that both the disease and the treatment have on how you view yourself as a woman can be devastating.  One of the ladies interviewed says “The treatment can make an attack on your femininity, even if the effects are not as visible as others. It can feel like a very serious change to how you view yourself.”

The idea is that by offering beauty makeovers to the patients it can help them rediscover their femininity.  The ladies who attend the sessions see them as a way of rediscovering their feminine identities and counteracting the physical effects of the disease as well as getting to meet and get support from others who are going through the same experience as they are.

Debbie Blackwell, charity coordinator says “When they look in the mirror, they no longer see the cancer, but how they should look…It is lovely to see them smile again.”

I cannot imagine when facing so much physical, mental and emotional turmoil what it must be like to feel that you’ve lost such a fundamental part of your identity as well, and I think that the organisers at “Look Good, Feel Better” are doing an amazing job.  To help someone to give themselves back the gift of femininity is a wonderful thing, and I’m delighted to know that there are organisations like this out there helping women in one of the most difficult periods of their lives.

Look Good, Feel Better is offered in the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Equador, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay and have programmes for women, men and teens.  They are always looking for help through donations, sponsorship and volunteers so if you’d like to get involved visit http://lookgoodfeelbetter.org/programs/international-programs to find your local team.

I personally think that this is an incredible initiative and I will be getting in touch with the UK branch to see what I can do to help and support them in their mission, which is so close to my heart.

The question is, what can you do?

Stay Fabulous!

Claire x