Rachel – USA

“Be big.”

That’s something I said to a close friend recently, who weighs just under 100 pounds, and who struggles with worrying that if she eats too much, she will become unattractive.

“Be big” is some advice that I could listen to myself.

Life is in the little details. All of them. Not just the positive, empowering details of our best moments when we feel full and confident, but in the ones that remind us how fragile we are. I have discovered that true empowerment for me comes from acknowledging the moments of doubt, the insecurities, the raw vulnerability, and from sharing them. Ninety-five percent of the time, I am a bold, self-confident whirlwind of a woman, but lately it is my brief moments of fear that have brought me closer to who I want to be. So rather than write about how empowered and explosive and strong and brave I felt swinging through the crisp autumn air and flinging myself off this rope swing into frigid water, I want to talk about the vulnerability that inspired me to act.

I am afraid of being too big. I’m scared of being too heavy. I’m terrified of being more than someone wants. My insecure moments descend on me when the weight of little words builds up, before I remember to throw up defenses. Passing comments of “wow, you’re tall for a woman,” or “can I try this acrobatic move with your smaller friend first?” or “I usually couldn’t do aerials with someone as big as you, but I’m glad this dance gives us momentum to do it!”…These often unintentional words seep their way into my normally resilient skin, because, after all, no human is perfectly waterproof.

I often catch myself slouching so that I’ll appear just a couple inches shorter.

Women are taught to take up as little space as possible. We celebrate our gorgeous curves and tell ourselves that real women have some meat, yet every time I sit on someone’s lap, I’m terrified that I’m too much. “Please, ladies, have a bodacious, womanly figure, but just try to keep it under 115 pounds…”

I am not petite. That’s taken me many years to accept.

So let this photo shoot be about sharing my vulnerability rather than insisting on my confidence, because just as we need to see the joy and possibility of empowerment, showing our fears is infinitely harder.

Through this photo I want to share with you…

my instinct to physically shrink and appear small “enough”

my fear of heights,

my terror that admitting my insecurities will make me seem weak and unattractive

my doubt of my physical strength,

my reluctance to stretch up and out and fill space

my worry that I am simultaneously not enough and too much

I am a beautiful, capable woman, and let me emphasize how big and strong my heart and body are by sharing with you that…

I am vulnerable.