I am Brave. I am Fabulous. I am Beautiful!

I am BRAVE. I am FABULOUS. And yes, I am also BEAUTIFUL! Not words y’all normally hear me say… about myself. These are not shallow or egotistical words… they are words of self-acceptance & self-love and words, particularly as women we should all be saying to ourselves no matter who we are, what we look like or what we are dealing with in our lives. We all have these aspects among many other positive qualities within ourselves!

I came out to the Clickin Moms ClickAway photography conference this past week planning to learn about, well – the usual photography stuff & in this case, yes a lot from a busy mom’s perspective; finally get to meet some of my online friends in person & make new ones; and of course, get to hear the amazingly talented Sue Bryce speak in person. It’s a trip I booked way back in January & have been looking forward to ALL year! What I didn’t know is that way, oh so WAY far above & beyond those things… my trip would turn into the most deeply self-reflective life lessons that I’d not at all expected. Through Sue’s classes, I was also reminded of something I’ve believed very strongly in for a long time… and that is the power of sharing your truth’s & opening ones self up, so others that might be going through something similar may know they are not alone! Not whining or being negative or looking for pity or praise but to simply share the real life reality that is yours and allow others the opportunity to go “wow! I’m not alone! SHE gets it too!”.

I’ve always wanted this blog portion of my site to be more than just session sharing, but many different things. Time realities of life with kids, however, have kept this fairly minimal, few & far between 😉 . So… on my last day here in Salt Lake City by myself, I’m going to take this opportunity to pay it forward and share some of my learnings & personal self-reflections from this week with any of y’all that would like to read it (it’s gonna be long – it’s just how it is & how it’s gonna stay 😉 )…

Elizabeth Gilbert (author “Eat, Pray, Love”) giving a powerful keynote address!

The very beginning of the conference blew my mind with a keynote by Elizabeth Gilbert (author of “Eat, Pray, Love”)… who, by the way is the most mesmerizing speaker! She talked to us about allowing ourselves the power, right & entitlement to be creative and live a creative life. To know that this is how we were made, it is our gift and we should embrace it. To know what it is we truly love doing and to let go of the things we don’t. To not live in fear of not being good enough, not doing what others might expect of us or the potential for failure. There will be judgment & expectations & yes, plenty of failure. It is how we handle these and continue beyond them that will make us stronger. Even accepting the reality of fear in our lives & the place that it holds. That it is okay for it to be there but that we & our creativity should be in charge of making decisions, NOT our fears… fear can have a voice & it can come along for the ride of your life, but it has to ride in the backseat & doesn’t get a vote (something along those lines 😉 ).

And then… Elizabeth got to perfectionism! She described it as nothing more than fear camouflaged in haute couture clothing & even sees it as self-abusive behavior! Yeah… WOW! It was like a huge slap square on in the face… she’s actually quite so very right. I will say, my perfectionist issues drive my hubby so nuts that he may actually print that up & frame it. In like every.single.room in our house! 😉 I drive myself crazy sometimes simply trying to keep up with my own expectations enough – often not even getting to come close because there’s just so much, which then ends up feeling like failure. Failure at every turn. I don’t judge or think badly of others who aren’t overachieving perfectionists (well, ok… I do struggle with honest to goodness slackers, I do – really don’t have any patience for it or understanding of it). So why do I put this on myself & in so many areas of my life that it wouldn’t be humanly possible for anyone to be able to accomplish?! I am aware of myself enough to know that a lot of my perfectionism issues came from working through years of emotional struggles after a traumatic experience in my college years. Finding my perfectionism/OCD-like place allowed me to have some power & protectiveness to the things that I can control and in that sense, for me… it allowed me to heal from something much worse than perfectionism. It had never ever occurred to me until hearing this talk that it was also self-abusive or another form of fear. While I get it & see it to be true… it’s gonna take this girl some time to process that view of what I know to be my security blanket!

Um… yeah… At this point, it’s only ~10am on Day 1!

The beautiful & amazingly talented, Sue Bryce in person

As I mentioned above, one of my main goals for this trip was to hear Sue Bryce speak in person. And… she was my very next class! I’ve only done one of her workshops to date, however, it was extremely influential on my career (see last summer’s blog HERE) & has stood out above all other trainings I’ve done so far. As such, I’ve admired, respected, looked up to & been quite thankful for her ever since. As anyone here will tell you – just being in her class was quite the experience in itself!! THEN, she asked for volunteer models… of a few different real woman body types. To come up so that she could demonstrate how to pose them in the most flattering & beautiful way that they should be posed. I guess I was on an anti-fear high, I don’t know… but something came over me when she asked for a curvy girl – I set my stuff down & got up there so fast it wasn’t even funny! I think you all know what a big girl I am, if you don’t – I am 6’1” & over 300lbs (yes, I said my weight – y’all have eyes, you can see it)… and as such am rather insecure in myself, especially my appearance. I can be rather outgoing in 1:1 or even in a small group if I know/trust you… I don’t do things like speak or stand in front of many people or do anything in public that takes me out of my comfortable little wallflower spot. I just simply don’t. I watch others do those things & long to be like them. But… this time, I did… me! I got up on a stage & as an example of curvy bodies no less… exactly the thing I’m most insecure & pained by!

I then looked out to realize there were a couple hundred ladies in front of me! Looking at me, moving forward, sitting in aisles to get closer views, cameras/phones/iPads out facing the stage! Oh $*@&%… What did I just do?!?!!

What did I do? I allowed the opportunity to truly grab this amazing experience & my desire to learn as 1st hand as it gets to be more important to me than my insecurities & fears. More important than allowing myself to miss out because I’m too embarrassed of what everyone else can already see with their own two eyes anyway.

For the most part, as I calmed the shaking nerves inside myself, I got into a nice little zone & simply experienced. I followed Sue’s directions & though we were only demonstrating (no real camera or anything) and even with the reality always right there that I was the ‘curvy’ example… I actually started to feel like a beautiful model in those moments. I felt strong & fabulous & so, so very proud of myself!! I modeled for Sue Bryce! ME! I was BRAVE regardless of what I’m currently dealing with & stood up there! As Sue later put it to me, “for every woman that hates her self, hates being photographed and said HATE doesn’t control me”. Apparently I hadn’t sent my comfort zone into shock enough – I even accepted their request to do it again later, to be filmed & shared with others online and after the conference! Yup… it’s out there in video form somewhere!!

Afterwards, I called my hubby & cried tears of overwhelming positive growth & learning. I couldn’t hardly even get out the words of how I was feeling! He was most certainly shocked & surprised (& I think quite pleased) that I would do such a thing. I even had numerous women coming up to me throughout the rest of the weekend – in the hallways, in the elevator, in the restaurant… recognizing me & asking what it was like and all being so very kind telling me how great I did. Being the me that I am & just HAVING to hold onto visual memories… I started asking some of these women if they might have taken some pics & if so, if they’d be kind enough to send them to me. What I hadn’t thought through, was that the braveness it took to jump up on that stage in front of everyone… was a different level of brave than what it would take to look at the pics of me doing so & to be okay with them. And yeah… I was sooo NOT there!!

Thanks to the ladies who took/shared these pics… despite my initial struggle, I am thankful for them!!

I had this wonderful, beautiful, rare & empowering experience that I was on top of the world from. And then, I saw pictures of ME in that moment. My chest sunk, I felt sick & I was devastated. What was I thinking & OMG – is that REALLY what I look like?! It’s certainly not who I saw when I looked in the mirror getting ready that morning. Of course, I know what I look like… but I also don’t. If you get that, you know exactly what I’m saying. If you don’t – simply consider yourself lucky 😉 . And it’s not like I don’t have any pics of myself… I have a selfie from my 40th, 2 portraits that I’ve had Ken take of me for my website bio, my BL application pics and a small handful of pics of me with the kids. I absolutely hate pics of myself, but I do actually get the importance of my kids having them. So I do… BUT… always within my control (usually involving a gazillion redo’s). For me, in these images that I started to see of my shiny happy proud moment… I looked weird & awkward & oh so very huge!! It was like looking at a completely different person 🙁 .

I came back to my room, called my hubby again and just started sobbing & sobbing tears of pain this time (yes, I know… poor Jen’s hubby!). A floodgate was opened for feelings that I generally have shoved deep down inside but don’t generally let out (much like being conscious of what I really look like – if I walked around with these feelings all the time, I wouldn’t be able to function in life). I wondered how people look at me normally & treat me just as normal as them. I wondered how my amazing Sr girls that I photograph talk to me like I’m so normal and some even seem to look up to me in ways… instead of giggling & making fun of me & saying ‘heck no, I’m not going to represent HER‘. I wondered how my husband stays with me & loves me & has any desire for me. To me, I look so extremely different, like the kind of person people would shy away from because they must have a weird/different personality to go with it. And I will say that I do get a lot of “Oh, you’re a photographer? Sure you are … wink wink” from people that don’t know me (then they see my work & it shut’s them up 😀 ). But other than those strangers who shouldn’t matter anyway… most everyone else treats me just as normal as them. Their heads don’t quirk to the side when talking to me, they don’t squish up their face in “eww” when looking at me, they don’t seem to be glaring me up & down wondering how on earth I walk around with all this weight. They somehow just treat me like them. Just a human being too – good qualities, bad qualities & all sorts in between.

My 1st pic with Sue… Cropped in & Instagram filtered up! Holding to the commitment I made to myself to post more & share this experience (yet, still controlling it)

What I learned from Sue’s sharing of her own past truths & also in conversations with her since… is that it is my own horribly mean hurtful voices of self-hate that is seeing & judging me in these cruel hurtful ways. Apparently others don’t see me like this… goodness knows, even if they did… they certainly can’t be any meaner to me than I am to myself. Others don’t even seem to care that I’m this big or have this goobery big front teeth gappy smile or that my hair lives in the land of frizz. Just me. I don’t judge or see other people the way I’m assuming they are seeing me… so why do I think they are doing it to me? My husband even admitted that for him, it’s not at all about my weight or anything else – the only thing that has ever bothered him about my weight is concern for my health (& I completely agree with that) – otherwise, it simply comes down to one thing: CONFIDENCE (to which, I laughed & said “WOW! I must be looking pretty damn ugly right now then, huh?!”).

There have been a lot of things in my life that have brought me to this point, with my weight in particular, and very recently even a deep personal situation outside of my control that put me in such a bad place that I gained 12lbs just last month alone (yes, twelve – I KNOW!! If my dear Kyle, Jen or Cathy are reading this – please don’t fall over!). I most definitely gain/keep weight with stress/pain. So, to say that I’m a bit raw & wide open for sensitivity around it at the moment would be an understatement. The far past or even most recent events aren’t necessary to get into, they are really beside the immediate point. For the few that actually do judge (& I do know some in particular that do & even openly blast ‘fat women’), I will simply say that you should just know, it’s usually so very complicated, deep & painful and not anywhere near as simple as being lazy or stuffing our face or whatever your own issued mind is assuming… often times that isn’t even the case at all. We ALL have shit – even YOU! But, anyway… yes, especially this year & after the past month or so, in particular… I have been in a very bad funk. Not depressed, I know all too well what that feels like (spent all of my 20’s living it almost every day & am a stronger, braver woman for surviving that stage of my life)… it’s definitely not that. Just a very bad nasty ass funk & a half! I feel weighted down not just on the obvious scale but as I move & as I think. My emotions are heavy, my heart is heavy & I have some weird block going on that’s keeping me from getting my groove back. I actually do feel like ‘someone’ & even somewhat ‘light’ when I’m behind the camera, capturing others & helping them see their beauty &/or their beautiful connections and moments – I’m deeply passionate about it… it gives me purpose, accomplishment & does allow me to feel like I matter too. It feels as those who are recipients of my work are appreciative of it – they see my talent & worth as an artist and therefore, see & value me. BUT… otherwise in my life… yeah, I feel so lost right now. Oddly enough, while I feel like everyone must notice how huge & odd I look, I also feel very invisible, easily forgotten/overlooked and in my own home as though I only exist to tend to everyone else & all their stuff that does matter. Goodness knows at the stages everyone’s at… I can’t even keep up with all that successfully, let alone have any time left. I don’t have time to nurture my dearest friends & their friendships and feel a great deal of guilt over it… but am not even in a place of nurturing myself properly. In many of my peer relationships & friendships that I do get to experience thanks to business or kids activities these days, I often find myself feeling like the tag along & worry about being a bother – feeling like surely, I’m not ‘one of them’ & they’re just being nice, so I don’t want to be in the way too much. So I stand back & don’t join in as much as I’d like, or hesitate when I do. The other day I even just went off on my own instead of worrying about it. It’s a painful way to live & exist… and who knows through all that internal struggle of my own, I may even come off as snobby or uncaring or something… all the while I’m just thinking I’m not good enough.

You can probably see that I specialize in women now (for many reasons, but definitely in part) because I love showing them how beautiful they are beyond their everyday – whatever their case may be… It means so very much to me because I know exactly how important it is to find that piece of you that is there, whether you know it’s there or you’ve lost it. I’m wanting to give my ladies exactly what I can’t seem to give myself. To make sure they know it about themselves… and am aware that I am actually good at doing it for them. And through starting to actually find it in myself now… I think I will get even better at!

On the last full day in SLC… after telling my Salt Flats travel buddy, NO pics of me… I found a moment right before we left to start practicing what I was learning & took this selfie. I actually LOVE this pic of myself… even the sunflair & light white background add to the exact place of peace & acceptance that I was coming into at in that moment! (even my camera strap is there too – representing the photographer in me 😀 )

The very unexpected but life changingly valueable lessons I’ve learned on this trip have given me a lot of self-refection to work on & healing that I wasn’t even consciously aware that I needed. An overwhelming amount at moments, but very much needed. After having my good cry the other day, allowing myself permission to miss a couple classes/events (which Ms perfectionist here doesn’t do once committed), I retreated & had my moments… I took a step back so that I could start to come forward again… I was ‘in my head’ for a bit after that & did miss out on some of the socialness that I might have experienced otherwise while here. But I’m starting to feel myself finding peace & acceptance of what is – in a way that I’ve never known it. I will never be okay with my weight like this – it’s just not healthy (physically or emotionally – I’m just not one of those girls that will ever say that this is ok & I should stay this way)… and there are parts of my features that are just who I am & can’t be changed. BUT… I am here as I am now & I accept myself as I am, just as I am, flaws galore AND wonderfulness galore. I can STOP letting the fear & disgust destroy me and can treasure the goodness in myself, because, yes damn it – there are a lot of good things about me too… things that are far more important & valuable than the bad.

I hope that every single woman reading this knows her braveness, fabulousness, beauty & the array of other positive qualities she has. And that if she doesn’t, that this in some way helps her start working on finding them, accepting & believing them!


My last pic with Sue… Practicing my proper social media pic pose 😉 & later practicing accepting the full version – NOT cropping to just our heads!

Super duper special thanks to my new friend, Sue… I don’t know that I’ll ever really see you as “Sue Bryce, photography idol” again, but always from here on out as my kind, so very generous-hearted friend, Sue, who shared of herself so bravely & honestly, who saw me & made me open my eyes to how I was treating myself, who sees me as beautiful & amazing & brave and took a chisel to the wall that was keeping me from seeing it myself. Of course, you will always be an inspiration & amazing teacher when it comes to photography, posing, etc – you ARE a genius after all  😀 . But you are so, so much more & I thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your friendship with me. My husband will be thanking you, as will my children. And I’m pretty sure my work is going to grow even stronger, so someday my own clients may thank you as well  😉 .

THANKS also to ClickinMoms & the organizers of the ClickAway program for providing the opportunity for such an amazing experience and for taking the time to select SUCH amazing, inspirational speakers/instructors. The above was my personal experience… but I have heard or read positive after positive after positive comments from other attendees & the wonderful, moving experiences they had with the speakers on their schedules as well!! I’ve always loved “my” clickinmoms.com 🙂 but do even more now… Y’all ROCK!!!


  1. What a fabulous testimony that the learning that you go in expecting is sometimes not the learning that was needed at all. So happy that you got so much out of this conference. Thank you so much for sharing. It’s given me a lot to think about too. You ARE fabulous and great photographer. Definitely have to find the time to come do a session with you. My gift to myself.
    In Rainbow Love,

    • Thanks, so much Stephanie! And, I agree… I think that would be a FABULOUS gift to yourself… YOU deserve it – for YOU!!! Love ya, girl! <3

  2. Catrina Caswell

    I’m so glad you had such a great experience! This had me teary eyed more than once! I am so proud of you! Love ya!

    • Aww… just sharin the ‘teary eyed’ love that we all experienced at the conference – couldn’t keep it all to myself 🙂 . Seriously though – thank you, Tina!! You’re always such a wonderful source of encouragement! Love ya! <3

  3. Thank you so much for sharing your story and your experience. I feel like you wrote about my experience too – though I’m missing the Sue Bryce experience! How awesome to be posed by her. 🙂 I just love her!

    The conference was a wonderful, scary and eye opening experience for me too. It was so unexpected but much needed.
    I look forward to seeing what else stems from this trip. 🙂

    • Thank you, Maryrose!! I really appreciate you taking the time to comment – means a lot! I’m very much looking forward to reading your blog this weekend myself 🙂

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.