It Has Taken 35 Years To Love This Body: Leslie’s Story

1 Posted by - June 17, 2015 - Birth, Self-Love
A Beautiful Body Project | Jade Beall

Photo by Jade Beall

From the time where my memories begin, there are memories of a strong connection between my physical appearance and my worth as a human being.  I wanted my ears pierced at 4 so that I would look pretty.  I would walk around all summer in my bathing suit sucking in so that my abdomen would look perfectly flat.  There was always this underlying feeling that I needed to do something, be something beyond myself to be good enough.  I distinctly remember, in 3rd grade, hearing an adult comment to my mother “she is getting a bubble butt on her, huh?’  That was the first time I thought that I wasn’t able to do or be enough.  Like anything we focus our energy on, the feeling grew and bloomed along with me and in no time I was a teenager.  The feelings of inadequacy were stifling at times.  I was never overweight.  When I complained about my body, I was told I was just looking for attention or compliments.

Pointing out my flaws was the only way I knew to relieve the anxiety I felt about myself, but now I couldn’t do that out loud.  The feelings grew and became an integral part of my identity, and guided me to make self-destructive choices.  I had my third son the year I turned 30, and I focused all of my energy on exercising after his birth.  I told myself this was self-care.  I lost weight, got strong, and gained enough mental strength to change our life for the better.  I believed I was worthy of happiness….but still because I had reached some number on the scale, could hold a plank for 2 minutes, could run 10 miles.

A Beautiful Body Project | Jade Beall

Photo by Jade Beall

By the time I was pregnant with Felix, I was really struggling because I was at odds.  I knew I needed a balance in my life that I didn’t have before, but I also felt unworthy as my body softened.  I turned to mindfulness to find peace in what is, and that was the real labor of my pregnancy.  During this time, I found Jade Beall photography and soaked it all up.  These women were beautiful.  As they were.  When I saw the opportunity to participate, I jumped on it and didn’t let myself think about it at all.  After all, I am usually only without clothes long enough to get in and out of the shower.  I wasn’t sure what would happen, but I knew I would regret it if I didn’t go.

Jade Beall

Photo By Jade Beall

The energy in the studio was amazing and as soon as we walked in, I felt weight lifting off of my shoulders.  I felt my lungs open and I could breath.  As I looked around the room and admired all of these beautiful women, I was able to finally be as kind to myself as I was to them.  By the time we stepped in front of the camera, I didn’t have to pretend.  I was relaxed, at peace, and in love with my little baby.  I was in love with the body that has carried me through life, through divorce, to deep love instead of bitterness.  That has grown and fed 4 boys for 160 weeks of pregnancy and 55 months of nursing.

A Beautiful Body Project | Jade Beall

Photo by Jade Beall

In those moments, I realized the theme of my whole life has been “excuse my…”  Excuse my messy house when we live here with 6 children and have a newborn.  Excuse my butt and thighs because I am too busy to workout 90 minutes a day.  I realized I don’t owe anyone an apology.  It has taken me almost 35 years, but I learned in that room that I am enough.  I am worthy of love and happiness now.  As I am.  And for that I will be eternally grateful to the beautiful souls that shared that space with me. – Leslie

-Jade Beall is co-founder of A Beautiful Body Project and world renown photographer & author of the book The Bodies Of Mothers. To book a private shoot with her, email jade[at]



  • elayne greatruaha June 18, 2015 - 6:48 pm Reply

    I completely identify with your feelings about your body. I look at your wonderful photos and see only beauty <3

  • Kimberly Lee June 19, 2015 - 3:02 am Reply

    I deal with so much of those same feelings. You are lovely.

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