Those of us on the outside don’t understand

WARNING: Discussion of Self-Harm

There are a hundred ways to self-harm, but most of those who think about it, will think about what’s shown in the images here: the use of a razor blade on your own skin. Burning, carving, pinching, self-hitting, self-biting, hair pulling, food restriction, foreign-body ingestion, over exercising, sleep deprivation, sitting outside without proper attire, repetitively engaging in unhealthy relationships, neglecting medical intervention.

There are even more reasons why someone would choose to do so.

We, on the outside, think they might be doing what they do to draw attention to themselves but more often than not what they’re seeking is far more internal. 

“Many factors play a role in their decisions to self-injure. These elements fall into four broad categories: (1) environmental influences, (2) direct media influences, (3) peer group dimensions, and (4) internal psychological elements.” But boiled down to simplest terms “It temporarily reduces tension and restores a sense of equilibrium. It has powerful communication aspects, provides a sense of control and empowerment.”

(From: Treating Self Injury, a Practical Guide. B. W. Walsh)

It’s entirely possible that they’ve lived a life full of pain. Pain from being abused in some way. Pain from a medical condition. Pain from abusing substances. They spend so much of their lives experiencing that pain that when it’s removed – something is missing.

It’s entirely possible that those who’ve experienced trauma in the past grow to feel that they don’t deserve good things, and when those good things happen, they retreat to return to what they know. 

If you’re like me, there’s likely been times in your life when you’ve done something in response to a bad situation. I remember pounding my fist on the steering wheel of my car over frustration from a job I once worked at. I was left bruised, and the steering wheel suffered as well, but under no circumstances did I feel like I deserved what I did to myself, it was a ‘vent’ to a bad situation.

Over the course of the time I’ve been making images for Woman as Art, I’ve seen this several times, as has been displayed here. What these strong women have told me is frequently what’s going on inside their world is so loud – that the only way to silence the noise, or calm the inferno, is to gain control through self-destruction.

To find relief. “It hurts but it doesn’t hurt, maybe because I can control it.”

In the end, it’s something that has clearly marked pain.

It’s something that’s written all over them.

It makes them Woman as Art.

If you find yourself asking, ‘why?’

I ask client about a photo session.
Her reply, written later, “I found it awkward because any picture I do have of my self is for some sort of accomplishment. There is a reason or purpose in documenting that moment in time. I earned it. Never would I be photographed without reason and I didn’t have one. I felt to have a photograph of myself, aside from the usual selfie, would make me arrogant.

“If you find yourself asking why, here is my answer, “Woman by their very creation are walking, talking works of art. Way too many have lost the concept of their beauty. Woman as Art is a project that celebrates the masterpiece in all of them.”

Something to hide behind.

I’ve always used my eating disorder to hide. It’s always been something I could use to hide from my own feelings and my own personality. I used it to ignore feelings and I let people’s comments on my body and my size be the only thing I based my worth on.

This photo session made me feel like I was breaking free of all of that. Like I was done hiding behind a physical body and was ready to be a real human that deserves validation regardless of her body. Like someone who deserved to let all of that go and love herself again for who she truly is and not the person she hides behind.

In the model’s own words.

When you are born to help others

“Don’t forget to pause and nourish yourself a bit along the way. When you’re born to help others sometimes you forget to help yourself.”
― Paula Heller Garland

Sometimes that pause to nourish is so, difficult to take. Women are born to give, after all.

They do bring life into the world, after all.

Their nurturing traits are part of their DNA.

And for those who help others professionally, ‘physician heal thyself’ can be harsh words to hear.

Much love to my anonymous model, a professional helper of people and mother, and nurturer.

The Skin of a Woman

The skin of a woman is like a road map.
It shows you where she has been.
It shows where she still has to go.
It tells the ways she has been strong, and leads you to where she wants to be stronger.
She might think it shows where she is weak, but really it shows you where she is beautiful, and strong.

The Most Adventurous Journey

“The most adventurous journey to embark on; is the journey to yourself, the most exciting thing to discover; is who you really are, the most treasured pieces that you can find; are all the pieces of you, the most special portrait you can recognize; is the portrait of your soul.”
C. JoyBell C.

Taking Charge

There’s been a real movement recently to ‘embrace’ who you are, and that may come from a gradual acceptance, or one decision to do so.
This is a story about one of those decisions.This particular client made such a decision – to have breast reduction surgery.Because, I feel, ‘embracing’ who you are doesn’t have to be about settling for what you have, it’s about being empowered to take charge. To understand that there are risks and consequences for making the decision and for following through with it. And being prepared to live with the consequences.I was not aware that this particular model had reduction surgery until we spoke of it during the session, and she told me that she didn’t really felt like she ‘embraced’ her body – I’d add that she did empower herself to make her own decision, and has since accepted the scars that came as a result of it. “And I would do it again,” she added. “Best decision I ever made for myself.”

Your Awesome, Innate Power.

“Women are powerful, and I see them stifle this every. single. day….  Life is short. Rise up and step back into your awesome, innate power. You are compassion and creative force and divine life itself. You are a Goddess.”  -Victoria Erickson