Getting Real- a personal post that has nothing to do with photography.
How do I describe today? How do I describe something that was so powerful and emotionally moving. Honestly, my words feel inadequate as I try to type, as if my brain is full of sand and my fingers are trying to type on cotton . . . but this was important and I'll do my best to try and convey what this day held for me.
About a month ago I was asked to speak at a Girls Camp. Girls Camps in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- Day Saints is almost like a spiritual getaway. They happen all over the world in different regions and countries. Girls 12-18 and adult women who all volunteer to chaperone, teach, and direct leave home for about 5 days. They unplug (for the most part), take a break from the rest of the world, and try to remember who they really are. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we all believe that we are children of God. We are literal spirit children of a loving creator. We are divine, eternal beings full of infinite worth and potential . . . and we are so loved. Thats what we want the girls who go to Girls Camp to remember, that's what it's about. Being asked to speak/teach at this camp was both a huge honor and a daunting task for me. I wanted to speak on something that was personal to me, something that is so passionate for me I can't contain my words when the conversation gets going. In a world of not good enough, not pretty enough . . . in a world of 'you'll be happy when . . . ' I wanted to talk about how we can have happiness now by seeing our divine beauty as daughters of God. I wanted to have a hard, real, and vulnerable conversation with these girls. And that's just not something that's easy to prepare. I spent the month leading up to this day asking friends on social media about what they struggled with as far as self image. I asked them what they found true beauty to be whether it was in themselves or in others. What I got was a beautiful flood of messages, women telling me their stories and their insecurities, their struggles and their triumphs. I will forever be thankful that so many trusted me enough to share their experiences. Thank you. It was comforting in a way to see that this road of self-doubt was filled with other travelers . . . yet, I was heartbroken for so many of my friends and the fact that too many of us can't stand the face we see in the mirror. Too many of us can't seem to love ourselves. For me, today actually started last night as I couldn't sleep because the gravity of what I was going to do today weighed heavy on my mind and soul. I know the changing power of Girls Camp. Girls Camps of my youth changed my heart and soul. They shifted my perspective of my relationship with Heavenly Father and my understanding of who I was. In many ways Girls Camp's of my past are largely responsible for the testimony I have now. Could I do that for these girls? Could I be there, be vulnerable, be honest, and speak with power and truth enough to make a difference for any of them? Could I handle if I failed . . . ? 6am arrived and brought to my door my angle friend Marinna. She agreed to be my driving companion and general support for the day. In truth, she was an answer to my prayers as she acted as a comforter to my nervous and anxious spirit.
Today, she was my hero.
Our two and a half hour drive was full of beautiful conversation, mostly supplied by Marinna's incredible and wise insight. Once at the camp I had about 20 minutes to pace back and forth as I came to terms with the fact that I didn't know what I was going to say. I had nothing written out except a few scribbled points I hoped to make. You see, when I speak I don't read from a script, not any more. I want to speak by what we call the Holy Ghost or my conscious or my heart and soul. When I speak I want to be focused on who's in front of me, not what's in front of me. And let me tell you, I didn't know how these talks were going to go. But I had faith . . . in that moment as those girls shuffled into this cold cabin, that's all I had- faith that maybe I could share something with them that would matter and touch their hearts. The girls were seated and I looked at them as they looked at me and I opened my mouth and words and stories started to come out.
Even as I type this I can feel my heart getting warm and beating faster. My hands feel shaky and my eyes are a bit misty. I was real. I was honest. I looked at them and told them that I knew and I remembered what it feels like to hate looking in the mirror, to not be able to love yourself, to want to feel worthy or wanted or valuable. I told them my story. I told them your story. You see, as women the greatest battle we fight is this battle in our head. There is this idea that we are supposed to hate ourselves, that we can't accept a complement, that we can make self-depreciating jokes, that we can say vile, nasty, hurtful things to ourselves every single time we look in the mirror. And we just think this is what we do. We think that's ok. And I did that for too, too long. So I told these girls my story. My story of who I once was. My story of what I once said. And my journey of learning who I am and stepping into my power as a daughter of God who knows who she is, knows her worth, knows her value, and knows she is beautiful because God does not create ugly. I told these beautiful, angelic girls who sat before me that they were everything. That in a grand universe full of galaxies and stars and nebulas and sunsets and such beautiful things they are the most beautiful! They are the most valuable!
Out of all the creations that a perfect God created they are the greatest of His creations. We are His opus. I told these girls that the ugly words they say to themselves are not from them, they are not from a loving Heavenly Father, they are not from their soul. And I told them if they wanted to find happiness and be able to love themselves then they needed to replace those ugly words, those lies, with words of truth and goodness. "I am beautiful." "I am a daughter of God." "I am valuable." "I am worthy." "I am good enough." Truthfully, I said a lot to these girls. I spoke to three groups for at least 25 minutes each time and each time was a little different. My heart is so full not because of what I said but because of how they responded . . . I didn't know how many needed to hear these words . . . and truth be told these words were not mine. They came from a divine power that far surpasses my imperfect speaking abilities. So many of these girls . . . . gosh, I don't know how to describe it . . . they felt it! Whatever it was they needed to feel, some of them felt it. I knew when I saw the tears in their eyes, I knew when I saw them nodding their head 'yes', I knew when they wrapped their arms around me and cried on my shoulder and said, "I needed this." "This changed my life." "You don't know how long I've needed to hear this."
How often do we need to be reminded and told that we are worthy? And instead how often do we look in the mirror and tear that girl apart? That girl that just wants you to love her. That girl who just wants to be valued and told she's beautiful. Today I was surrounded by love and joy and gratitude and powerful emotion that I don't have the words or energy to describe. My soul was filled because I was able to share myself and my story, a story that is so similar to so many women. I was able to serve an upcoming generation. A generation that will hopefully surpass me and you and grow past us into the women we see them as. These are women who can step into their full power in any situation and say, "I am a daughter of God. I have value. I have purpose. I belong here. I am beautiful. And I stand shoulder to shoulder with other women just like me." I feel like I stood before warriors who didn't see their strength yet. I stood before warriors who just haven't sharpened their swords. I stood before women who, if they remember who they are, will change everything.
If you've read this far, thank you. Honestly, I'm exhausted. This experience took from me as much as it gave and it gave a lot. I hope that you can read between my pieced together words and feel just a particle of what I felt today. I hope that you can sense how important it is to speak words of love and kindness to yourself. You're worth it. Know who you are, who you really are. We are divinity. We are everything to the One who made everything. All my love, all my gratitude, Melinda