I decided at 15/16 years old that I would make my body “good enough” for an agency. I took my weight and my looks into my own hands, with one goal in mind: acceptance. I somehow believed that if they accepted me I would have “made it”. It was my dream to model. At first I just had a dream to use it to speak truth and that people might see the Jesus in me. However I didn’t have a network around me feeding me with truth and slowly I saw the media and that determined where I would place my worth. Slowly I lost more and more weight. But to my knowledge I felt the same and saw no difference. Believing the exercise and restricted eating wasn’t making a difference. However over time friends and family started to worry and comment about my weight. I kept denying it.
Then came a particular turning point, up on a tree house with one of my best friends. She kindly turned to me and said “Jessica I think it would be wise to go and check your health with a doctor and let them weigh you. I think you might be a little underweight.” To that I defended myself and said I wasn’t but that I would go just to make her happy. Then the next week came the shock of my life. A moment that showed me how the very thing I was controlling had taken control of me. The weighing scales frightened me. I had been wrong all that time. How? The anger that surged up within me was so real. I couldn’t believe it. I had deceived myself and I wasn’t well after all. This threw into the mix so many questions, fears, anxieties and disbelief. What could I trust? Who could I trust? How did I not see that? Who had been lying to me? Beauty wasn’t found in being super skinny. Because apparently I was and I couldn’t feel or even see it!
I was actually terrified by this news and cried the whole way home from the doctors in utter disbelief. This had been a disability I had judged others who had struggled with it, thinking I never could go through that. However here I was in that very position of weakness and fear. The next few months became an utterly strange time. I was confronted with the truth of my situation. It was scary. I had displaced so many of my fears and uncomfortable emotions into food and exercise, that I honestly struggled so much to even articulate them or know what was going on. Simple feelings I would try to avoid. However as time progressed, I looked for emotional help, in counselling and art therapy and soon found a space I could start to learn to be really real and honest with myself. Simply letting out my tears felt incredibly healing. Sometimes I would just draw when I didn’t have the words to express the feeling inside.
The realisations I soon started to have were completely the opposite to what my head had been telling me all this time. I suddenly saw the power of vulnerability and that there is real strength in weakness and asking for help. I had always thought accepting help was a weakness – but suddenly I saw that me saying “yes” to help was a real step of courage and strength. The more I said yes to it, the more I saw progress and new glimpses of freedom and clarity.
My anxiety levels were so high during this time. I struggled to make decisions and I found life truly overwhelming. I feared regret, failure and making mistakes. I almost felt something would go really wrong if I made the “wrong” decision. However as I started to challenge this feeling and confront it I realised it didn’t line up with the definition of “grace” whatsoever. Grace was all about bringing beauty from mistakes and there always being another chance. I couldn’t understand the idea that I could possibly receive a gift I didn’t deserve! I was ashamed of myself and my situation. I hid from friends and didn’t tell many people. Just trying to keep up a facade to protect myself. And almost forgot how to relate with people on a normal level. I constantly felt like the weakling of the family and the one that “needed help”. It was crippling and humiliating. After a while I got used to the feeling of shame and humiliation I somehow wore it like a cloak. It was horrible. Yet the more I asked for help and found freedom to express my emotions the more I realised that it had been lies in my head that had crippled me.
During my time at falmouth foundation I decided to face the fears and feelings of “not being good enough to model” and face the camera and lies with courage. The fears that were trying to constantly make me run away. Inspired by Mandela who famously quotes that “behind our fears lies our destinies”. So as I faced the fears I started to see freedom and was surprised when I looked into the camera with positivity. I heard a resounding voice in my head as I focused on the lens “you are enough as you are“. Then as I changed into each outfit I would hear a different part of my character and repeat that word over myself. The result of this was life changing. I suddenly saw myself in a new way. I saw a glimpse that life could truly be different and better than what I was experiencing. Throughout this process I decided I would track my journey, as an inspiration to others to never give up and to not go down the self destructive route that I took, but to learn from this life changing journey that I have taken and am taking in realising that BEAUTY STARTS IN YOUR MIND!
So this blog is dedicated to sharing my journey honestly, in front of the lens and behind.
Each post documents the shoot I went on, why and what I learnt on it.
As a result of my own journey I have decided to set up my own project called “TREASURED” – with the intention to show others their value and how treasured they are. While photographing them I ask them the same questions that when I sit in front of the camera I constantly ask myself. It has been life changing for me, so I totally believe and trust it will be for others too. You can keep up to date with the journey of this, at the TREASURED project blog.