When I began planning and designing this blog, I knew I would need to have pictures taken of myself. I contacted my friend, Meghan, to schedule a photo shoot. And then took a deep breath and tried to ignore my nerves.

Any other mamas–or women in general–get incredibly nervous at the thought of having attention on yourself?

What is it in us that makes us want to hide? We hide behind our cameras, taking pictures of our children, but rarely stepping into the frame ourselves. We hide behind clothes that make us feel comfortable, whether or not they make us feel pretty. We bury our hearts behind small talk with other moms about sleep schedules and potty training, avoiding topics we really need to get off our chest, like how overwhelmed we feel, how underprepared we were to be a parent, how marriage is tough right now, how womanhood feels like a burden.

We women like to hide behind our shame. The parts of ourselves we don’t see as lovely. Our imperfect physical bodies, our less-than-sparkling personalities, the ways we don’t measure up to our own expectations. It’s all too much, and so we make sure that we don’t let ourselves be seen. Oh, sure, we show up to social events. We go through the motions and do what is expected of us as women. But we do it all while remaining closely veiled. Behind the camera. Out of focus. Filtered and excluded.

Hidden.

The day of my photo shoot arrived, and I was dreading it. I knew I had to have pictures for the blog, but I was planning on getting this over with and moving on!

I had chosen Meghan to do my photos because, not only is she a friend and a very talented photographer, but she is also a young woman, raising young children, fully immersed in all the beauty and angst of womanhood. This is apparent in the images she creates. She captures families and children in their free and beautiful state. Her photographs all seem to glow, not only with light and lovely color, but also with some sort of natural joy she pulls out of the subjects.

When we arrived at the beautiful location Meghan chose for my photo shoot, the first shots she took were of me sitting on a swing hanging from a lovely old tree. I don’t know if she knew how nervous I was about being in front of the camera, but this charming spot was all I needed to begin to loosen up. I rocked on the swing in the lovely evening air, with the smell of flowers all around me, and suddenly I felt like a child again.

For the next hour as we walked all around these beautiful gardens, and out into golden fields just as the sun was setting, Meghan kept reminding me to smile. It seems silly to have to be told to smile, but in my mind, I needed to appear a little more stoic and serious, more mature.

But Meghan knew differently.

Over and over, she would be about to snap the picture, and she’d say to my husband, “Jordan, can you make her laugh?” That was all it took to break my stiff face into a wide smile, again and again. Before I knew it, I was having fun. This I did not expect!

I was enjoying being in focus, having attention on me, even if just for an hour.

Meghan knew that I needed to glow. Along with the sunset and the golden fields and the rest of the summer evening, she knew that I needed to open up. I had to stop hiding and be vulnerable and laugh.

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It had been a long time since I felt so beautiful.

After the shoot, I kept thinking about what had happened. How God had used a beautiful night in the countryside, my sweet and funny husband, and a very wise photographer to show me how He sees me. I felt free and open. I felt shame fall away. A necessary event I had been dreading turned into a powerful moment in my life.

The photo shoot was only a small part of one day, but as I think about how it can translate into my daily life, this is what I have discovered:

  • Some of the same things I criticize in myself are features that I would see as beautiful in other women. The slightly crooked smile, the wide hips, the thick hair that seems impossible some days. I would look at a picture of a total stranger that looks like me and think she was absolutely beautiful. It’s time to start extending the same grace and truth to myself.
  • I need to wear what makes me feel beautiful. Whatever that is. For me, it’s sundresses and other simple, feminine items. Clothing that is practical, simple, lovely. These are not meant to be special occasion outfits. I can wear them every day, and feel comfortable because I am wearing what makes me feel like myself.
  • Most importantly–I can have the courage to step out. No more hiding. This doesn’t always mean putting myself in front of the camera, or being the center of attention. In fact, that is the rare exception! But I can be open, vulnerable, honest. I can show my heart. I can stop being ashamed of my body, my mind, my personality. I can see myself the way God sees me.

Call me crazy, but I think every woman should have a photo shoot done. Take the time, make the investment, buy a pretty dress or just show up in your favorite old jeans. See yourself as you truly are — a beautiful, unique, imperfect, fascinating woman.

If you are local to southeast Wisconsin — or heck, even if you’re not local!–Meghan Goering is your girl. She doesn’t just take pretty pictures. She is passionate about making women feel as beautiful as they truly are, and about showcasing the natural joy, love, and bond between families. Check out her work here or find her on Facebook and Instagram!

Have you had a similar experience that was empowering and life-giving as a woman? I’d love to hear about it!

Disclaimer: I received a free image in exchange for this feature. All opinions and experiences are my own, and are completely genuine! 
All images in this post are by Meghan Goering Photography.

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The Fire Inside and Why I Have to Write
The Power of Celebrating My Husband