Body of work / by Kendra Archer

Victoria, BC.

Victoria, BC.

This is a tough one to start, a tough one to write and an even tougher one to publish. 

I told myself I was going to open up to this experience and share over this blog. Open up and ask for suggestions people might want to read from my perspective. I absolutely dreaded this topic coming up and sure enough some one asked me to address it - a sign there's even more reason to write about it. Previously I mentioned feeling and experiencing are always better than resisting. While true, I am a champion at resisting until the very last minute and imploding. It is truly hard to open up to everything life has to offer, good or bad. It is hard to be vulnerable and allow the ebb and flow of life to affect you as deeply as it should. While I consider myself an optimist and someone who is open to all things, I am fantastic at hiding and hoarding my pain. It is easier for me to smile, find the good to focus on and pretend like the bad doesn't exist.  Yikes.

This is a part of what makes us human, what drives us, what fuels us and what is us. We are not simply photographers, artists, lawyers and teachers, we are human beings. We are strong, weak, fierce and vulnerable. Life has sent a lot of beautiful experiences my way, and has truly built me up to a feeling of strength I've never previously felt. In spite of that, wounds don't heal quickly and the past has a way of bringing it self back into your present. I felt a shattering weight and heaviness last week as I realized I need to address some deep pain. While it presented itself in the form exterior words and actions, it has sat inside of me as a solid weight and lump I have yet to really get rid of. What started as small comments and interactions a decade ago has sat deep inside of me as a truth and a definition of self.

You are not enough, you are unworthy and you will never be beautiful. 

The idea that anyone would think that about themselves angers me and hurts my heart. Somehow, for me to believe it about myself seems completely normal though. I have never walked with such high shoulders, I have never laughed so loudly or smiled so widely, yet, I am still not enough. It amazes me the amount of personal progress we can make, how much we can achieve and yet something inside of us still says "it's not enough". I find myself surrounded by amazing people, inside and out, and yet every single one of them, somewhere, has a piece of "I'm not good enough" hiding in them. How do we let go of it? Maybe we never do. On a certain level it is something that binds us all together, we are human, we are flawed and we know it - but we're amazing too. 

Most of the time it feels that way, amazing. It feels like a shoulder shrug to the small voice that says "you'll never be the pretty one", a simple shrug and acceptance to say "okay, I won't be the pretty one. I guess I'll just be the entertaining, funny, intelligent, strong and passionate one. That's not so bad." Why can't I be the pretty one... why can't I be all of them? Why, as I try and write about the struggles of accepting all of yourself and understanding that you are everything all the time, why is there still a block that says "Of course you're all these things Kendra, but you know you're not the pretty one. You never have been, never will be, and that's fine. You'll still get by."  What the fuck does the pretty one look like anyway? Can we all agree as a species that to value ourselves for attraction only is essentially useless. It is the the most basic qualifier. You look aesthetically pleasing. Great, what is that conducive to? 

Beauty comes from accepting your self, who you are and what you want. That is stuff that radiates... and yet. I already mentioned my hesitations on writing on this subject, I don't want to dig the dark stuff up, I want to run away from it. I want to bury it beneath the sands of a fire pit so no one sees it. I don't want to share my fears - that makes them real. I don't want to know how scared I really am. If I can somehow hold on to them, and hide them away maybe they'll just disappear. I don't want to speak out loud the fact that I don't think I deserve romantic love. I think there is a future version of myself  that will one day be good enough for somebody to love. Until then, I'm a great friend, daughter, sister and human being. I am loved deeply for all the qualities I have and radiate other than one: I will never be beautiful.

Insanity. 

As I write these words, and put them out into the world, I know they are lies, they are subjective, they are my own view - nobody sees me the way I do. They are not real. They are like any other barrier we set ourselves. They are just a belief, and those can change. I once thought I was weak, useless and idle. I have since proven to myself otherwise. I know I am capable of everything I want in life, and I now push myself to get it. I am constantly reaping the benefits of all my hard work these last few years, creating the life that I have always wanted and becoming the woman I always wanted to be. Still I think "One day my body will catch up, one day my ego will shatter, one day It'll be okay". Not without intention it won't.

I took a bathroom break while writing this, and the coffee shop mirror had a sign reading "You are beautiful"... point taken.

To accept these new ideas, and views of myself I've had to shatter past ones. I've had to achieve what I'd never striven for to show myself I could do it. I proved to myself I can ask for what I want, I can ask for help, I can run far and run through mountains, I can be strong and I can be weak (sometimes). I can do everything I want, and I can change this belief. This is the hardest one though, it isn't tangible, it isn't an achievement,  it is just acceptance. Everyone you love can support you through it, but only you can shatter the thought and tell it that is useless. After all it is only coming from you.

It does not benefit me to tell myself I am unworthy of anything. It doesn't benefit me to doubt everyone's intentions. It doesn't benefit me to shy away from attractions thinking "it's useless, I'll never be good enough." It is of no use to me to see men as philanthropists when they touch me or are attracted to me, thinking "how kind of them to do such a public service". It is of no use, but it is real. It is there and it sits where love and acceptance should be. So continue the battles of staring these things in the eyes, looking at the dark thoughts and telling them "it's time for you to go".

While I can look at what seems like a mountain of work to do in front of me, I need to acknowledge the progress I've already made. I believe most challenges in life are handed to us when we are capable of taking them on and not necessarily when we're willing to. There is a reason this is hitting me so hard right now; It's time. I'm finally ready to move past this and acknowledge it doesn't work for me anymore, although sometimes it does. It has worked for me in the past to hate myself so much I let others hate me too. Sometimes it's beneficial to pair up and fall for someone who believes you're as unworthy as you think you are. It's comfortable and easy to treat yourself like dirt and let someone else do the same. It feeds your ego and fills you with a false sense of passion, and that feels good.

Somewhere hides a little spark that says "this isn't right, this isn't healthy and this isn't real" and I guess the best thing to do is to follow that intuition and trust it. Trust that in the end your heart knows best and if you can start to decipher between the truths and lies you tell yourself everyday you're already taking steps forward.  These things are hard, and they take time but they don't need to run our lives. Acknowledging this won't stop me from pushing myself and pursuing my goals, if anything it is going to help it. Acknowledge the dark stuff, feel it, give it space and move on. Even as I have struggled to sit with these thoughts and put them to a page I have been surrounded by beautiful moments and beautiful people, life truly is incredible when we allow it to be.