Why would you like to be a part of this project?
I want to be a part of the Flower Project because I’ve struggled most of my life with body dysmorphia and a list of unhealthy beliefs about myself. In fact, I’m so used to negative self talk that I don’t realize I’m doing it most of the time. I think I developed this habit of speaking poorly about myself to preemptively stop the bullies in their tracks. If I made fun of myself before they did, it seemed to hurt less. Only as a adult have I realized I’ve been hurting myself more, and more consistently, then any of the bullies would have. I know this project will be a boost to my self esteem and freeing for me.

What about this project speaks to you?
The Flower Project speaks to me in so many ways, from the shear beauty of the female body in nature, to the way you can tell the participants feel beautiful and at peace with their bodies in the photographs. 

How do I think I’d benefit from this project?
I know I will benefit from being a part of the Flower Project because I’ve fought a losing battle of hatred for my physical form for too long and I’m tired. I’m tired of hating my body, of constantly seeing the imperfections, of talking down to myself in a way that’s become such a part of me that I don’t even realize how badly I speak to myself until my family and friends pointed it out. It’s been at least 30 years of constantly looking at myself, criticizing and belittling every aspect of my body that I’ve been conditioned to hate. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that I should be praising my body for the things it has allowed me to do, experience and explore. If I can take all of the negativity and redirect it into more positive actions and words, my mental health will be so much better. 

What benefits can I give to the project?
I’d like all of the girls and women out there to know I’ve been where you are. I’ve battled eating disorders, from being morbidly obese to being dangerously underweight. I’ve gone from eating my feelings to starving myself to reach my doctor’s unrealistic goal weight for me. I’ve obsessed over counting the bones I could see in the mirror, to crying in front of a dressing room mirror when the plus size stores biggest size wouldn’t fit me. For most of my childhood and all of my adult life I’ve hated the person I saw in the mirror. She was NEVER good enough. Never thin enough. Never pretty enough. Eventually the nevers become all you see. If one woman or man reads my story and realizes they are enough, where they are right now, then fully baring myself in the emotional sense, will make baring myself physically all the more rewarding. 

What kind of inspiration can I contribute?
I believe that we need to start seeing our bodies as the amazing, beautiful, wonderfully designed forms that they are. As I get closer to my 38th birthday, I’m realizing that spending 3/4 of my life hating this vessel I’ve been blessed to call home is so fruitless. It’s yielded nothing but sadness and pain, anxiety and dread. The body that’s allowed me to travel the world, to climb mountains, walk through cathedrals, and run through airports, has only been told how lacking it is. How it is less than. Well, my body is amazing and yours is too. Participating in The Flower Project allowed me to see that no one is looking at my body and judging me, because there were surfers in the water during my shoot who couldn’t be bothered that I was frolicking around in my underwear and flowers. I realized no one is looking at me and seeing some garish woman, and if they are, that’s their problem. 

What’s my story?
Since I was 7 years old, I’ve hated my body. When I started putting on weight and a “clever” bully decided he’d call me Larda instead of Lara, I learnt to make fun of myself before anyone else could. I developed the habit of mocking myself and my form. I learnt to verbally berate myself and can easily shred others with my words and wit. I developed an unhealthy cycle of negative self talk and severe body dysmorphia. From being almost 300 pounds to weighing a dangerously low for me 135 pounds, I’ve been at both ends of the spectrum in weight and fought feelings of hatred for myself at both ends of the spectrum and every stage in between. Media and popular opinion taught me that 300 pounds is fat, ugly, lazy, and less than and they’ll also tell you that 135 is gorgeous, ideal, a perfect weight. What they don’t realize is how damaging these views are, how I internalized the minutiae and literally starved myself to look like their ideal. They don’t see how I was literally dying to be thin, in a vain effort to reach a silly number on a BMI chart, or how I would berate myself in my mind, or out loud, everyday for decades. These harbingers of “perfection” do not understand how a little child will see these things and ingest them. How, like a parasite, these ideals will become a living, dreaded companion that I will try to purge and shake for years, but once it’s got me in its grasp, those ideals are incredibly hard to get rid of. This body of mine has endured years of negative self talk, self hatred, and shame. She’s been starved and overfed, unloved and unwanted, and constantly seen as less. As I near my birthday, The Flower Project was like an emotional rebirth. I shed my clothes and it was as if I shed years of insecurities with it. I realized no one will ever be as critical of my body as I am, and that I should be singing her praises for all of the wonderful life experiences she’s afforded me to have. Loving myself will still be a struggle some days, but I’ve learned that this body of mine has never let me down, even when I’ve treated it as less than. This year, is the year she gets talked to lovingly and praised for the glorious creation that she is.