Lindsay Rae: “Emotionally, how you relate to others”

We cannot hide from social media anymore. We cannot hide from the fact that it is probably the basis for 90% of our insecurity and our body issues, but we can control it. There is the Unfollow button, which I will use from time to time. But I find better than unfollowing is to mute, […]

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We cannot hide from social media anymore. We cannot hide from the fact that it is probably the basis for 90% of our insecurity and our body issues, but we can control it. There is the Unfollow button, which I will use from time to time. But I find better than unfollowing is to mute, to give yourself 30 days on Facebook or Instagram to not look at the things that upset you. It is okay to be insecure. It is okay to feel like you are not good enough. This is what has been pushed on us. This is what has been monopolized and monetized for females. You feel bad about yourself so we could make money on making you feel better, that is what this world is about.

The biggest step in battling my body insecurity was to follow other people like me. I went on Instagram to find plus-size models and plus-size women and plus-size clothing stores and I followed them. You will begin to see that your scope of the world can change a little bit when you’re looking at people who look like you and speak like you and remind you of yourself. Your insecurity slowly fades away because you don’t feel different. You do not feel like you are not good enough.

As a part of my series about “How To Learn To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview Lindsay Rae. Internationally published and multi-award-winning photographer. Lindsay owns and operates Self Love Experience out of Troy, NY. Lindsay’s work has been published in The Times Union, Shutterbug Magazine, Period Magazine, Voltron Magazine, Philosophie Magazine, Surreal Beauty Magazine, Ellements Magazine and LiBAREator Magazine, and many more. With a focus on helping women overcome negative body image and body insecurity, her sessions are as much about the experience she gives her clients as the final art they receive.

Thank you so much for joining us! I’d love to begin by asking you to give us the backstory as to what brought you to this specific career path.

I want to tell the story about how I ended up in New York …

My senior year of high school, in Orlando Florida, I won best of show monologues in a theatre competition. To this day, it is still one of the silliest and proud moments of my life. That same day where I won first, I also put myself last. I never really told anyone this, but I was offered an almost full ride to a college in New York. I turned it down for a boy. He does not know this. I am sure if he ever reads this and sees this, he will be utterly disturbed because it went against everything that he believed in. I just told him I could not afford it.

I pretty much told everybody I could not afford it, which was also a partial truth. But the fact of the matter is at 19 years old, my identity was so wrapped up in one boy and whether he liked me, that I turned down my future. I gave it all up, which was crazy, because all I ever wanted to do was move to New York City. I wanted to be on Broadway. I wanted to be Tracy Turnblad, the plus sized superstar, young woman who took Broadway on by storm in Hairspray.

Back then I found my worth only in other people.

Did they like me? Was I cool enough to be invited to the party? What did I have to do to make myself fit in, to be worthy?

It was not until I got in a bad car accident that I woke up.

If you have ever lived in Florida, you know that you could be driving on a perfectly sunny road and then suddenly, there’s a torrential downpour that hits you like a wall. It only takes a few seconds to go from nothing to being nearly caught in a hurricane. During this drive, going down Branch Hollow Road, the rain started to squall. To describe this road, if you have ever watched a scary movie where there’s people driving down a two-lane highway, and you’re sure that a ghost is going to pop out because it’s that creepy of a road, well that’s pretty much what Branch Hollow is at night.

As I’m driving down this road all of a sudden, I see a motorcycle that looks like it’s coming down my side of the road. I freaked out and slammed on my brakes. If you have ever slammed on your brakes in the middle of a storm, you have hydroplaned. The car spun out six or seven times and literally wrapped and bent around a tree. It was not even my car. It was my best friend, Elizabeth’s car. An ugly seafoam green Oldsmobile. She had picked up everything to move back to Texas to be with her mom and left me her car, which happened to be unregistered and untagged.

I am sat in that torrential downpour, 19 years old, in my friend’s unregistered car which I had wrapped around a tree. That moment changed my entire life.

The very next morning, I called up the director of admissions for the college that I had turned the scholarship down for. I knew I was not ready to drive again and in NYC I would not need a car. I made the decision then and there that I was done with Florida. That I was done living for other people. That I was done finding my worth only in what a man could think of me.

I spent two weeks working in a call center with my mom earning every penny I could. I made 1,800 dollars in commission from that sales job. I called a producer who I had met on a small film that I had worked on in Orlando, I knew she had property in Brooklyn, and I asked if I could be her tenant. The next step was just buying a plane ticket. Two weeks later…two weeks after that crash, there I was, still only 19 years old with two suitcases, 1,800 dollars, a hope and a dream, and my very first credit card. And I was alone New York City.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you hope that they might help people along their path to self-understanding or a better sense of wellbeing in their relationships?

I was never a person that thought that they could write anything. If you ask my best friend Jared from high school, he will tell you the stories about how would sit and rewrite my English papers because the grammar was just that bad.

When it finally came time sit down and start the process of telling my story in a book, I was terrified. I don’t write; that is when I learned about the beauty of transcription.

If I can set the scene for you, it is just like I start my day every day. I wake up an hour early. I pop in the car, and I go for a drive down the back roads of upstate NY. More often than that, I am sitting in silence and sorting through my thoughts. This vision time is what led me to really feel like I have something to contribute, and why I think that this book needs to happen. because I have a story that can impact people.

Trauma has always had a stronghold on my life. My parents went through an extremely tumultuous and violent divorce, not just physically violent, but emotionally and spiritually violent as well.

My father, who was born Jewish, when I was only 13 years old, decided to leave my mom and marry a Christian missionary. He converted to a “Jew for Jesus” and moved in with this new woman and her six kids. They essentially stipulated that the only way that I could live with them was if I went to church too.

Not being able to make a choice for yourself and being forced to fake believe in something to have a safe home can really take a stake at who you think you are as a person. So much of my identity was based in being a Jewish girl, and so much of my identity is still based in being a Jewish woman. As a teen I was most vulnerable to susception and to being changed…to feel like I can only have a home with my father if I adapted to his new wife’s religion, destroyed me.

This is the same man that every day would tell me, “You would be so beautiful if you lost weight.” “You would be so pretty if you didn’t pick your skin.” “You could be so great if you just lost 15 pounds. Even 10 pounds would be better than nothing.” It just never stopped. Ever.

I was never allowed to be happy with myself. I was never allowed to make decisions for myself, to choose things for myself, or to be myself. I was forced to mold and pick my self-worth up off the ground from the person who was supposed to carry me higher than anything. I know I am not alone in this.

The work that I do started with a need to prove my dad wrong. That sounds like a terrible thing to say, but it needs to be said. When I first started doing this work, I wanted to prove to him his standards of perfection were wrong. I wanted to prove to him that beauty does not abide by his ideals. That you do not have to be a size two, chiseled, with a 38D breast to be considered someone that’s worthy of love and respect.

In starting this mission, I never expected that I would find myself. I have been completely transformed by each person that I have photographed.

Do you have a personal story that you can share with our readers about your struggles or successes along your journey of self-understanding and self-love? Was there ever a tipping point that triggered a change regarding your feelings of self acceptance?

New York City is a scary place to live as a young woman, but it molded me, and it showed me the truth. This truth is evident in everything I do and in everything I believe. That is if you want it bad enough, you can do it. If you want anything bad enough, you can get it.

I had some hard times with this when I was younger, I’m not going to lie. There was one point where I was working with a D-List Management agency and I had met a woman through working on the phones. She was another agent and she really hated the agency that she was working with, so I suggested that she come over and work from our offices. I thought her and my then boss would be a great fit. Well, she took that advice. She came in, she took over my desk the first week she was there. She convinced my boss that I was not needed anymore, and she took my job, completely.

I learned the fragility of anything through that experience. How quickly what you have can be taken.

I had to get a job working temp agencies. The bills pile up so fast in New York City.

At this point, I had already put myself in debt and spent everything I had and more. I was teetering on the edge of self-destruction. I remember being 20 years old and trying to kill myself. I felt worthless. I felt like if this one thing that finally made me feel like I was worth something could be ripped away from me that easy, then alive just was not a safe place to be.

I took the train down to Brooklyn. At the time I was in college, the dorms for the college that I was in were a couple of blocks from the bridge in Brooklyn Heights and the Hudson River where you can look over the city. When I got there my mom didn’t answer her phone. My then boyfriend didn’t answer his phone. My best friend, Liz, didn’t answer her phone. There I stood, taking one step at a time, over the edge of the bridge in Brooklyn. I was about to jump. I was about to end it all.

My friend, Adam, called as I had one foot off the ledge and told me he would pay for my ticket and fly me home. I had moved in with my friend, Giselle, at this point. I remember still being so messed up from the bridge that I tried to take all of her expired pills. Her and my other roommate at the time, had to basically hold me down and grab these pills out of my hand while I was curled in a ball, convulsively crying, because I felt that worthless.

I felt that unneeded, that unimportant, that unbeautiful, that unloved, and that alone, despite the fact that there were my friends trying to pull the pills out of my hand.

I left New York City for six months. I went home to Florida and I got a job working for a company that sold pink sheets to stockbrokers. Let me tell you what an experience it was working in that office. I knew that I could sell things. I knew how to talk. If there was anything, I still believed I had, it was the “gift of gab”, the gift of being able to communicate with someone else why something is worthy.

It only took a couple of weeks and I was the top salesperson in the room. At that time, my worth as a female was also being diminished. What that office told us as women was that the only way that we could make sales was by sexualizing myself to men. Here I was this brilliant, then 20 year-old girl, who sold a part of herself each time she was on the phone. I remember they would tell us to say really disgusting things to the brokers. Like, “I’m going to sit and watch the screen while you shoot your liquidity all over my stock.” And sure, it’s a pun, and sure it’s funny, but they liked it.

It took me about six months, but I saved 11,000 dollars and then quit.

I got back on a plane, November 13th of 2009. Again, with just a suitcase and the money in my hands and a dream except this time I knew my power, and no one could get in my way.

According to a recent study cited in Cosmopolitan, in the US, only about 28 percent of men and 26 percent of women are “very satisfied with their appearance.” Could you talk about what some of the causes might be, as well as the consequences?

In a study by Kings University, a journal on Body Image, explained that young women often compare their appearances negatively with other women on Facebook. The study surveyed 227 female college students and found that “young women who spend more time on Facebook may feel more concerned about their body because they compare their appearance to others (especially to peers).” This means there are profound psychological consequences for women’s body image when they compare their physical appearances to others.

Another study conducted by the Florida House Experience, a healthcare institution, uncovered that both women and men compare their bodies with those in the media. The survey included 1,000 men and women and focused on their body image, confidence, and the media. It found that 87% of women and 65% of men compare their bodies to images they consume on social and traditional media. In that comparison, a stunning 50% of women and 37% of men compare their bodies unfavorably.

As cheesy as it might sound to truly understand and “love yourself,” can you share with our readers a few reasons why it’s so important?

Technology and the entertainment industry have led us to be insecure in what reality looks like and what regular bodies look like. Having been doing this work for the past six years, I have photographed over 600 women, most of whom have stripped down for me, so I think I have a surprisingly good base to go on when I say that I know what real bodies look like.

I know how similar we all are despite thinking that we are so unique in the things that we do not like about ourselves.

I have never had a size-two client come in and just be happy with herself. No, she wishes she had curves like me, and I wish I was slender like her because we’ve been forced to believe that the only way that we’re good enough is if we can look like images in the magazines and the people that we see in the movies.

What people do not understand is that in the movies and in photography, they do not have flawless skin. We have diffusion filters over our lenses which scatter the light and diffract it to create a sense of blur over the skin. There are filters for lenses out there that are sold simply because they are shimmery and when a client sees themselves in it, they feel like they will look good.

This industry was built upon destroying confidence to build it back up and that is something I refuse to play a part in. I refuse to break someone down to bring them back. I refuse to let someone feel worse about themselves to make them feel better. We get enough of that just watching TV, picking up magazines, walking through the store. I do not need to do that to my clients, and they do not need to do it to themselves.

When we really sit and look at the root of body insecurity, we must look at how closely it is tied in with technology.

However, we can control how we consume that technology.

I started to confront my own body insecurity back in 2013 when my daughter Gaia was born. Being a woman who is a size 20 I never felt like I could be good enough. Add in a generation of parents who were raised to think that your child was only good enough if they checked the boxes for smart, slender, and easily married off. It is a recipe for insecurity, for dysmorphia, and self-loathing.

But you get to choose what you consume.

You get to pick who you scroll on Instagram. You get to pick what you watch on TV. You get to choose how you see the things online and relate them to yourself.

Do you watch the screen in HD and remind yourself that there are diffusion filters that most professional cinematographers use? Do you go on social media, and on the days that you are feeling your most insecure, make a choice to unfollow the accounts that make you feel worse?

If it is your friend that makes you insecure, (and that happens a whole lot, and it makes us feel awful about ourselves, that we could be jealous of a friend,) mute them.

It does not mean you do not love them. It does not mean you do not appreciate them or value them. What it means is that you appreciate your own consumption and how you choose to interact with the world.

Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?

I had a lot of fears that I needed to overcome before I could be independent. I literally picked up my entire life, within two weeks, and moved somewhere simply because I would not have to drive there, so we have a baseline to go off of when judging how I used to let fear work in my life.

Imagine what it was like for me when, six years later, I got married and was sick at the time, my then husband got a job offer upstate where I’d have to drive. Not only drive but drive in the snow. I am from Florida, the most I have ever driven in is rain and Lord, help me if I ever hydroplane because I am Immediately right back to spinning out in that car.

I could not achieve the goals that I wanted to achieve if I was going to continue to stand in my own way. I was only limiting myself. If you do not have transportation, you cannot get yourself to the opportunities that you need to. There’s public transportation, when all else fails.

We moved upstate to Saratoga Springs. I could at least walk to get food or to the park in this cute town. I could walk to get my nails done or go shopping — pretty much anything you need if you live downtown you can walk to. So, it was barely a step outside of the city, but it was a step none the less.

While I was living in Saratoga, I decided to start my own business, it was the first business that I started for myself, called Rae of Art Designs. I designed blingged out wedding stationery — I wanted to be a wedding planner. I got all the books for it, I signed up for online school for it, I was going to be a wedding planner. There was nothing that was going to stop me… Except you cannot be a wedding planner if you cannot drive because that is literally 80% of your job.

So here I was becoming the wall in the way of my own dreams and the things that I wanted to do.

I was 30 years old when I got my driver’s license. That is how long it took me to win that fight against myself. That is how long that confrontation between my dreams and my fears took to resolve. 19 to 30 years old I did not get behind the wheel. That is a long time to be subject to someone else’s schedule. That is a long time to not be able to do things for yourself.

I did not get my car until I was 32. It took me two years after getting my driver’s license to even feel like I deserved to have a car or that I’d be safe enough to have a car.

I would make myself literally sick with anxiety simply because one night when I was 19 years old was defining me.

I got that car, it was a bright blue Honda Civic, year 2020 and I was so proud of it. It was so cute and shiny, and I named it Verruca after Verruca Salt in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. She was the perfect little car for me. I drove her all over. Got her in April and by August I had had another car accident. I was backing out of my friend’s driveway when a motocross type motorcycle was going double the speed limit, slammed into the right side of my car, flipped over the roof where the top front tire, went vertical into the roof and then the driver went about 20 feet down the road and the motorcycle slide down the side of the driver’s door.

Here is the crux, I had to drive now. When I got my car, I finally realized I was not dependent on my now ex-husband. We were in the process of a divorce. What was I going to do?

I did not get to go another 11 years without driving, I had real responsibilities now. I had a child that needed to get to school. I had a job that I needed to get to every day. You see this time I had left him — I threw my crutches away. I did not have a choice this time. This time I had a day to get myself together, shake it off and get a rental car so I could get my kid to school the next day.

I like to think of it as my yellow light concept. For the first half of my life everything was a glaring red light. I would immediately stop in fear and slam on my brakes as if traffic were about to T-bone me if I moved further.

When I threw my crutches away, that red light turned into a yellow light. I still am cautious. Especially when it comes to trusting people.

Things might slow me down, however that is not a bad thing.

There is nothing wrong with being a cautious person but there is something wrong with making everything in your life a red light. Sometimes those lights must turn yellow and that is how you start to get to your goals.

It is all your tiny, teeny, itty bitty changes that add up over time to be the shift to reaching your full potential.

When I talk about self-love and understanding I don’t necessarily mean blindly loving and accepting ourselves the way we are. Many times self-understanding requires us to reflect and ask ourselves the tough questions, to realize perhaps where we need to make changes in ourselves to be better not only for ourselves but our relationships. What are some of those tough questions that will cut through the safe space of comfort we like to maintain, that our readers might want to ask themselves? Can you share an example of a time that you had to reflect and realize how you needed to make changes?

I had four major confrontations with myself to get to this place of self-acceptance, four major defining conflicts that steered the course of my entire life.

My physical confrontations, confronting how I feel about how I look. My mental confrontations, battling PTSD and anxiety. Emotional confrontations, how I interact with the world around me, how I read what other people are honestly saying and manage its impact on me. Followed by my financial Confrontation. Everything really ties back to money. I hate saying that, because people say money is not everything, but the truth of the matter is that without it you’re limited. To give yourself all of the opportunities that you deserve, you need to have your finances in order. I was illiterate financially. I could not tell you how to balance a checkbook or how to calculate taxes until I was in my mid-twenties. These are things that you should really learn when you are younger, because if you learn when you’re younger, then you won’t spend your entire adulthood having to fix your finances while simultaneously learning how to value yourself.

So many don’t really know how to be alone, or are afraid of it. How important is it for us to have, and practice, that capacity to truly be with ourselves and be alone (literally or metaphorically)?

The below two quotes sum my thoughts up on this perfectly:

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As longs as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.” — Anne Frank (The Diary of a Young Girl)

“Cherish your solitude. Take trains by yourself to places you have never been. Sleep out alone under the stars. Learn how to drive a stick shift. Go so far away that you stop being afraid of not coming back. Say no when you don’t want to do something. Say yes if your instincts are strong, even if everyone around you disagrees. Decide whether you want to be liked or admired. Decide if fitting in is more important than finding out what you’re doing here.” — Eve Ensler

How does achieving a certain level of self-understanding and self-love then affect your ability to connect with and deepen your relationships with others?

One traumatic moment in my life has dictated almost all of the choices that I have made up until this point. I never have faith that things will last, and that safety will remain. This has been a major fight for me because I have everything. The house, the business, the car, the child, the beautiful dog, the gorgeous boyfriend, the friends, the wardrobe, and still feel at times that I have nothing because I’m afraid that in an instant I can blink, and it’ll be gone. Some people call that imposter syndrome, but I think that there is another link back to a point in our life where we felt unsafe, that the things that we trusted were ours would remain ours.

This is a trauma, whether it is from a divorce or a friend who made a promise to you and stole from you, or a lover who cheated on you and broke your trust. Every single one of us in our adult lives have been confronted with a time where our trust has been compromised and broken.

When you do not feel safe, you question everything and everyone in your life.

My confrontation with myself emotionally came from learning that what I thought about every situation did not matter. I am not saying my feelings do not matter, I am not saying that my feelings aren’t valid. What I am saying to you is that when you are in any type of relationship; personal, familial, romantic, or business, there is a give and a take. In any interaction there are at least two humans with two sets of emotions, two sets of fears, two sets of hopes, two sets of dreams. When the other person is talking and communicating with you, it is your job to do nothing but listen to what they are saying. The hardest thing for me to do is stopping myself mid spiral when someone else is talking and I am trying to come up with my answer because I am trying to protect myself rather than listening.

My weapon in this war against myself has been to tell myself to stop and listen. The only way to heal anxiety is to begin to have empathy for other people.

My daughter was three years old when I taught her what empathy means. It is such a simple concept; to feel how other people feel, to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. When you start to do that, you can stop attacking yourself and start listening objectively.

Here is another example, Mike, my boyfriend, is sitting on the couch and his arms are crossed and he’s not looking at me. I immediately go to the thought that “I must have done something wrong. He does not like me. He does not want to be with me. He is going to break up with me. He’s going to leave me. I’m not worthy. I’m worthless.” This is the spiral.

But when I can stop and say, “I wonder how Mike is feeling? Well, his sister’s boyfriend just had something happen and his mom is stressed about it. His other sister has something going on. His uncle just passed away. We’re in the middle of COVID.” Here is a list of other feelings that this person that isn’t me is having.

When you stop and think about how the other person feels, you are going to find out that somebody else’s bad mood has absolutely nothing to do with you at all. That is a freeing thing to learn. “This has nothing to do with me.” Then you get to just be there for another person. That is also something you can do for yourself. Kindness is like a skipping stone — toss it out and watch it ripple.

In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?

We cannot hide from social media anymore. We cannot hide from the fact that it is probably the basis for 90% of our insecurity and our body issues, but we can control it. There is the Unfollow button, which I will use from time to time. But I find better than unfollowing is to mute, to give yourself 30 days on Facebook or Instagram to not look at the things that upset you. It is okay to be insecure. It is okay to feel like you are not good enough. This is what has been pushed on us. This is what has been monopolized and monetized for females. You feel bad about yourself so we could make money on making you feel better, that is what this world is about.

The biggest step in battling my body insecurity was to follow other people like me. I went on Instagram to find plus-size models and plus-size women and plus-size clothing stores and I followed them. You will begin to see that your scope of the world can change a little bit when you’re looking at people who look like you and speak like you and remind you of yourself. Your insecurity slowly fades away because you don’t feel different. You do not feel like you are not good enough.

Body insecurity is something that every single person has. Not just every woman. Every man, every woman, and a lot of times, now our children do, too, because they see us insecure.

I remember a time Gaia was probably four years old and she had on the cutest little baby crop top and she kept pulling it down and I looked at her and I said, “Gaia, what? Why? What’s the matter? You want a different shirt?” She just looked at me and she said, flat out, four years old, “I don’t like my tummy, Mommy,” and in that moment, my heart shattered like it has never shattered before because a four-year-old doesn’t learn this from watching TV. A four-year-old does not learn this from reading magazines. They cannot read. They learn it from watching their mothers tear themselves apart.

To me, that was motivation to change because I was not intrinsically motivated to change for myself. It was not happening. There was not a click, there was not a trigger that said, “You need to do this for you,” so I did it for my daughter. I tried to change the way that I communicated about my body in front of everyone and most importantly, in front of my daughter. We can change the scope of things. We can change social media. We can change the entertainment industry. But it is not going to happen in our generation, it’s just not.

Our children’s generation, there is a chance that they can grow up without body insecurity because they are going to see their parents respect and appreciate themselves.

This is how we change. This is what we need to do to make an impact, to change the way that the world is going to work, but it is not going to happen unless we all work together to implement small Mindshift changes.

What are 5 strategies that you implement to maintain your connection with and love for yourself, that our readers might learn from? Could you please give a story or example for each?

The major internal battles I had make a great 5-point list to reference when checking in with myself.

Physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, and artistically:

1. Physically, how you feel and relate to your physical body.

Do not blame yourself for being insecure about your body. We all are. The media is constantly telling us, “Love yourself, love yourself, love yourself,” and here I am, a business owner of a business called “Self Love Experience” and I’m sitting here and I’m telling you, “It’s okay. You do not have to love yourself today. But today, you need to take a step towards what you are going to do to like yourself a little bit more tomorrow.” Is that unfollowing people on social media? Is that finally saying, “You know what? These size-14 jeans haven’t fit me for ten years and I keep them in the closet hoping that I’m going to change who I am and go back to my teenage body, my teenage undeveloped body that as a grown woman I’m still yearning for,” and I’m going to take those jeans and I’m going to throw them away and I’m going to say, “You know what? I do not need to do this to myself anymore. I don’t need to torture myself anymore.”

This was the major confrontation that I had because it was not me versus the entertainment industry, it was me versus ideals of myself. It was me versus saying, “Oh, my god, I will never be good enough unless I look like these other people,” but then on top of that, saying I would never be good enough unless I looked like myself when I was younger. For me, the hardest part of overcoming my own body insecurity was learning to look in the mirror. Oh, man, what a fight. For years, I did not even have mirrors in my house. I would have them, of course, in the bathroom and in places that you could not really look at yourself because they were so high up that they were just to make a room feel bigger because I never wanted anybody to ask why I did not have mirrors. I could not look at my own face. God forbid I tried to look at my own body, I could not even look at my face, let alone stand naked in front of the mirror and be okay with what I saw, so that was my second confrontation with myself.

The first one was unfollowing the things that made me feel bad about myself and insecure and the second confrontation with myself was being able to look in the mirror. This was the hardest one of all, because you see, I have a disorder. I am a skin-picker. I have such severe and debilitating anxiety that when I get stressed, I dig literal holes into my skin and do not realize it until someone points at me and says, “Hey, Lindsay, you’re bleeding.” Until I was probably 28, I could not even look at myself in the mirror. Could not look at my own face in the mirror. I did not even wear makeup because I did not even want to look in the mirror to see the face, I was putting makeup on.

One of the worst things that happened to me in the pandemic — I had given myself a skin infection on my chin from picking because I was so stressed about the shutdowns.

I did a virtual doctor’s appointment to avoid going to the doctor and this woman looks at me through the camera and she says, “Well, good thing there’s masks, right, honey?” This is a doctor, and she says to me about my face, “Good thing there’s masks so other people don’t have to see your face.” Now, of course she did not say “So other people don’t have to see your face,” but what do you think I thought when she said that? This is a doctor. This is an authority on my health tearing me down. That day, things shifted. I was so hurt. I left that appointment angrier than I think I’ve ever been. How rude to tell me, “Well, at least you can cover your face. At least you can wear a mask.”

However, if we think about it, isn’t that what makeup is, a mask? Do not you get me wrong; I could sit and watch Katie Jane Hughes do her makeup on Instagram for hours on end. Makeup is an artform, it is not about hiding, it is a chance to express yourself in the different ways that you want to be seen. Sure, you can cover up your blemishes, but you are still the same person underneath. Makeup is not going to change who you are. I am still the exact same person, but because I put a mask on or because I covered myself up with foundation, because I hid who I really am from society and what my actual skin looks like, now… I feel like I’m acceptable, like I’m someone worthy of acceptance

2. Emotionally, how you relate to others.

I have not talked to my father in almost two years and it’s the best decision that I’ve ever made because he is toxic person. I recently made the choice to go through my phone and delete anybody who was not good for me, who was not bringing me to the next place in my life, or who wasn’t bringing me peace and joy.

Cutting off dead ends is hard, especially when they are in your family because there’s pressure to forgive and forget. Blood is thicker than water is a concept that I do not buy into. I think love is thicker than water. I think kindness might be. But blood, no, you do not need to keep someone in your life just because you have the same bloodline. If they do not treat you right, if they do not help you grow, if they don’t respect your need for growth, if they don’t respect your boundaries, then you need to cut them out.

Solid boundaries are the number one thing that defines self-love.

How do you set boundaries? What are some things that you can do to teach the other people in your life how to have boundaries with you?

One of the easy sentences to say, and this is, an actionable activity that you can do to help your growth and your relationships is to learn, to ask your friends if they have capacity. This one sentence helps other people know that you respect where they are.

I will give you an example. I am having a really bad day. I just had a fight with my boyfriend, my daughter is not listening, my computer’s crashing and I just need to vent. Do I pick up the phone and call my friend and just start venting? How rude would that be? What if her day is equally as bad? You must learn to ask your friends what their capacity is?

Memorize this simple sentence, “Do you have the emotional capacity right now to talk? I could use a friend.”

If they say no, do not take offense to it. Your friend might not have a moment to spare at the time you ask, but if they are someone that should be in your life, they’ll come back when they’re ready. Someone meant for you will come back to you and they’ll say, “okay, I’m ready now if you still need to talk. Thank you for giving me the space. I really needed to work through some stuff.” Or “Thank you for giving me the space. I was in the zone at work, and I couldn’t stop.” Whatever it may be, if you can learn to respect other people and lead by example, then they will start to do the same thing for you. And if they do not — snip snip, cut them off.

A fun affirmation you can put as a post it on your mirror: “The dead ends need to go so I can grow.”

3. Mentally, how you relate to yourself.

We are all going to hit walls. I laugh when I think about this, but I enjoy picturing my obstacles akin Donald Trump’s wall. We know how efficient that was. Probably the least efficient wall that there ever was, but it is still a wall. If you want something bad enough, is Donald Trump’s wall going to stop you? Are you going to let your own barriers stop you? That is when we start the excuse process — but I am here to tell you there is literally no excuse if you want something bad enough.

To tie back to the wall analogy — let us say it’s a slick wall, you can’t climb over it because your shoes wont grip. Can you throw a rope to the other side with a weight and then climb up it using the rope? No? Can you dig under the wall because the base only goes a few feet down and get to the other side by digging? No? Do you have to walk 25 miles in the other direction just to be able to get in a little hole on the fence where it was unfinished and then swim across a creek, cross the street, walk 25 miles back to get to your goal? That wall is only as efficient as you decide it is. We learned this during the last presidency. We learned this with Donald Trump. We learned that the wall was not going to stop anyone from doing what they wanted to do. They wrote books about it, they talked about it on primetime news. We talked about a million ways that if somebody wanted to get into this country they could in from the most simplistic to the most difficult of ways.

Honestly, what is a wall other than a perfunctory symbol of something that is supposed to block you?

4. Financially, how you value yourself.

I grew up in a wealthy family. We had a five-bedroom house with a big dog and huge pool. We had a tree that my parents literally named “Spencer.” My parents were the type of rich that bought a 10,000 dollars Palm tree just to spite their neighbor, because the neighbors somewhat copied their driveway and my parents needed to be better.

When General Electric went under, my dad, who had blown all his money and put absolutely nothing into savings, lost it all. That was the last job I remember him keeping for more than six to eight months. For the next 20 years of my life, my dad would quit every job that he had to avoid paying my mom child support.

We got to the point of debt where the crossing guard for the elementary school down the street would collect canned goods for us. I would eat Hormel chili pretty much four nights a week for dinner. We would have baked potatoes in the cabinets with eyes growing out of it. And I would pick the eyes out of the baked potatoes and eat the baked potato with the butter and chili. That is how we survived. My mom did not want me to feel bad because all my friends would get to go for senior lunch. I remember she just loved me so much. She would give me her EBT card so I could go to Publix and get myself and my friend a sandwich. She did not want me to be left out. She did not want me to have to go through feeling like an outcast. My brother and sister, she barely let know how bad things really were.

My mom always tells me the biggest mistake that she made in her life was not squirreling away money for herself. I have taken this lesson so deeply to heart that it has become part of who I believe I am as a person and part of what I can teach other’s. She told me, “The biggest mistake that I made in 27 years of marriage wasn’t that I trusted somebody else with my finances, because that was a mistake, but that wasn’t the biggest one. The biggest mistake I made is that I didn’t put away something for myself.” A lot of people will look at this and say, “Well, if you love someone, you shouldn’t have to hide money from them.” It is not about hiding money. Be honest with your partner. You must pay yourself. Even if it is a little tiny bit, you must make sure that you are squirreling away money for yourself.

My friend Laura laughs a lot because she is like, “Why would you be a squirrel when you could be a crow?” I can only reply that squirrels are really cute…. She says, “Yeah, but a crow gets what it needs and flies away.”

I loved that analogy. The difference between a squirrel and a crow is that a crow has wings. Wings mean that you can fly and reach higher heights than you thought that you could. You still might be gathering little bits at a time, but you can fly away with those little bits to build a nest for yourself.

When you trust you have a safe place to land, you can move through life making better decisions for yourself. You will not be making decisions out of fear, but you will be making decisions to respond to the moment. You will be able to reinvest into yourself rather than throw money down the drain, hoarding things you do not need.

I have talked to so many women through the work that I do. I see that we are all the same. I see the fear that we have of losing things, of abandonment, the constant “imposter syndrome” that we all go through. When fear can dictate your money, fear has won. You do not have to be afraid of your money. You must be smart with it.

My first year in business, a former friend that told me, “Oh, this will be a great hobby for you.” I had made 30,000 dollars that year. “Aw, what a nice hobby.” They scoffed at 30,000 dollars. I had never had 30,000 dollars before. Every cent I made went to bills and to city living. Yet here I was making 30,000 dollars on my own art. The next year, I made 105,000 dollars selling my own art. The year after that, I made 350,000 dollars selling my own art. The year after that, 464,000 dollars selling my own art. And last year during the pandemic, I sold 675,000 dollars worth of my art, lingerie, education, and speaking, because I diversified my income. I created protection for myself through many little opportunities, and I also created more opportunity for myself because fear was not dictating me anymore.

People ask me all the time, “How did you do it?” What I tell people is if you have a product that people want, you do not have to sell. It is your job to facilitate clients getting what they want. It is this philosophy that has guided me through the growth of my busines. I do not push people to buy things. I say, “Here are your options. This is the opportunity that I am presenting to you. This is the cost.” Then, I shut my mouth. So often we are so afraid that somebody is going to come up with an excuse, because we do not value ourselves enough, that we give them the excuse before they even thought about it for themselves.

If you are sitting in a sales room, do not say a word. Most of the time when people are quiet it is because they want something, it is because they are trying to figure it out for themselves. They are calculating money. They are looking at their different bank accounts in their head and trying to figure out what they can juggle around to get themselves what they want. So, who are you to tell them they do not want it? Just like with pushing ourselves on our partners and friends and business associates when it comes to our emotions, we do not want to block somebody’s choices financially and project our own insecurities onto them.

When you learn to stop stepping in your own way, it does not just affect your romantic relationships and your friendships, but it will have a major impact on your money because you will stop interfering with your own potential.

You will trust that other people want what you have to offer, and you will not try to convince them otherwise.

5. Artistically, how you allow media in the world to impact your worth.

The art and media that we consume have a direct effect on our self-worth. “According to a journal published by King University, the organization, Eating Disorder Hope, detailed how social media can potentially benefit the way women feel about their body image. They said the landscape of body positivity on the internet has created more understanding and INCLUSIVE SPACES for all body types. As a result, “body image advocacy on social media can make a huge impact on individuals actively struggling with eating disorders.”

The media is constantly telling us, “Love yourself, love yourself, love yourself,” Yet, here I am, a business owner of a business actually called “Self Love Experience” and I’m telling you, It is okay. You do not have to love yourself today. But today, you need to take a step towards what you are going to do to like yourself a little bit more tomorrow.

No wonder body insecurity is such a monetized concept. We not just fighting the entertainment, fashion, and music industries. We are not just fighting the news. We are not just fighting technology; we are not just fighting a generation before us.

We are fighting ourselves from 10, 15, 20 years ago. As a teenager I never believed I was good enough. Now we look at youth and think that is what we are supposed to remain. We are supposed to remain young. We are supposed to remain slender yet plump and lifted and firm because that is what the internet told us we needed to be.

Let us face it, as women, loving ourselves can be a challenge. Our bodies come in all these shapes, and, sizes and colors, and we are often told that we need to fit into this teeny, narrow-minded mold of what is considered beautiful. It’s a tough stigma to fight, but it’s not impossible. And it is certainly not something that we need to pass on to the next generation. When you put yourself in front of a camera and a person you do not know, you’re already winning. You are taking back the power from a society that tells you that you’re not perfect. And you are giving yourself permission to feel beautiful exactly as you are.

My clients, they tell me after that The Self Love Experience is transformative, that they have never seen themselves or felt beautiful or have been empowered to accept and love themselves. It is exceptional and it changes how they approach themselves and how they approach others. As profound as that might seem, it is not just about today, these photos are a gift for future generations. They are a testament to your feminine courage and grace, and they are a timeless memento of who you are in your most beautiful form. This is not just about pictures. This is about your legacy and it is about giving yourself permission to feel beautiful.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources for self-psychology, intimacy, or relationships? What do you love about each one and how does it resonate with you?

On Intimacy it must be my good friend Sara’s book — Miss Couples “The Ultimate Guide to Bondage” — I love the concepts of power exchange and her guide embraces this. I also love the section on how the world of bondage has influenced fashion trends!

On Self — Psychology it is — “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk. Once I learned that trauma is stored in the body, I began to be able to use physical signs as precursors to curb bad mental health moments.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? Maybe we’ll inspire our readers to start it…

I like to refer to myself as a Body Image Activist. I am the Owner and Creative Director of Self Love Experience based out of New York. Self Love Experience helps women to overcome negative body image and body insecurity through empowering photography sessions.

It is my personal mission to bring fashion diversity and representation to as many viewers as I can. Sadly, most luxury designer brands have not caught up to diversity movement, they are sticking strongly to the fair skinned waif 90s super model bodies that we have grown to expect on the runway. BODY IMAGE ACCEPTANCE MUST INCLUDE ALL BODIES AND ALL SKIN COLORS.

We need to see more diversity in media, leadership, and art.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you use to guide yourself by? 
 Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life and how our readers might learn to live by it in theirs?

I have a habit of tattooing my favorite quotes onto my body and this is the one that goes across the top both of my thighs like garters: “Women hold all the power, they should use it like a whip, not offer it up like a sacrifice.”

Our power is ours to hold. No more giving it away freely to those who do not honor it. I encourage all readers today to find what makes them uniquely powerful and view this power like your weapon.

My power is in my words, I use my voice to fight for what I believe in. I do not go quietly into the good night but rage in with torches ablaze ready to battle anyone who tells me that I am not good enough.

Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!

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