I met Caitlin at a women’s retreat a few years ago. I knew she had a huge heart right away. She is truly beautiful inside and out. Keep reading to hear about her experience with her boudoir photoshoot.
WHY DID YOU WANT TO DO A BOUDOIR SESSION FOR YOURSELF?
I wanted to do a boudoir session for myself because I’ve always had a very low self-esteem. Despite generous compliments I have received, I see a skewed image when I look in the mirror, and when I see pictures of myself, too. For as long as I can remember I’ve focused on my many ‘flaws’, as opposed to the qualities I should be proud of.
Heck, deep down I know I should be proud of my flaws, too!
I had admired boudoir photos over time and always appreciated how confident and brave the people in them seemed, but I never imagined I could be one of those people.
Just before I became a mom I had worked diligently to be in the best shape I’d ever been in. I was more confident then than I’d ever been, too, and had considered booking a boudoir session before getting pregnant ‘as a keepsake’. But then I got pregnant quickly, and my pregnancy kicked my butt. I was sick for the full nine months, ate poorly because of that, and basically ‘let myself go’. I assumed my chance of ever (even remotely confidently) doing a boudoir session was lost.
But then I met Sam at a women’s retreat.
I knew she was going to be there, and was offering mini-sessions to anyone interested. I was sure I wouldn’t participate, but packed some outfit options ‘just in case’.
Funny enough I did participate, but didn’t wear a single one of the options I’d brought. I lent them out instead.
It must have been a mix of the positive, encouraging women I was surrounded with, the energy of the retreat we were experiencing together, plus the feeling I immediately got from Sam that led me to get in front of her camera. I barely wore makeup, did nothing with my hair, and wore a white cut off tank top and jean shorts. So simple, and yet when I got my three images back, it was like I was looking at a stranger. I saw someone confident, brave and beautiful. It was so empowering to connect my reaction to the images to the fact that the subject was me.
Years of rampant and constant self-criticism paired with growing, birthing and nursing a child hadn’t ‘ruined’ me, after all; quite the contrary. Those three initial images (plus the feeling I had while Sam was taking them) were life changing.
I knew from that experience that I would someday do a full session with Sam.
HOW DID YOU FEEL DURING YOUR SHOOT?
Sam may not have known, but when I arrived on the day of my shoot I was an insecure ball of nerves. I had gained a fair amount of weight since the mini-session we’d done. My life course had taken a drastic turn. I had been feeling small and ‘stuck’. It didn’t help that the night before something had happened to shake my confidence to the core. I was not feeling physically OR mentally prepared, but I knew I couldn’t cancel, so I followed through.
I was met by Sam and Cassandra (hair and makeup) who immediately made me feel at ease. They both have a subtle and yet powerful energy that lifted my spirits (and my confidence). I felt comfortable. I felt cared for. I felt seen. I was heard.
Cassandra did my hair and makeup in such a way that I felt my features were enhanced, but I wasn’t hidden. I wasn’t over-done. I was still ‘me’.
And then there was my shoot…
I felt shaky and unsure at first. But with Sam’s directions, her positivity, and her reactions, my confidence grew and grew. Throughout the shoot my nerves dissipated entirely. I was still me, but with layers and years of doubt stripped away. I wasn’t overthinking anymore. I wasn’t doing the photos for anyone other than myself. I got out of my head and trusted myself. Sam made it feel like I’d done it a million times. I felt so safe and celebrated.
I arrived that day feeling small, scared, insecure and sad, and she lifted me out of all of that and reminded me that I matter. I am enough. I am beautiful. I am worthy.
HOW DID YOU FEEL THE FIRST TIME YOU SAW YOUR IMAGES?
I remember telling Sam that I wished she’d videotaped my reactions to the slideshow of my images. I had no idea what to expect.
I loved that she had put her favourites from the shoot into a slideshow, with empowering music in the background. I also loved that she added motivational messages throughout the slideshow. But what I especially loved was that she left me alone to experience them the first time alone. If she’d been with me, I would have had an audience; someone to react for. Someone whose presence I’d be hyper aware of; not wanting to react in any way to let her down.
I felt so many emotions as I saw myself come up on her screen. I laughed (out of shock and disbelief). I cried. I was amazed by the woman in front of me. It sank in slowly but surely that the beautiful, confident and BRAVE woman in the photos was in fact me. I was in total awe; not only of myself, but of Sam’s talent and abilities to help women look – but more importantly FEEL – their best.
HAS THE EXPERIENCE CHANGED THE WAY YOU VIEW YOURSELF?
Absolutely! That’s an understatement.
I think especially because I am a wife and mom. Too often other people’s needs and comforts are my priority. I don’t have the time or energy for myself that I wish I had. I always feel like the day is over and I’ve done little to care for myself; and it shows. Not just physically, but mentally and spiritually, too. I feel deflated and drained so much of the time. And I am fully aware that may never change.
But now I know what I’m capable of. Sam helped me to see what’s under the layers, and what will always be at my core. And it’s so much more than the hair. The makeup. The outfits. The poses. The setting. The lighting. The editing.
What I see when I look at my pictures is a woman who matters. A woman who, under layers of doubt and insecurity and giving and serving others, still exists. Yes, I know my photos are beautiful. A lot came together that day to make that happen. But it’s more than the beautiful woman I see in the photos that has changed the way I view myself; it’s the spark in her I can feel again when I see them. It’s like I’m transported back in time.
It’s so much more than how I looked, and it’s all about how I felt.
Sam captured my confidence. Sam captured my cheeky side. Sam captured how powerful, classy and capable I am as a woman.
No matter what my future holds, I will forever have how Sam made me feel that day frozen in time. To this day (months later) I return to them when I’m feeling lost, trapped, alone, insecure, anxious or unworthy. It’s incredible how that’s often the nudge (or the kick in the pants and shake up) I need to remember I’m more than all of that.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND THIS EXPERIENCE TO OTHER WOMEN?
Heck yes! Mothers or not. Wives or not. Confident or not. This experience from stem to stern opened my eyes (and my heart). I now see myself in a brand new way. I feel an ease in my own skin I didn’t have before. It has shaped how I see myself (physically and beyond), and has even shaped my relationships.
The way my boudoir session with Sam has changed me is not something you can put a price tag on. I will always and forever be eternally grateful for how Sam put me in front of myself and helped me admire who I saw. It’s something I don’t think I’d ever (truly) felt before.