Tanya’s Story| RAW session at Duluth Boudoir Photography

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What single word do you most identify with?


Tanya was a applicant that was accepted for a RAW session. She willingly and openly has expressed her story to me and for all of you to read. RESPECT that. All these amazing woman have opened their door to us and trusted us to be their stories keeper. To let them be heard.. to not feel alone. I highly suggest listening to the song while you look through the images.

My name is Tanya. When I applied for a RAW Session, I knew it would be good for my mental health. I knew the feelings I had about my body were less than positive, and that I needed to see myself in a different light. I am excited to share my story with you, and to share a little about this impactful experience.

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My body and I – our relationship is, well, kind of terrible. Let’s bring it back, shall we? My entire life, I’ve been “skinny,” you know, the kind people like to talk about. Being “thin” was often the first thing people noticed, and it was constantly verbalized. It wasn’t even always positive, but it was consistent, it’s who I was. Growing up, it felt important – critical, really – to stay that way. I’ve made unhealthy choices to manipulate my body – to stay “skinny.” I wish I could say that got easier as I grew up – but to this day, it’s still something I think about regularly. 

I recently had two babies. I’m a proud mama to Adeline and Evelyn – we just celebrated their 1st and 2nd birthdays in June. They’re just over 12 months apart. This means my body has endured the growth and change, providing life for nearly two years. The small break I had between pregnancies, the older of the two was still reliant on my body for food. 

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With a hint of shame, I must admit that I am not in love with my “Mom Bod.” Embracing the change has been a challenge for me. In fact, I hated being pregnant – entirely related to body image issues, and I am resentful of that. It wasn’t beautiful to me. It was painful – the changes happened so fast I didn’t have time to adjust before the next came, the fear of the state my body would be left in… honestly, it feels to be a really permanent consequence for borrowing your body out for 10 months. It was my body first, and I still have to live in it for 50ish years – hopefully. I work to manage really hard feelings about my body – reminding myself the powerhouse it truly is – but I fail to see it more times than not. I know I am not the only one who feels this way. I know that I don’t have it “that bad,” and it’s hurtful when my feelings are invalidated because I am constantly compared to other women. While it’s true that I may not have the same marks of motherhood that you do, it doesn’t mean that I don’t long for the “old me.” I don’t have control over these changes, I cannot reverse them or make them go away with a lifestyle change. My clothes don’t fit the same. I am not who I was before, and that is hard for me. 

Things went from bad to worst when I discovered that there had been many hurtful acts of betrayal within my relationship. Sparing you the details, just a few notes on that. “Something must be wrong with me,” I thought. I compared myself to them – which, is really difficult and dangerous to do to yourself when you don’t know who “they” are… the mind it a powerful place. I became my own battlefield. 

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My husband and I are working to recover our marriage, and it’s become apparent that he seems to have some underlying issues that caused this to happen. I can assure you he has been hurt far more than I have, in ways I cannot even begin to imagine – he’s a GOOD person, who’s learned some BAD coping mechanisms to survive life. Which leads me to tell you that all this means – his actions probably didn’t have anything to do with me.

Except… to me, it did, and it still does. I still feel that pain. I still feel inadequate. I still feel that if I were skinnier or prettier, it wouldn’t have happened. I am working through therapy to attempt to heal the injuries these incidents have caused. My self image, and particularly body image, are something I very much struggle with every single day. I don’t love “Me.” I don’t know that I ever have, but I know for sure that I am currently living in a shell that I don’t recognize, and I don’t love. I still make choices that are unhealthy for my body, in a desperate attempt to like what I see. To feel better in my jeans. To feel like maybe, just maybe, if I meet the ideal image – my husband wouldn’t have done that to me. 

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How messed up is that? I know. I am working on it. I know it’s wrong. But those feelings are THERE and they are REAL. I am on the journey to loving myself, accepting myself, and I am hopeful that I can overcome the challenges to project a better self image upon myself, to teach my daughters to love themselves. 

While I knew these things at the point of applying for the session, I didn’t know just how well I have masked these feelings and this pain. I don’t acknowledge it, I put on a big old sweatshirt and turn off the lights so that I don’t have to come to terms with the things that I don’t want to. I haven’t grieved the loss of my “old” self or forgiven myself for carrying such ugly feelings about myself throughout my journey as a mother. I panicked on my way down that I couldn’t “cheat” to feel better about myself… no makeup, no hiding, no “fixing.” Eek!

But it was beautiful. I cried. In a room, with a stranger, when the music was just right… I cried. And can I just say, that is exactly what I fucking needed. I walked out that door and felt like so much weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. I looked at the photos in a whole new light, even the ones I didn’t really like to see. Thank you, Emily, for supporting me and giving me the opportunity to shift the way I see myself. 10/10 recommend yall do this for yourselves, too!

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