Before we start, some context...
When I was younger I dreamt of becoming a Suicide Girl. For those of you who don't know them (OMG WHAT?), these beautiful ladies became famous for embracing beauty in every shape and form — meaning bodies covered in tattoos, having bright-colored hair, and being outside of traditional beauty norms were celebrated. The name comes from the idea that women who commit "social suicide" by being different come together.
In the past I dipped my feet into modeling, but 100% as a hobby, and I always took it as something fun and meaningless that didn't define me. That was until I got turned down for a job because, as the HR person put it, they had found photos of me that were "too provocative" on the internet, and that was unprofessional.
Things haven't changed much in the past 10 years. Recently Kim Kardashian got heavily criticized for posting a naked selfie on Instagram. There was a whole debate as to whether or not this was empowering, and if it was something a mom should do or not. Piers Morgan even called it the end of feminism.
So, after asking my boss for permission — I didn't want to get in trouble again, but yes that was a very uncomfortable email to send — I undressed in front of the camera, and here's what I learned.
1. My relationship with my boyfriend became stronger.
When I told him the crazy idea I had, while lying in bed on Saturday morning, there was little reaction from his side — which kind of scared me a bit. How is he going to feel when I'm naked on the internet? How is he going to handle the horny commenters? How will he deal with me when I break down in tears because someone is trolling me?
His reaction surprised me beyond expectations.
He was the one who took all the photos. He even told me how to pose and helped fix my underwear and hair. We spent a morning playing the roles of model and photographer, and by the end he said he'd be happy to do it again because he had so much fun.
When I started uploading the photos my insecurities invaded my head, and he was there to assure me a million times that the photos were great and I had nothing to worry about.
In the past, I've had boyfriends who were extremely jealous and were willing to start a fistfight if someone even looked at me on the street. Others tried to break my self-confidence by saying things like "What is my family going to think of me?" when I proposed crazy ideas like this one (which happens very often). But the confidence of my boyfriend during this project, and especially all the love he had in his eyes every time I got nervous about it, made me fall for him a million times more.
2. I became (even more) addicted to my phone.
I checked my iPhone a million times (and probably more) during the week. Are people liking my photos? Why has no one liked it yet? Are they commenting? Should I have written another caption? Why are they not liking it more? Followers, stop leaving me!
It was like that every single day.
It's interesting to see that the more I exposed myself on social networks — be it physically or emotionally — the more I needed reassurance from others. Others whom I don't know personally and don't know me. Others whose opinions should not matter. Still, there I was waiting for the public approval of my followers with their likes — something I don't find myself doing when I upload a photo of my dog.
Oh, also note that checking Instagram so often will suck the life out of your battery.
3. I had to learn to love my body again.
I know I don't have the perfect body. I am also aware that many of you will wonder why I complain about it. The reality is that after a terrible experience with a well-known hormonal birth control, my weight spiraled out of control. And it wasn't gradually — more like I woke up one day and was 25 pounds heavier and didn't fit in any of my clothes. I even ripped the two pairs of jeans that still fit because I was tucked into them so tightly that as soon as I sat down, my ass cheeks were out and about.
All of this is to say, I'm constantly rediscovering myself.
I wanted to know if I could love my body — and the answer is yes, but it's not always easy. There were a ton of times during this experiment when my eyes teared up, either because I was super ashamed about having co-workers commenting on my photos or because I overanalyzed every single pixel on my phone only to land at the obvious conclusion that no, I'm not perfect.
In one of those fragile moments I told my boyfriend the most painfully honest thing I've told him so far in our relationship: "I wish I could see what you see when you look at me." Yup, there are days when I wonder why he likes me so much and I need him to understand that there will be more times like that in our future, and that it's mainly because of the unreachable beauty standards that women have been programmed to aspire to since we were little.
The truth is we are all beautiful. We just need to accept that. We need to love, respect, and take care of ourselves. No one will if we don't do it to begin with. And no, it's not easy.
4. The internet can be a horrible place, especially if you are a woman.
Where to start... I knew people were going to comment on my not-so-perfect body. I also expected to lose some followers. What I wasn't expecting, however, was for people to have so much free time on their hands that they'd do things like create fake accounts to leave mean comments over and over again. (Thanks for comparing me to a blow-up doll, btw — at least you were creative.) I also did not expect that after blocking a dude who kept leaving disgustingly graphic comments, he would go on to create SIX more accounts to be able to continue sharing what he wanted to do to me with the world.
I only did this for a week, and I have a relatively small account. I don't even want to imagine the amount of shit Suicide Girls or other models have to deal with on a daily basis.
What was even more shocking was how hard it was to get Instagram to do something about the harassment and trolling. I reported the accounts, asked my co-workers to do the same, asked my Twitter followers for help, and even spoke to the head of security at BuzzFeed. Even with all of that, it took Instagram SEVEN HOURS to get back to me. Which leaves me wondering if companies like these even care about protecting their users.
5. When your self-esteem fails you, cropping is your best friend.
I'll admit that there were some photos that I begged my boyfriend to crop because I was super embarrassed of my new naked body. I still have issues with some parts of it, mainly my legs and butt, and seeing them squashed against a chair made me uncomfortable.
However, I find peace in thinking that probably even Gisele Bündchen thinks she has a bad angle, and we all have to live with it.
6. People love talking.
Although I expected my friends to ask me what was happening, it shocked me to see how much my feed became a topic of conversation. It was interesting to see that most of the comments revolved, in some way or another, around my boyfriend. As if my body wasn't mine and I couldn't do what I wanted with it. "Did you break up with him?" "What does he think about you doing this?" "You guys are probably experimenting sexually, right?" These were some of the most recurring comments. A lot of people also assumed that I was changing jobs because you can't be professional and show your ass on the internet, apparently.
It was also a surprise to me that my Latino friends were much more open to discuss my photos and ask about them than my American friends, who talked about them without including me in the conversation.
So what did I learn this week?
# That we have to accept, love and take care of each other more. What's the point on obsessing with your muffin top if that will prevent you from being happy?
# Life is short, so live and let live. (That's for all you trolls out there.)
# You will, believe it or not, find someone who loves you the way you are. And sharing your insecurities with this person will make you stronger.
# It's 2016, you CAN be sexy and professional. And for those who disagree, it's time you update your iOS, because you are becoming outdated.