When I was 8 years old I was the epitome of a little girl: Really creative plus expressive with boundless energy and endless imagination; I had so many dreams! And then something happened... Someone told me I was fat and looked like a boy.
I became consumed with posters of celebrities from magazines and trying to look like the "perfect woman" I saw in the advertisements. Through all that, I believed that my worth could be summed up in six letters: pretty.
I shut down any part of me that didn't fit into what I was told I "should" be. I quit sports and music and lost interest in school.
By the time I was 12 I had an eating disorder -- I took diet pills and laxatives, I hid in bathrooms to either throw away or throw up my food. And for the next 17 years I prided myself on being a size zero by starving myself, all the while feeling dead on the inside.
While this is my story, it's also the story of millions of women all around the world.
Forty-seven percent of girls in 5th-12th grade reported wanting to lose weight because of magazine pictures.--- source- - Prevention of Eating Problems with Elementary Children, Michael Levine, USA Today, July 1998.
Sixty-nine percent of girls in 5th-12th grade reported that magazine pictures influenced their idea of a perfect body shape.
By 2010 I had had enough. I was tired of feeling that I wasn't thin enough, pretty enough, smart enough, tall enough or good enough, was keeping me from going after the things I wanted in life. I knew that regardless of what I weighed or looked like -- it was about changing the conversation.
I created Women Enough (WE) so that all women can own their worth-far beyond their beauty. We build media campaigns and experiences that support women in having a healthy body image and self esteem; so we can live into our full potential and be role models for the next generation.
That is when the #BARE Campaign was born.
We gathered women ages 24-80, from all walks of life -- all shapes, sizes, ethnicities and backgrounds -- in an intimate circle. These women were ready to claim all parts of themselves. We broke apart and reframed their beliefs, their stories and, ultimately, their lives. And then, they posed... Bare.
Alone and together, we took a stand against the story big media has been writing for women for way too long. Not only did we look at and see one another -- but we got to see ourselves.
"I felt more safe in this group of women than I ever had before, and I've been in some wonderful groups of women." - Bonnie
"Truly mesmerizing courage for me and I was thinking I might cut your story out and keep it in a folder to inspire me when I don't feel as courageous." -- Jessica, AU
"And as I went BARE, I released the shame and shadows that I didn't even know I had. Going bare is a very unique opportunity to uncover and reclaim those places of shame you don't even know you have." -- Mai
"The BARE experience was certainly a turning point in my "new identity" after cancer. I had always felt like my body was strong and responsive to me, naturally. I was proud of my body - muscular and strong. Then Cancer came into my life and I felt so out of control with my body.
Going BARE was more than revealing my current physical body, it was about revealing me without clothes to hide behind. Clothes that would hide the physical and emotional scars, loss of muscle tone, and my fear of the unknown of my life. It wasn't "if" anymore, it was when...life was changing and I didn't have my strong body to lean into anymore. The BARE experience showed me that I could be vulnerable and strong. I could allow the world to really see me and still be fully me. Revealing all of me, didn't take away any of me. Allowing myself to be seen without a cover showed me that I am strong no matter what. I highly recommend the BARE experience to any and ALL women - you don't really know who you are until you allow yourself to go BARE." -- Sharianne
"I posed for ALL women who hate who they are."
"The week leading up to the shoot really opened the flood gates and revealed to me all sorts of limiting beliefs that I hold about myself. There were two in particular that really kicked me in the butt.... I found myself on my bedroom floor in the fetal position more than once. I burst into sobs while driving. My heart ached. For these beliefs are not silly little musings - they are beliefs that I hold about myself on a really deep core level. I can consciously acknowledge that they are nonsense, but the deeper part of me sees and labels them as truth. - My goal with this photo shoot today is to release these two beliefs. I am choosing to write a new story for myself. One where I know in my deepest heart that I am beautiful and inspirational. One where I truly believe this in the deepest reaches of my soul, instead of just in my head. One where these are my reality, not my facade." -- Bri, Los Angeles
Now we're bringing the BARE experience to more than a thousand women in ten cities around the world.
We've already interviewed and photographed hundreds of women who reached millions more with their strength and stories. With your help -- we'll change the conversation for this generation -- and the next.
Help us create a world where all women and girls are seen, heard, and free. http://bit.ly/1tmLhKI
photography by Anastasia Kuba
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.