I am most vulnerable when I am naked

As a recovery coach, I approach my clients as a peer, as someone who has suffered the slings and arrows of addiction and emerged into a life of recovery, and sober from drugs, alcohol and some behavioral addictions. As a peer I have the experiential knowledge to help my clients walk the pathway to recovery.

However, there are some clients, I cannot seek to help. These clients are the ones that identify as having eating disorders. That is because, (I have to be truthful here) I struggle with disordered eating. I am an overeater. Carbohydrates, dairy and processed sugars are my heroin and I have not overcome this addiction.

I also spent my formative years, from age one until well into my thirties, in the grips of body dysmorphia. In Wikipedia, body dysmorphia is defined as Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), also known dysmorphic syndrome, a mental disorder characterized by an obsessive preoccupation that some aspect of one’s own appearance is severely flawed and warrants exceptional measures to hide or fix it. I saw myself as a fat person. When I looked in the mirror I saw a person three or more dress sizes larger than I really was. I thought I was fat, when all along I was a person with a normal sized body.

What’s Underneath Project

This blog post will not go into my years of body dysmorphia, but rather on a recent awakening: how to accept me as I am. Just last week, I was viewing a www.thefix.com article on Tallulah Willis, Bruce Willis’ and Demi Moore’s daughter and her recent stay in a treatment center. There was a link to a video of Tallulah that I clicked on. I was introduced to a whole new way of seeing myself, through the “What’s Underneath Project.”

Seven years ago, Elisa Goodkind, a veteran fashion stylist, and her daughter, Lily Mandelbaum, a former film student, created StyleLikeU as an alternative to the fashion culture’s crippling status quo. Launched in 2009, StyleLikeU is home to a series of intimate video portraits that redefine our culture’s notion of beauty, called the What’s Underneath Project. These simple videos, show unapologetic individuals who are true to themselves in both their style and in their lives. Individuals, gay, straight, recovering from breast cancer or transitioning to their true gender, exude confidence in their own skin. And the viewers are empowered to discover that this same sense of confidence and beauty can be their own.

As I was browsing through the videos, and I clicked on Olivia Campbell’s (a well-known British plus style model) video. I cried when I listened to her journey through bullying and sexual abuse. I came to the realization that I am still beautiful, even though I am over sixty, thanks to Jacky O’Shaughnessy’s video. I was transfixed that her story, was exactly my story, one of poor body image and how it affects my relationships. Jacky’s statement that she feels the most vulnerable when she is naked in front of a man, and she feels the most beautiful when she is naked in front of a man, was so honest. Because underneath it all, I felt the same thing.

A Viral Phenomenon

The What’s Underneath Project strips everyday people and celebrities down to their bra and panties to open them up, exploring the power of genuine self-acceptance as they undress. Since its launch in 2014, the response has been monumental. The videos went viral, and have received over 9 million YouTube hits, international press, while fan mail floods in from people wanting to help, donate funds and participate. The What’s Underneath Project has produced 70 plus videos, ranging from 5 to 15 minutes in length, and has posted them on YouTube.

In November 2014, the What’s Underneath Project launched a Kickstarter campaign to support the production of a documentary film that will capture this viral video series. The campaign was a wild success and in just 18 days, exceeded the initial goal of $100k. By the end of the month-long campaign, the What’s Underneath Project raised a total of $135,655. The upcoming documentary film is in production and the What’s Underneath Project documentary film will be released in the Spring of 2017.

The What’s Underneath Project is on the road to becoming a global movement for self-acceptance.

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