As a society, we tend to value our individual “highlight reels” and hide the journey that brought us to those moments.

Social media and online dating has introduced a new means of communication for us. We bond with people and get to know them by flipping through their profile pictures and reading about their achievements online. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this except that it gives us a very skewed perception of who that individual is.

People post pictures, thoughts, and achievements that they value in themselves and often neglect to show anything else. We might like to share the picture of us after losing 15 pounds but we don’t like to share the struggle and inner conflict that we had to endure to reach our goals. If we saw those cravings, panic attacks, depression, confusion, and struggles as something worth sharing, we might all begin to connect on deeper, more meaningful levels.

When we only show the world our peak moments, we only express a fraction of who we are. I believe that we do this to avoid judgement. Celebrity magazines often show stars either at their “best” (fit body, healthy, new relationship, pregnancy) with positive captions beside their pictures or at their “worst” (gained weight, drug abuse, divorce, rehab) with shaming, judgemental captions beside their pictures.

Imagine what the world would look like if we appreciated individuals for who they really are instead of their highlight reel. We all have moments that we’re proud of and like to share with our loved ones. It just becomes a problem when we hide the moments in between our highlights.

For example, we share and “like” pictures of pregnant bellies, but not the aftermath—the woman’s body after she has given birth. Many of us haven’t learned to see the beauty in that stage of a woman’s life.

Laura Dyck, the woman behind The Skin I’m In- Women Talk and mother of four, approached AppleSeed photography with a different request. Laura wanted pictures of her new baby and her post-partum body. She explains that, “We tend to celebrate our pregnant bellies… yet I think that a post-pregnancy belly is one of society’s greatest kept secrets…There is this drastic change from being proud to being ashamed. Showing it off to hiding it…We mock the beauty that created and nourished our babies.”

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These pictures show Laura’s body after she’s given birth (a stage not many women make public). She proudly shows off her stretch marks and postpartum tummy.

After posting these pictures to her Facebook page, Laura wrote, “It is my hope to inspire women of all ages, shapes and sizes to embrace and love their bodies so it is no longer a secret. Can you imagine a world where we could tell the truth, show up and be seen?”

The public’s response was overwhelmingly positive, and the very next day she shared, “I am so overwhelmed by all the love, support, encouraging words and messages I’ve received over the past two days. Wow.”

Despite the fear of judgement many of us have, most people appreciate real honesty. It inspires, motivates, and connects us in profound ways. We need to honor and express ourselves at all stages of life. We are whole beings that are constantly changing and growing. Why not cherish that? There is beauty in all stages of life and if we can’t see that, it doesn’t mean we aren’t beautiful, it only means we need to shift our perception.

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