Dear woman, when was the day that someone decided you were ___________ *insert female stereotype here* _____________ ?
Maybe you remember the moment, or maybe it happened slowly. But my guess is, you've allowed others to define you.
Maybe you expressed who you were and someone in the crowd said, "No, actually you’re __________." And you believed them. Or maybe someone in the crowd said, "You are ____________" and you rejected that definition so you decided to be the opposite of it, even if the opposite wasn't completely true.
There’s something I’ve learned over the past few years. The opposite of the identity you reject won't necessarily be your authentic self.
Two years ago, I transitioned out of a definition I had subconsciously clung to for over half a decade and my entire marriage up to that point. It was "Pastor's Wife."
I never signed a contract that said I had to make this title my identity, but at the time I believed it was an expectation that my family and faith community had put on me. However, when that title was no longer mine (because my husband made a career change), I resented it. Bitterly. I looked hard at the expectations and the ways I'd made myself physically and mentally ill trying to meet them. I resented the crowd that I believed had crushed me beneath these impossible standards and when I woke up that first Sunday morning with no place to go, I realized that I'd clung to this definition like a safety blanket so I could hide beneath my insecurities and blame them on the impossible "standards" others had set for me.
I climbed onto that pendulum and swung as far to the other side as I could. I cussed, I used the F word (feminism), and posted photos with alcohol on social media. I felt like a badass because I read books by people I didn't previously agree with and started to speak my broadened mind. I wore crop tops! But do you know what happened? I started to make whatever-is-the-opposite-of-pastors-wife my new identity. But over time I began to realize that trying to be a perfectly strong and independent #bossbabe (ugh) is just as impossible as trying to be a perfect Pastor's Wife. I began to reexamine my faith, my work habits, and my beliefs around all of these pieces that make me who I am.
I finally stopped clinging to the pendulum - regardless of where it sat - and got brave enough to jump off completely.
Big sigh. I've never written those words before. But I smile as I share them with you, because that festering wound has become a scar that I acquired on this journey (strenuous hike) called life. Through this process I faced the fact that while our society has wrongfully stereotyped women, we are prone to accept those stereotypes so we don't have to change or grow.
I get it though. It can be easier to accept one tidy definition than to look in the mirror and drink in the multifaceted, complex, and overwhelmingly beautiful being you are.
So that leads me to this project - these portraits. I wanted to photograph Alexis first as a blank slate, and then as an undefinable woman. In my world, a vintage gold motorcycle jacket, bralette, and handmade tulle skirt do not "go" together. But in this portrait, they do. Because Alexis is a woman like any other, who is professional, creative, kind, whimsical, AND true to herself. She is independent but vulnerable and involved in her family and community. She does art therapy for children and also loves Crossfit. She enjoys cotton candy and salad bars. She is soft and fierce.
You and I are so much more than the one little definition our society uses to pinpoint us for marketing strategies and advertising. We are more than the words we choose for our Instagram bios. We are women - We will not be defined.
Cheering you on,
Ready to celebrate the many pieces of who you are? Contact Mitzi here.