Back in July we offered a free photo shoot to someone who identified as a woman and who felt they could use a pick me up. We asked each person applying to tell us a bit about themselves and why they felt they could use a special day. Sixteen women applied and with careful consideration, Allie Lalonde was our winner.
We brought together a make-up artist, stylist, photographer and caterer who offered vegan and gluten-free brunch and spent two hours together with Allie. She is indeed a beautiful soul, inside and out. We are proud of her for her journey to self-love and we honour her strength and spirit as a woman.
It is important to note that these images have only been retouched in colour and Allie herself has not been augmented or photoshopped in anyway.
Self-Love is a concept in which I have very little experience with but am currently trying to learn. I have lived a life that makes seeing the beauty in myself very difficult.
The majority of my life was spent trying to find where I fit in. I never had a sense of belonging. From struggles at home, to extreme bullying at school, there always seemed to be this disconnect between myself and other people.
Through the years of struggle and a series of unfortunate events I was left with no self worth, no thought of a positive future for myself, no recognition that I was worthy of any sort of good life. I was never pretty enough, smart enough, or good enough. To start coping with all of the fear, insecurity and pain I fell into a life of addiction. I found a friend in substances, they took away all of those negative thoughts and feeling and turned me into a completely different person. I thought I found where I fit in.
Unfortunately that euphoria they provided wore off and wore off fast. Before I knew it, my entire life revolved around my addiction and I was more alone then I ever had been. I had cut myself off from my family, burned many bridges with so-called friends and was living in a very unhealthy environment, wasting away to nothing.
One night I had a moment of clarity. Just a brief one, but that is all it took. I looked around at what my life had become and I knew that I was either going to continue down that long road of misery ahead of me and probably die, or I was going to get up and get help. It took me a few attempts but I finally settled on the latter.
Today I can proudly say that I am over 2 years clean. But recovery for me has been far from easy. I have made many mistakes over the past couple years. I have fought it tooth and nail. I have learned many lessons the hard way, but in the end today, I am clean. Recovery for me has been about finding myself as a woman. Instead of running from those insecurities and that fear and that pain that caused me to use, I can now look at it all face on and know that I am not in that anymore, and I don't have to be and I can grow from it into a person that I am proud of and a person that I love.
Recovery has given me the ability to let down my walls I had so high in order to have solid relationships with family and friends built on mutual communication, honesty, love and respect. I have found a partner who is kind and loving and patient and who has also been an intricate part in teaching me about myself and how to love myself and to be happy with not only him but with myself as well.
I look back at my past and the road I had to travel to get to where I am today and to be honest, I don't think I would trade a single thing that happened because it helped push me in the direction I needed to go in order to be the person I am today.
I am far from perfect and there is still so much I need to continue to work on and change but it's a process, which is why I submitted the application for this Self-Love project. I still have extreme insecurities with myself. I still doubt my looks, and my smarts and whether I am good enough. I have a hard time wanting to be the one in front of the camera instead of the one behind it. I always look for the flaw in the end.
I am grateful for the experience I had with the ladies who all came together for this project. I was nervous and insecure and a little uncomfortable at times. But I forced myself out of the comfort zone and am in awe with the outcome. This project hasn't "cured" me of my insecurities but gave me a sense of pride in myself, and looking at some of the photos I can honestly tell myself I look beautiful.