Body Image and Its Impact on Story Development for Authors
I want to take a minute to reintroduce myself and share a bit about the work that I will be doing with Women’s Business Daily! My name is Lindsay Rae and I am an Empowerment Photographer and Body Image Activist who owns Self Love Experience (™). Having photographed over 600 women, I have learned that the one thing that we have in common is our battle against societal notions of what we should look like. Women from a size 00 – 6XL all struggle and for the same reasons despite them feeling completely different. Women with curves wish they were slender and slender women wish they had curves because we are all trying to fit into an impossible and unrealistic ideal.
Body Image directly ties into corporate culture because if a person feels safe and secure in their body and not guarded against predatory (or racist/bigoted) behavior they can perform their executive function more efficiently. As the Notorious RBG says “women belong wherever decisions are made.” This means as women we require safe, respectful, and inclusive workspaces so our voices can continue to be where they count most.
Through the work that I do, I am lucky to be introduced to some insanely inspiring women and I am honored that I get to be the one to share their stories with you!
Read below to learn about my amazing client Brittany Terwilliger and how her own body image impacts her work as an author.
Can you tell us about what started your career as an author?
I have always been a writer since I was young, but I didn’t think of it as a viable career until I was in my mid-20s. I was living and working in Europe and missing my friends and family, so I would write to them frequently, mainly about the strange/funny experiences I had while traveling, or ways I’d made a fool of myself in front of a lot of chic French people. Over time more and more people—even people I didn’t know—asked to be added to my email list. More than one person said that when my emails came in, they would gather their co-workers in their office and read the emails out loud because they were so funny. Several people suggested I turn the emails into a book. I naively thought, “great, I’ll sell a million copies and be rich,” so I combined all of the emails into a manuscript, polished it up, and sent it to some agents… and was summarily rejected. So I revised, rewrote. I attended writing workshops, kept revising. Years later, what I ended up with in no way resembled the pasted-together emails I started with, and I found a publisher.
Do you feel that the way you view your own body has any impact on the way you develop stories and character relationships?
Yes, in fact, a case could be made that even the tone, themes, and plotlines of my stories arise from the way I view my body. Without really setting out to, I have written a lot about the sexualization and exploitation of women by men. From a very young age, I viewed my body through the lens of the male gaze. If I went to the gym, or went on a diet, or changed my hair, it was to appear attractive to men. I wanted to be attractive to men because I, like most of the women I know, was conditioned to believe that attraction equals love. The disconnect between attraction and love, and the resulting trauma and disillusionment, informs a lot of my stories and characters.
As a businesswoman, did you ever hesitate or pause when deciding to do a Self Love Experience?
No, but I have been cautious about whom I share the photos with. While I believe Lindsay’s photography is very tasteful and artistic, I know there are plenty of people who would be clutching their pearls if I posted a nude photo of myself on my social media accounts. Likewise, I know there would be men who would assume these photos existed only to arouse them, and I am not looking for that kind of attention.
Do you feel your personal image in the public eye has any impact on your work as an author – Do you prefer to be vulnerable or more curated in what you share of yourself?
Yes, this is something I constantly battle. I am always so inspired by authors who are willing to really bare their souls, and I strive to do that. I think the best and most interesting work comes from that place. But it can be really frightening, especially now that we live so much online, because it’s easier than ever for someone to harass, stalk, dox, criticize, and otherwise invade our lives. There is also the element of permanence—once something is out there, it’s out there. A piece of writing or a social post can live forever online, even though it only represents your thoughts at this particular point in time. So I would say I try to be vulnerable, but I am careful about it.
What is your best advice for the women out there reading this who dream of penning their own books?
Never give up! We hear so many stories of the wunderkinds who achieved instant success, but we don’t hear as many stories of the people who toiled for years or decades. Yet, the latter is much more common. I have known incredibly talented writers whose novels are abandoned in drawers because they got discouraged and didn’t stick with it. If you are willing to stick with it, keep learning, keep working at it, you will eventually get there.
What can we expect from you next?
I am working on my second novel, which I hope to show my publisher by the end of this year.
Where can our readers find your work and follow your journey?
My website is www.BrittanyTerwilliger.com and I’m also on Twitter at @Brttnyblm.
Brittany’s Story In Her Own Words
We would be remiss to pass an opportunity with an established author to have her tell her story in her own words, read below for how this boss survived covid and flourished in Self Love.
“It has been a disorienting year for me, as I imagine it has been for everyone.
At 36, I was living in a small Midwest college town, single, in a job that I hated, wondering what I was doing with my life. Most of my friends had moved away to more exciting places, and I’d done the conservative thing and stayed put, worked long hours, saved money. I was by some measures successful, but I’d always imagined myself with a partner and a community of friends where I felt like I belonged, and I still hadn’t found those things. So I started asking myself some tough questions. Am I where I should be at this point in my life? Have I been bold enough? In answer, I did something crazy: I sold my house, quit my job, and moved to New York.
A few months after I got here, I met a guy, fell in love. I bought a house. My career was on track. Everything seemed to be falling into place.
Then the pandemic hit. My boyfriend lost his job and became increasingly distant and angry. I started working remotely, which pitched me into a level of extreme social isolation I’ve never experienced. I was still new in town and didn’t know anyone outside of my boyfriend’s social circle. When he and I eventually broke up, the isolation got even worse, and I sank into a deep, dark, lonely, anxious depression. I had hoped to spend this year meeting people, settling into my new city, taking full advantage of what feels like rapidly declining youth. Instead, I watched the time tick by as I edged closer to 40, alone, waking up every morning with some new ache or wrinkle, wondering if experiences are still significant if they’re not shared with anyone.
One day, something shifted. I don’t really know what caused it, but the first thing I did was drive to the grocery store and buy several different flavors of fancy chocolate bars. I brought them home and made myself a little chocolate buffet, breaking them into pieces and tasting them one at a time. I started taking elaborate baths with rose-scented bath oils and a Billie Holiday playlist, started wearing sexy lingerie around the house just because it felt good, started drinking all of my beverages out of the pretty china teacups I’d previously reserved for company. The silver lining of living alone is that there’s no one around to judge you when you go full Miss Havisham. The lesson I wish I’d learned much sooner is that lovely, thoughtful, indulgent things are worth doing even if I’m the only one who ever sees them.
That sentiment is what led me to Lindsay. I’d always thought of boudoir photography as something you do for a man, it had never occurred to me that it could be something I do for myself.
It’s hard to put into words exactly what this photoshoot did for me. The experience itself was exhilarating and so, so fun, tapping into my most girlish proclivities: playing dress-up, wearing lipstick and high heels on green velvet furniture. But it also soothed me in some essential way, by allowing me to take this moment and pin its wings down, keep it tucked away for myself, and know that this season was not wasted. Lindsay’s gift to you is this beautiful, glamorous, art-house movie star version of yourself, preserved and impervious to the ravages of time.
Now, when I’m an old lady and I glance at this photo hanging on my wall, I can say to myself, like Rose Dawson from Titanic: “Wasn’t I a dish?”
Internationally published and multi-award-winning photographer, including First Place Professional Boudoir for RangeFinders first Celebrate the Body, Lindsay owns and operates Self Love Experience out of Troy, NY. Lindsay's work has been published in The Times Union, Shutterbug Magazine, Period Magazine, Voltron Magazine, Philosophie Magazine, Surreal Beauty Magazine, Ellements Magazine and LiBAREator Magazine, and many more. With a focus on helping women overcome negative body image and body insecurity, her sessions are as much about the experience she gives her clients as the final art they receive. Lindsay believes in the power of print and has a mission to provide all of her clients with large art pieces to hang in their homes.
Stemming from a very difficult upbringing with a family on welfare to building a multiple six-figure business selling her art in NY, Lindsay's focus is self-love, self-confrontation, overcoming body insecurity, and seeing yourself as more than scars of your past.
Society tells women that we have to fit into this tiny narrow-minded mold of what is considered beautiful.
Lindsay believes confidence in the skin you are in trickles into every aspect and relationship in your life and she gives women permission to feel beautiful exactly as they are.