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Love yourself, inside and out.

Sarah-Jane van Heerden is a photographer, a wife and a mom of three young children (Jessica 7yo, Andrew & Kaylee 4yo). After almost losing her life soon after giving birth, Sarah developed post-natal depression which left her feeling miserable about her life and looks. Through yoga, meditation and “me time,” she eventually began to accept and love her new body and life – but then her five-year-old daughter said something which shocked her.

 “One of my daughter’s friend’s was complimenting her, saying that she was beautiful on the inside and outside, but my daughter replied that she didn’t like her “outside.” It broke my heart and right there and then, I knew I had to do something to show my daughter how beautiful she is, just as she is.” I don’t talk about my body infront of my kids, for several reasons, but do find myself asking hubby every now and then, hoping none of the children hear me.. but maybe she did once? I don’t know, but as a mom I blame myself for what my children say from what they hear.. they’re around us 24/7. And WHY am I worried so much about this? I have three kids, a perfect best friend, what more could I ask for from a family!? Then I started thinking, “how can I send a message to woman to love themselves more?”

Inspired by a photographic series, entitled “Perfect Imperfections” by photographer Neely Ker-Fox, Sarah set out to create a similar experience for herself and five friends. Together with make-up artist, Brittany Jane Smith, Sarah invited her friends into her studio for a day of pampering, celebration and heart-felt conversation. She even got behind the camera herself. (below image)

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“We each took a turn with our kids in front of the camera to celebrate the journey we’ve been on. I wanted my friends to see themselves in a whole new light and I wanted our kids to see that their moms are proud of their bodies. For too long, we’ve focused on our flaws but scars and flaws should not consume us. Numbers on a scale should not define us. Our bodies have carried us through incredible journeys, and they should be accepted and loved, just as they are. After all, true beauty shines from within…from a place of love and acceptance.”

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Below is Sarah’s story in her own words, followed by the testimonials of her friends who joined her in studio.

“I put on 25 kilograms while pregnant with my first child and battled to lose it after she was born. When I was five kilos away from my pre-birth weight, I fell pregnant with twins. After that, life became a dark struggle. Around three hours after my c-section, I nearly lost my life. Fortunately, I’m here today but the experience left me feeling so alone as a mother. I wasn’t able to bond with my two babies due to the complications. More than twenty-fours hours later, I finally got to see them but I began to feel incredibly down, wondering why this had happened. I was also unable to breastfeed and although I was taking milk-producing tablets and expressing like a trooper, nothing helped me to feel better. On day five, my doctor told me to take a break and give the twins formula. Once home, I carried on with life and carried on raising my babies – just as mothers do, we keep on going. Unbeknown to me, I was suffering from post natal depression. A whole two years passed before I decided to seek help. With the help of yoga, meditation and ME time, I started resurrecting from my ‘black hole’ as I called it. I have THE most incredible best friend, my husband. Without his love and support this would’ve been harder than what it was already.  

Business began to boom and I started running again and getting back into gym. I finally felt like me again…on the inside. My body, however, was not and will never be the same on the outside, but that is okay!

 

I want to tell women that no matter what, “you deserve to LOVE YOURSELF.” If you don’t love yourself, nothing in your life moves. Everything becomes stagnant and its horrible! Only once I learnt to love myself, did things start falling back into place. My body won’t be the same as it was pre-birth, but I accept that and I’m happy in my skin. I’m alive, I’m healthy and I’m happy! Because I’ve learnt to love myself, I’m able to give love to my husband, kids and friends. Being a mom to three children has it’s tough moments, but at the end of the day, it is all SO worth it!

I truly believe that as women, we need to start accepting ourselves and loving ourselves no matter what flaws we have, and no matter what shape we are. This is something I hold close to my heart and I want to encourage every girl and women to love from within and SHINE!!

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  • Name: Sarah-Jane van Heerden

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  • What you dislike about yourself?
  • My small boobs, thunder thighs and ‘thick’ arms. I also dislike on the inside about always wondering what I look like and if I look okay.
  • What you love about yourself?
  • Love my bum, eyes and collar bone area.
  • Why is it so important to love yourself, body included?
  • As said above, loving yourself is just so so important. If you can’t love yourself how can you love others? Once I learned to care for myself only did I then realize that I could handle more and deal with more everyday life stress, in a calm way and still showing love to my kids instead of getting angry. When the worry of not being good enough and questioning your self worth goes, the world around you is a happier place and therefore the people in them too.
  • The most rewarding gift being a mom / woman is…
  • Receiving THE most unconditional love! Being able to pass this onto your kids and teach them self worth and love. Teaching and guiding your children is so rewarding! Getting that love and appreciation back is just so so awesome!
  • How did you feel being in front of the camera for this project?
  • Its not my happy place as I am usually on the other side of the camera, but it was honestly really empowering.

 

Meet Sarah’s friends:

Name: Kate Schreiner

What you dislike bout yourself?

I dislike my body on a whole when I believe I am carrying more weight than I would like to. I also am not terribly fond of my breasts, one is considerably smaller than the other. I dislike the constant battle of confidence within my self. Low self esteem and my critical side, namely ego….

What you love about yourself?

Physically I love my legs and eyes, perhaps even my dimples:) I don’t mind my body so much anymore, I give it a hard time sometimes but I am slowly learning to accept and embrace all I am. Having gratitude for my healthy working body and mind is paramount. I think I have a kind loving heart, integrity which is something I pride myself on.

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Why is it so important to love yourself, body included?

Because we are perfect just as we are. The problem with the world today is that we are constantly reaching and setting a standard for ourselves based on a false reality that is being drummed into to us on a daily basis by the media. Love yourself in your entirety, wobbles, stretch marks and all. What a gift to have these beautiful healthy working bodies in the first place. Be an example to your children, and to those around you, we need not feel like we should be thinner or prettier. We are all connected living on the same planet, experiencing the same ups and downs. We should be gentler on ourselves.

The most rewarding gift being a mom / woman is…

The most rewarding gift as a mother and woman, to me, would be that we always act from the heart and connect on an emotional level which is something no woman can explain. And especially that connection with our children. It goes beyond borders, and worlds. A love that reaches beyond time. To experience that alone is incredible.

How did you feel being in front of the camera for this project?

I felt self-conscious yet empowered, I finally walked my talk and embraced myself as who I am – for all to see without judgment.

 

Name: Melody de Robillard

What you dislike about yourself?

I dislike my arms, and small boobs.

What you love about yourself?

I love my bum, baby bump, hair and sparkly personality

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Why is it so important to love yourself, body included?

Bottom line, loving yourself means acceptance of who you are in the physical form which means accepting who you present to the world and not constantly denying the woman on the outside.

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The most rewarding gift being a mom / woman is…

Being a Mom and Women means that I get to share in beautiful, wholesome, cherished relationships with my friends and family.

How did you feel being in front of the camera for this project?

A little insecure to start and then absolutely stunning. Sarah you made me feel like a hottie! Thank you friend. I had a fabulous time.

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Name: Ghita Howard

What you dislike about yourself?

The main thing that I dislike about myself is the extensive scarring and discolouration on my lower legs and feet caused by a severe skin condition (still undiagnosed) I have had for over 21 years. Few people know about the scars as I always hide them by wearing long trousers. I spent most of those 21 years in bandages, so it wasn’t a far leap to just cover up constantly. Being a mom, I also don’t like the usual post-baby body that moms land up with – your body really never is the same again! 😉

What you love about yourself?

Sadly, this is a difficult question to answer…maybe my hands?

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Why is it so important to love yourself, body included?

We are judged every day, all day by society. We need to learn to accept ourselves as we are – lumps, bumps, wobbly bits and all! As women, we put so much pressure on ourselves – to be the perfect wife, mother, daughter, friend, employee….the list goes on. We need to try and not be so critical when we look at ourselves in the mirror, which, for many, is very difficult.

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The most rewarding gift being a mom / woman is?

The most rewarding thing about being a mother is the absolute, non-questioning love my children always show me. It sounds clichéd, but there is no way to explain the love and bond between parents and their children. And one of my favourite things I look forward to after a long day at work is the massive hugs and kisses I get from my children.

How did you feel being in front of the camera for this project?

VERY nervous, shy, and embarrassed. I am not a photo person at all, so this definitely put me out of my usual comfort zone!

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Name: Justine Rae

What you dislike about yourself?

Physical dislike: stocky legs (but they also are my strength as I am a runner)

Personal attribute: dislike: easily frustrated, quick to temper at times.

What you love about yourself?

Physical: long back and my hands

Personal attribute: Am fiercely loyal and generous

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Why is it so important to love yourself, body included?

We are all different…we cannot change our genetics…I will never have long legs but I can look after my body and make it the best it can be with what I have been given. We are all struggling with our own battles and we have to remember to look after ourselves first so that we are well enough to look after our family and loved ones.

The most rewarding gift being a mom / woman is?

To experience love like I never knew I could…to watch the world through my children’s eyes as if I were living the new experiences all over again…the joy of bubbles, the laughter of peek a boo, first friends and all the emotions that come with them (as a mom)

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How did you feel being in front of the camera for this project?

A little self conscious initially but happy to have my kids in the pics…I love natural photos and am usually stuck behind the camera so it was fun to be in-front of it.

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Name: Kirsten Brodowicz

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Name: Leane Thomas

What you dislike about yourself?

My short thighs. ( makes them look thicker )
My short body ( waist area)
My ears

What you love about yourself?

My hair , My skin tone that tans easily

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Why is it so important to love yourself, body included?

Loving yourself will bring happiness and this is a prerequisite to enjoying life.

Positivity is literally infectious and not only does it raises your vibration but those around you too

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The most rewarding gift being a mom / woman is?

The honour of being the one to nurture their souls, guiding them towards becoming  compassionate caring beings.  Such qualities are in desperate need in this earthly form. Enlightened children are on the increase and as critical mass is reached their collective consciousness  will raise the earths vibration.

How did you feel being in front of the camera for this project?

Exposed , haha.  It was ok ,  as there were only woman in the room.

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The AWESOME Brit from Brittany Jane Make up & Hair came on board for this project and dedicated her time and artistry expertise towards this Womans Project – she really is so awesome and should you require any makeup/hair artist look no further!!

https://www.facebook.com/brittanyjanemuah/

The kids LOVED her and even got in a bit of the action and did a mini makeover on her 🙂

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