Melissa | Elbow Cay, Abaco, The Bahamas

Images by Mary McHenry


"I have found joy. I have found peace. I have found the path to true satisfaction. I am starting to realize that I need to change my focus to myself instead of always to others. I now know that my body has given me the opportunity to do all the things I love, and so I need to repay it with love, kindness, and understanding."  

Before I began this project, I spent most days looking in the mirror and hating my body and my features. When I as younger, I hated my body because it was skinny and weak. I wanted to be stronger, more athletic. After a difficult first childbirth, I had an emergency c-section. I had wanted and expected a natural childbirth. I felt like my body had failed me. My c-section scar was a constant reminder of my perceived failure. As I aged, I slowly gained weight. After my second child, I struggled to maintain what I thought was my ideal body weight. Every day I looked in the mirror and put myself down. I stopped accepting complements from my husband. I looked at other women with envy. Many days I cried out of frustration.

I want my body story to be one of patience and acceptance. My daughter is now 12 years old. I want her body story to be a positive one. I want to be a good example for her and other women! I will no longer allow myself to speak negatively about my body and I will encourage other women to abandon their negative self-talk as well. I am now at peace with my body. It may not be thin, but it is strong and healthy and I am thankful for every day that it carries me.

Today, when I look in the mirror, I smile at myself. If my husband compliments me, I thank him rather than brush him off. I am learning to trust my body and what it needs and to embrace everything about it. What has changed inside me makes me feel lighter, happier and at peace.

-- Melissa

Portraits of Melissa by Mary McHenry