Hi! I'm Jen Lebo. I'm here to help you with all things
photography! Life is more beautiful when you share it, so let's
connect and grow together!
It's been going on for years.
Despite what my husband tells me, what my mother has poured over me since I was a child, despite what friends or anyone tells me. I just struggle so much to see it. The beauty that others say they see in me.
Mostly this struggle is with outer beauty. Deep in my heart, despite the many flaws, I know that as I draw near to my Jesus, I begin to reflect His beauty and that my heart and my spirit grow more beautiful. But I still struggle daily with the outside.
For me it's my weight. Ugh. There I said it. I know most of us women have some sort of hang up. It might be wrinkles, or grays, or our height, eye color, hair color, whatever. But for me it's been my weight. And it's followed me for years. Even when I was at my thinnest. Something - aka me- always keeps me from seeing myself as beautiful.
And so I've found it so insanely ironic that God had called me to fall in love with portrait photography. I'd spend day after day photographing moms and families, high school seniors, women of all ages, and I'd point out their beauty. I'd show it to them on my camera screen. More often than not, the lady of the session would gush over her kids or her friends, and point out her own flaws. I'd be quick to reassure her, and gently ask what she was struggling with, then make changes with posing or lighting to "correct" whatever "flaw" she was seeing. It became my job to enhance her beauty, which I saw only too easily, but which she herself struggled with. And over the years, I became good at it. And I enjoyed it. I loved revealing the natural beauty of a woman to her own eyes.
Then I'd go home and look at myself and see only flaws.
I admit this is so wrong. It's very prideful and vain to become so consumed with yourself, be it in self- love or self-loathing. It discouraged (and continues to discourage) my husband in the worst way. I believe he genuinely sees the beauty in me, but often if he tells me, I roll my eyes (yes I know this is horrible- ladies, do NOT try this at home).
What really strikes me is this. My mother is flabbergasted at this. For as far back as I can remember, she has always told me I was so beautiful. She has pointed out all the beautiful traits that I inherited from my grandmother- huge brown eyes, super thick hair, a wonderful smile. She's also pointed out my heart, my intelligence, my inner beauty. And yet, here I am, struggling. "How did this happen?" she often asks me when I share this with her. I wonder if, despite her good words, the world around me whispered lie after lie, and I chose to believe those lies rather than her truth. Rather than, now, my husband's truth.
And I look at my beautiful little girl and wonder if this will happen to her too.
It is this thought, this worry, this fear, that has me on my knees most often. If my mother could spend her lifetime pouring love and truth over me, only to have me sucked into all the ugly lies of the world, than what will happen to my daughter? What will happen to all the daughters? To all of us mothers? To all the women, young and old? Because deep down, I'd bet that my own mother may have struggled in the same way. And so did yours.
We women struggle with beauty. We may do it differently, but we all struggle. And no matter what the wonderful people in our lives tell us, the world continues to scream lies at us.
And why? Why can I know the truth of who I am, know deep in my heart that God did make me beautiful (because he made EVERY WOMAN beautiful), and yet struggle to see past the lies? Why do so many of us struggle with this?
These are questions and thoughts that I take to God in prayer often, that I wonder about in the early morning hours, that I fall asleep thinking about.
A few weeks ago, I began to unravel what perhaps might be the answers to my own personal "whys". I wrote about it in a blog post last month. You can read it HERE.
These few truths have occurred to me over the past month:
* When I focus on myself, that is when I become most discouraged, most down. Focusing on myself is probably the biggest problem.
* When I am out photographing others, I can easily point out the beauty in other women, and I most enjoy that aspect of my job. I simply love showing women how beautiful they are.
* There is no irony in my being a photographer who loves to point out other women's beauty, but who struggles to see it in herself. There is purpose and there is a plan.
I am beginning to see God's hand in all of this. I am beginning to believe that God has allowed me this struggle with beauty all my life so that I can relate to the women in front of my camera. So that I can relate to the beautiful little girl who calls me Mom. So that God can create in me a crazy insane passion to teach other women how to share beautiful. I think I am starting to get it.
We share beautiful only by looking past our own selves and celebrating the beauty in the women around us.
When I look at myself, I see one of two things. Either I love the way I look, and I put myself above the women around me, or I do not love the way I look, and I self-loathe as I see other, more beautiful women around me. Either way, putting the focus on myself is the problem.
Once I take the focus off of me, and begin to see the amazing beauty of the women around me (not in relation to me, or in comparison to me, but simply as beautiful ladies), then my self-love or self-loathing is gone- because my self-consumption is gone. Then my joy grows, my love grows, my heart grows. And my beauty grows.
Isn't that just the way God intended it. For us to encourage and build up one another? To see the beauty in others? And that in that encouragement our own beauty becomes more complete?
THIS IS THE PURPOSE FOR MY BEING A PHOTOGRAPHER.
THIS IS THE PURPOSE FOR MY PORTRAIT BUSINESS.
THIS IS THE PLAN FOR JLP.
I am seeing more clearly everyday the purpose for my business. It is not JUST to take photos of families and lovely ladies, to point out their beauty and to share it with them. No, there is more than that. Because God also made me a teacher. And I am finally seeing that piece come into focus too. Because my purpose is also to TEACH OTHERS how to see the beauty around them. To encourage other women to look past themselves and to the beauty in the women they know and love.
This is my new JLP Business Plan. And this is how it effects you.
JLP will be about portraits. Of course. I hope never to stop capturing the beauty of families, of relationships, of connections. But JLP will also be about teaching. Workshops are coming (in the next post in fact!). Day to day lessons. Monthly challenges. Maybe E-books. Devotionals. Complete courses. All based on how to use photography to see past yourself and out to the beauty of others.
I believe my JLP business finally has its true purpose. TO SHARE BEAUTIFUL.
My struggle with my own personal beauty is not over. It might never be over this side of heaven. But I am slowly learning how to squash the struggle bit by bit. I look away from the mirror and into the eyes of the beautiful ones around me. And instead of comparing or envying, I point it out. I encourage it. I celebrate it. And I become a different kind of beautiful in the process.
Want to join me in this? Want to share beautiful with me? Then stick around. Starting in the next post, I'll be giving away all sorts of tips, tutorials and techniques. The first one is FREE and it's a SIX LESSON WORKSHOP complete with a workbook, written assignments, and beauty challenges. I think you'll love it.
Thanks for making it to the end of this mini-novel, and for considering taking this journey with me.