If you Google "self-esteem" it is defined as "your overall opinion of yourself" and, if I'm honest, it's something I've always struggled with.
When I have healthy self-esteem, I feel good and I perceive that I deserve the respect of others. When I do not have healthy self-esteem, I perceive myself as less worthwhile and put little value on my opinions and ideas. It's a constant tug of war that I'm certain many of you reading this can empathise with.
For those who know me, it may come as a surprise to hear that I struggle with self-esteem, but like so many others, we all wear masks that we don when we need to. My low self-esteem is linked to my poor perception of my physical self, which in turn has an impact on my sense of self-worth, my masculinity and what others think of me.
I try to combat low self-esteem through my borderline obsessive levels of fitness (chasing those sweet, sweet endorphins) and by keeping myself as busy as possible socially (chasing that sweet, sweet external validation). However, I'm aware that these actions do come with inherent limitations and often lead to me not paying enough attention to an exceptionally important component of healthy self-esteem: self-love.
Self-love: regard for one's own well-being and happiness.
Love thy self
This is why, when I saw that a friend of mine had done something called a "self-love photo shoot", I knew I had to do one myself. Her photos were so beautiful, dramatic and powerful and I thought that it looked like such a courageous and exhilarating experience. I confess that I wasn't sure how it would have a positive impact on my self-esteem beforehand, however, I put faith in the process and booked regardless – I'm so glad I did.
I booked my photo shoot with Singapore-based Agathe Colom Photography, who took the aforementioned photos and has an amazing portfolio on her website. Agathe took time to understand what I wanted to get out of the photo shoot and eased my concerns about what would happen on the day by assuring me that I was in good hands.
I won't linger too long on the photo shoot itself (it was a very positive experience) but I will list how I felt on the day – it ended up being a real rollercoaster ride: nerve-wracking, flattering, awkward, fun, adventurous, cheeky, exposed, therapeutic and powerful.
You can view the full photo shoot on Agathe's website but here are some of my favourites.
Immediately after the photo shoot, I felt a mixture of satisfaction that I'd done it and excitement to see the photos once they'd been refined and edited. I didn't have to wait long, I received links to view and download the photos a few days later.
What I gained from the photo shoot
If you've been reading my blogs over the past few weeks, you'll already know about my current fitness journey, which I've been on since late April 2021. During that time, I've primarily measured my progress through numbers (weighing scales) and sensations (how I feel or how I look in clothes). So, when I saw the photos of what my body looked like, I was completely shocked.
I didn't just see myself in a shape that I'd hoped to achieve, I also saw the culmination of months of hard work and sacrifice. Even though I was apprehensive on the day, I am pleased that I listened to Agathe's guidance and took some topless photos – I think I look powerful and masculine. Suffice to say, this had (and still has) a big impact on the way I perceive myself and gave me a huge boost to my self-esteem. I see now why Agathe calls this self-love photography, it is an intentional decision by you to celebrate your achievement – an activity by you, for you.
A huge thank you to Agathe Colom Photography for taking these photos. I highly recommend her for your photo shoot, whether it's for self-love, an event or a special occasion. If you'd like to keep up to date on the workouts I do and the meals I receive, you can follow me on Instagram.