Bella

Photo By: Alex Radelich

INTRO:

I skipped over to Alex & peeked over his shoulder to see the shots we had just taken.
As he clicked through the photos on the camera,
I shuttered in disgust & my stomach tied in a knot.
“Really?” He asked.
“I didn’t think that’s what I looked like” I said.
We were set up in a small apartment photography studio with a giant light, a stool, and a dark backdrop.
I met up with Alex earlier that week and when he suggested that we do a shoot together I said: “Let’s do some portraits in a studio with no makeup.”
He told me that was the craziest thing he has ever heard a female say.
Usually, you wear a layer of makeup to cover up imperfections that would be blown up under the studio lights, & highlighted by the zoom feature on a camera. Then you wear another layer of makeup to accentuate & “sex-ify” your features. (You know, make you look flawless & attractive)
But doing that for this shoot would have defeated the purpose of what I wanted to capture.
This shoot was to celebrate my make-up-less month of travel and also share what I’ve learned from the experience.
It also served as a challenge. I wanted to see if I could accept myself when a spotlight was pointed at my insecurities. I wanted to literally shine a light on my face, to learn how to REALLY love me.
Photo By: Alex Radelich
CATALYST: 

I was first inspired to put down my eyeliner after being in Haiti.
It was really hot in Haiti, and the make up I wore the morning that I arrived had melted off my face by the afternoon, and made the dark circles under my eyes 8 times worse, so I decided to take it all off.
Later that same day, we met up with some women who also weren’t wearing ANY makeup. Not even wear mascara. They were tanned & had messy hair and wore big dangly earrings. I was shocked to see that they didn’t even care to put concealer around their eyes! I remember looking at them and feeling so encouraged.
That’s what I look like too. That’s normal. I thought to myself.
The first 2 days without any makeup was really hard. I felt like I looked tired, and I wanted to cover it up, but I knew that if I did it would look a lot worse in a few hours so I sucked it up and eventually I realized the people I was with didn’t notice or care, which was nice.
After a little sun, my skin looked better and by the end of the week I felt much more comfortable & decided I could do away with make-up for the rest of my travels to save more time for adventuring.
Later that month, I hit, London, Ireland, and Colorado. And while I was traveling I began to discover new things about myself. I started to realize how I really felt about my appearance.
There was a distinct moment in Ireland when I literally avoided conversing with people because I was feeling insecure about the circles underneath my eyes that day.
Yes… REALLY.

Photo By: Alex Radelich

FACE IT:
On Thanksgiving, I face-timed my family and that insecurity was shoved in my face. My stepdad said “Have you been sleeping enough? You look tired”
I was offended immediately.
Later, I took a second to think about it… what’s wrong with looking tired?
I was hurt and upset because in my mind “tired” translated to “not beautiful” which translated to “not attractive” which translated to “not worthy”.
And then I asked myself, so what if I look tired? Does that really mean I’m not pretty anymore? Are my beauty and worthiness THAT fragile?
I know some people who are SO freakin beautiful & it doesn’t anything to do with what they look like.
I want that kind of beauty.
I want the kind of beauty that a sleepless night or a long day can’t destroy.
I want the kind of beauty that eyeliner can’t enhance.
I want the kind of beauty that doesn’t disappear when I wash my face.
But to get that kind of beauty I need to love me the way I am.
I have to remind myself that…
It’s not makeup that makes me desirable or beautiful.
It’s  the way I love people
It’s who I am at rest & at ease.
It’s the way I feel when I do something I love.
It’s me, being me, fully and authentically.
Photo By: Alex Radelich
THE TRUTH:
I realized that the more I covered up with makeup, the more I was ignoring a major problem & the farther I got from being the healthiest, happiest version of myself. 
I realized in that moment that I had internalized a lie…
“if you are not beautiful by our standards you are failing at your purpose.”
BUT we HAVE to realize that these standards aren’t real & this “purpose” is given to us by society, not our creator. Your true purpose is only something you can discover for yourself.
The photo-shoot I did with Alex that produced the photos you see on this blog post was at 8 in the evening. I was up at 6 that morning to work a 12 hour shoot day and went straight to the studio after we wrapped. I got there, took my hair down, washed my face, put on moisturizer, switched my shirt and got in front of the camera.
Literally.
It was terrifying because I realized I was facing this lie straight on.
& I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to reverse something you have internalized, but it’s hard, which is why I winced when I saw the photos.
I wasn’t judging these photos by divine beauty standards; I was looking at them the way I had been trained to look at them.
Photo By: Alex Radelich

Yes. Trained.
By commercials and photos and videos and movies and magazines.
Have short eyelashes? Use this! Want bigger lips? Use this! Get rid of that hair! Use this! Get even skin! Use this?
Think about this: How do I know if I need those things if I don’t know I have those “problems”? What if I don’t see them because I’m not looking for them?
We are trained to look for imperfections the way artists are trained to use colors.
But the sad thing is, most of us can’t we see ourselves as a creation the way a creator would.
I want to share with you what unedited, untouched, uncovered skin, face, hair, human looks like. 
Photo By: Alex Radelich
And now I get extraordinarily pissed off when I run into ads in the beauty world.
A hypersonic de-puffer?  (Literally saw that today, while I was writing this post)
Didn’t know I even needed that! I thought I looked pretty good today.
But there you have it, the beauty industry training me again.
Now it’s December & I decided to continue to challenge myself through the end of the year, or until I feel completely comfortable without makeup on.

Until I can see myself in the mirror aisle at target & WANT to take a selfie ‘cause I think I look so damn good.

And we are almost there… so far I’ve gone to a party, gone to a few business meetings, gone to a bar, gone to work, gone to the grocery store all without makeup on and I’m actually finally feeling much better about it. It feels SO damn good to like my face so much I don’t want to change anything about it.
Photo By: Alex Radelich

CLOSING THOUGHTS:

#1 There is absolutely nothing wrong with liking or wanting to wear makeup. I’m super excited to go out for a night all glammed out. The main purpose of this post was to share a journey with you & some lessons I learned cause I want you to love & care for the bare naked face you were given. You are normal & perfect the way you are.
#2 I am passionate about marketing business and communication and because of that, I can SEE when it is being used to influence in a NEGATIVE way. I want you to empower you so you can recognize when you are being manipulated and LIED to by people or corporations that want to make MONEY.  I want to empower you to ask questions and challenge what you encounter. Decide what your own truth is & recognize the real source of your value.
#3 Challenge yourself to go a few days without makeup on. You might learn something new about the person underneath it.

Photo By: Alex Radelich

Feel All the Things

Yesterday I went to a mid week church service and got to listen to Judah Smith preach!
If you’re wondering why that name sounds familiar it’s because he wrote the book “How’s Your Soul?” That I’m a fan of.

I was standing with everyone during worship and let the music sway my body side to side. The perk of going to church in Los Angeles is that everyone knows how to sing. The girl next to me was rocking my ears with an incredible harmony and I felt #blessed.

And then the tears welled up in my eyes and I started crying. 

HOLD UP – WHAT’S GOING ON?

Judah had just preached about Joy and how God is joy and how important joy is.
We literally had listened to a 40 min sermon on joy and I was crying.
Seriously.

Here’s a Recap:
During his sermon, he talked about the difference between passive joy and permanent joy. The “live for the weekend” kind of joy and then the “I feel loved and am happy to be alive joy”.

That second joy comes with an acceptance of Grace and Love in your life – despite the pain or hardship you feel you can still have joy if you accept Grace and Love. The joy doesn’t make the pain go away – it gives you the strength to get you through it.

So I’m sitting in worship thinking about all of this and saying whaddup to God for the first time in a few weeks and I’m crying.

And I realize, I’m crying because I’m tired. 

I kind of numbed myself a little bit to do this move, which I think is normal. I kept shoving my fear and my doubts down so I could focus on getting everything done. But like I’ve mentioned a zillion times before, if you numb the bad, then you also numb the good. To feel is to feel. There actually isn’t a good and bad feeling for your soul, the way that there are good and bad bacteria in your body. You might feel things you don’t like, but that doesn’t mean they are bad feelings.

Anyway, the point is I tried to feel this joy that Judah was talking about and I released a plethora of emotions along with it.

Then I wrote this:

You can’t let yourself be swept up in grace and love without feeling the strength of the waves.

Meaning – when you start to feel, to accept, to gain strength, you are able to step out of the darkness a little bit, you are able to step out of your situation and often times that’s when the pain hits you the most because you didn’t realize how tired you were until your soul is given a chance to rest.

I always say to Keep Pushing Forward, but sometimes I think the best way to move forward is to pause, rest, and feel.

This is not a ‘feel good’ piece.

Photo By: @Levisule

Do you know what heartbreak sounds like?

Silence.

The deepest pain is usually silent.

Internal.

That’s the stuff that hurts the most.

Pain will absolutely undoubtedly change your frame of mind, and from that point forward, permanently alter the perspective from which you think critically about the world.

My mind shifted this week.
Because I hurt.

In this pain, I tried to find the silver lining/life lesson like I always do to prevent the hurt from feeling pointless. But this one was hard to find. Every lesson I came up with seemed insufficient in comparison to the pain I felt.  In other words, I definitely would have been able to learn these lessons without crying so much.

This kind of pain was overwhelming, there was no hope in this. This kind of pain is meant to be endured.
And that’s when the resentment came over me and my perspective shifted.
I felt used.
And not the way a Christian want’s to be used by God.

“Used” is a very loaded word in my mind.
Becuase I have been used by people.
My physical body was used when I was raped.
My heart was used and my emotions were manipulated and abused in two separate relationships.

Used = Trauma.

Christians use the word “used” when they speak of God using them for his bigger plan. It’s supposed to be a freeing kind of thing, but frankly, I believe it is a glorified thought.
When I think of God “using” me I feel abandoned and broken.

When I thought of God using me in his plan, and God helping me fulfill my purpose as a teacher, I thought that it was “love people well and you will change the world”. I did NOT think of enduring all of this pain or the toll it has taken on my heart.

Feel the pain, and share the lesson.
Feel the pain, and share the lesson.
Feel the pain, and share the lesson.

I didn’t mind it until last Thursday when my heart broke and my perspective shifted.
This.
This is not fair.
This is too much pain.

And for what? Another lesson?
Will I never get the chance to feel loved the way I want to be loved?
Does God even care about what he’s doing to me?

I feel like God doesn’t care about the condition of my heart – as long as I am an effective vehicle in sharing lessons learned about pain.

So here we are back to age-old question:  “What is the purpose of suffering?”

This morning I picked up some breakfast tacos with my friend Emma. We discussed a lot of things in between bites. We discussed God, and suffering and purpose.
I related it back to the martyrs – you know, the people who DIED for the glory of God. The people who were stoned, beaten, and burned to death?
I sat there and thought HOW could God let a human being, a soul full of love and light suffer that way? Why would he let them be KILLED…??

I didn’t understand because I relate to those Martyrs. I love God and I want him to make me part of his plan but DAMN WHY DO I HAVE TO HURT LIKE THIS.

Then I realized that today is Easter.
Today we celebrate the one perfect soul, the most beautiful human being, filled with goodness and love, who was NAILED TO A CROSS for God’s plan.
Jesus didn’t deserve that.
But he did it anyway.
He suffered. Oh boy, he suffered.
and Died.
but then he rose up to heaven.
Literally floated like a feather because God loved him.
God loved him more than he loves any of us – I’m pretty sure.

I don’t know what the lesson is here, maybe it’s realizing that living for God means enduring a lot of pain. Maybe it means suffering is part of life and it sucks. I don’t know what the hell it means. And this time I am really not going to pretend like I do.

I do know this…
The silence of my heartbreak was broken by the sound of the sacrifice of another human being.
Another human being who lived, and breathed and loved and suffered, just like me.
Another human being who allowed himself to die, for the good of others.
Suddenly I wasn’t alone.

If this is all I am meant for – to feel and then share, then I know I can keep pushing forward.

I will feel, and I will push through.
I will survive because I know I can
and I will live because he died.

How to Love a Creative

 

Photo by  @AlfieFriday
New York, New York

I’ve ugly cried about 6 times over the past 3 months because I’m scared shitless about what I will do in May.
Cause I graduate
And I have no idea what I’m doing
And I’m absolutely terrified.
I’ve also been reading a handful of self-help books in an effort to keep my moral up.
I noticed that most of the books I’ve read talk about “quitting your sucky job and going after your dreams”
Okay…. Well what of about the soon –to-be college grad gushing with passion and creativity with absolutely no direction?
What about the girl who knows she can make anything happen, but can’t decide on what she wants?
Sometimes I think maybe I’m the one that will have to write the book. Maybe I will.  But I gotta feel it first.
Anyway the point of me writing about this is that I’ve cried so many times and been absolutely overwhelmed with stress and it pisses my mom off. “You have absolutely no reason to stress Annabelle, I don’t know any other kid like you.”
Well it’s stressful when the people I want to support me most, are the ones crushing my dreams before they ever get to see the light of day.
When they ask what my plan is I say “I dunno, something cool.” And then immediately try to find something else to say to impress them or to say something in a language they will accept and understand. “I’m building a company that focuses on marketing..” boooorrriing- but “sounds better” than “I’m creating a movement by bringing together like-minded people to change the world”. That gets me smirks and scoffs. 
My mom says it comes from a place of caution and fear for them. And love. Mainly love.  The people around me don’t want me to fail – and the things I want to do require great risk.
I’m at the point where I don’t want to tell anyone about any of my ideas or dreams. I don’t like people telling me I can’t, or making me feel like I’m stupid for trying.
If you love me, support me. Don’t give me advice. The best way to love a creative is to encourage them – even if you don’t understand them.
Believe me – we already know how weird we are. We already know the risks. We’ve already thought about the 400 ways it could fail or destroy our lives, or maybe even cause the death of planet earth.
Your job as our loved one is to make sure we know that you believe in us. That you give us the tools to succeed, helps us stay focused on our mission and help us stay grounded in the reason we started this journey in the first place.
Be honest but don’t try to scare us because it will end up either in a furious effort on our part to prove you wrong – or it will throw us into a downward spiral of depression, doubt, and anxiety. That’s a lot of negative energy to deal with.
Remember you are doing more than just supporting a weird project – you are helping a spirit live and grow and connect with the world. You are helping a light emerge and a flower to bloom. Don’t step on it.
“I trust you”
“I believe you”
“I believe in you”
“Keep going”
And
“You’ve got this”

Are the best ways to love (& support) a creative.

I didn’t Choose

Warning: The following is really personal. It’s more for me than for you this time. And if you are a younger reader, it might be a little bit uncomfortable for you, and that’s okay. Don’t feel like you have to read it. I talk about sex.
If you are a survivor, know that this post is a lot darker than my usual ones and doesn’t have a happy ending, but that doesn’t mean your stroy can’t be different.
Background Info Part 1:
A few weeks ago, I was listening to a podcast sent to me by my mentor/friend, Katie, and it made me think about successful women. I cleaned my room, listened to the podcast, and thought about the women I wanted to be like, and what it was about them that made them different. It’s something I like to think about every now and then. It’s something that sort of helps me to see if I’m on the right track.
I realized that what made them different was also something they all had in common. I noticed that each of them had an unwavering, deep-rooted faith & relationship with God.  They had a deep understanding of what it means to really love people (including themselves) and moved through the world with freedom and strength because they know their identity is in Christ.
I decided what I needed to do. I needed to strengthen my relationship with God and commit to getting to know him better. I knew that if I had God on my side, nothing could take me down. I’d have resilience and love and the ability to really make a difference. I knew that if I want to live my life in chasing big dreams, I needed God on my side…..or rather I needed to follow him
I remember the questions someone asked me once…”If the path isn’t blessed by God, then do you really want to go there?”
No.
I really don’t.
Because I know whatever he has planned for me is more than I could ever dream of planning for myself. 
Background Info Part 2:
I’ve always wanted to get married. In fact, it caused a little bit of anxiety for an embarrassingly long chunk of time in my life… worrying I’d never have a husband or find love or whatever (clearly I needed a hobby).  
One of the talking points for Christians is sex. Or more like not having it before marriage. So a lot of the same women I look up to in business, are also virgins or made a choice to abstain until marriage.

The Point:
Right now, I’m a few thousand feet in the air, on a plane headed to my friend’s wedding in Atlanta, GA.

This morning while I brushed my teeth, my mind wandered around & I thought about the women I’d be reunited with at the wedding. It’s been about a year since I’ve seen any of them. Out of nowhere, something hit me and tears started streaming. I spit out my toothpaste and tried to cover my face in a hand towel to make it stop but it didn’t.

All of the women I’m going to see are Christian. 
And All of the women I’m going to see are waiting.
It’s not until Today that I realized that I didn’t get to choose. 
I didn’t get to choose to save myself for my husband.
I didn’t get to choose to share that connection with someone I truly loved.
If I had not been raped I don’t know if I would have waited, but I do know it’s something that I wanted.  
Before the rape, I was waiting.
But I didn’t get a choice.
And I never realized how dirty I felt until today.
People told me after it happened that I was still a virgin in Christ. THAT made ZERO sense to me but I clung to it. I needed something to make me feel clean.
But I never believed it. 
And it shows. I ended up choosing to have sex with a different person almost immediately after because I couldn’t keep living in the state of uncertainty. The “am I a virgin or am I not” thing was not something I liked or could fix. So I solidified it. I wanted to choose something even though I never really had a choice to begin with. And then I chose again with another person. And again. Because well, why not? 
Today, 4 years, 1 month and 1 week later, I faced myself. I realized that each time I have chosen to have sex with someone it was because I already felt ruined. 
You can’t take that back. No matter how much you want, you can’t make time pass faster or slower, and you can’t take your actions (or anyone else’s) back.
I have never felt anger like the anger I felt this morning.

My relationship with God develops with knowing that I am whole in him.  I know I need to take this to him but I’m having a seriously hard time doing that. 

It’s like my brain is split into two parts. 

The surface part of my brain knows that the sex I’m choosing to have is just hurting me. The part knows the reality and consequence of my actions. This is the part of my brain that has tried to come up with a plan of action to help me make better choices and goes to my friends for advice.

Then there’s the deeper part. The part that isn’t communicating with the planning part of my brain. The part of me that doesn’t care, and doesn’t see anything better. And that part of my brain prays that my future husband won’t wait for me. Because I don’t deserve it.

P.S. I am setting up a counseling appointment on Monday.