A couple days ago, Nancy Bruno left a comment and mentioned a project of hers, the Beautiful Women Project. I checked it out, and I was really impressed.

The Beautiful Women Project is a documentary challenging the traditional definition of beauty by showing the sum of a woman’s experiences is what truly has made her beautiful in her present moment.

Beautiful Women focuses on the life experiences of thirty-five woman of all ages, and what truly makes them beautiful in their present moment. They are the mothers, daughters, wives and neighbors you see every day – at school, at work, in the grocery store, in a doctor’s office waiting room, or walking through a mall. Through their stories women can realize that they are not alone in their insecurity and quest for self-acceptance. These women redefine the word “beauty” by showing us that what makes us beautiful is how we choose to face both the trivial and the monumental moments in our lives.

I spent quite a bit of time looking at the gallery, and it was beautiful. The words, the pictures, the realness of the women portrayed…I found it all very moving.

I’d been thinking recently about body image, and how so many of us struggle with that. Inundated with product marketing, we begin to accept their view of the world. As if our bodies, and our selves, are decorations, we end up with a picture in our head of the plastic person that society deems to be the ideal.

And of course that is impossible. We’re not plastic, we’re not decorations, we’re so much more than that.

And Nancy does a great job of capturing that in her project.

Biking provided a breakthrough, of sorts, for me. Muscles burning as I got to the top of one of the many hills I climb every day, I felt that pleasure that comes from being able to propel myself through the world with the power of my own muscles. I also had a sudden distinct understanding that my body was functional, that my muscles were for utility…that it wasn’t about toning and shaping and whatever other words are used to make us feel like we need to sculpt ourselves into that molded plastic ideal…instead, the pleasure in those burning muscles was about a body that can do what is asked of it, a body to be appreciated for what it can do, rather than what it might look like.

We are not decorations. We are so, so much more.