2021 Bold Beautiful Perfect: Cheryl
“People may not like me for my height, my skin tone, my size, whatever it may be. We need to consciously program our minds that their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs don’t have to be ours.”
Tell us about yourself, Cheryl!
I am a 59-year-old woman who is married, and with the marriage came two kids (they were 4 and 9 when we married). Emerson, now 27, is an EMT and field medic with the Army National Guard in Minnesota. Kirbi is 33, married (though I have no grandbabies yet!), and lives in Georgia with her husband. They work and teach at their church.
My husband and I have not lived in the same state for a little over 2 years – that’s part of my story later – but the last spot he landed was with his mom when his dad passed. She needed some help, and I think he needed to be home for a while. While he’s been moving about the country, I moved to New Orleans and I wouldn’t change that decision for anything!
When I was 21 years old, I started working for a company as a file clerk. I worked my way up to a corporate trainer, then an instructional designer. I loved what I did and I had hoped to stay until retirement, but it wasn’t meant to be. I was downsized out of a job at the beginning of April, and as of this writing, I have not yet found anything – but not for lack of trying!
Today I am a proud woman; even though I still struggle occasionally, for the most part, I have come into my own strength, love, and owning my inner beauty. I love the life here in New Orleans: the culture, the diversity – oh yeah, and the food, too – but it has been an even more freeing experience to be here than you know.
This project is all about inspiring women to see their beauty. What parts of your story can you share to help women to understand their own beauty?
Let’s go back to the beginning – and I mean the beginning.
I was a happy, active kid growing up. We did family camping trips, road trips; I was outside with friends a lot. Around middle school is when I first began to doubt myself, my beauty, my self-esteem, and self-confidence. In terms of height and weight, I was the biggest in my class for several years as early as grade school. When I was old enough to date, none of the boys wanted to be more than friends – either I was too tall, too big, or not as pretty as other girls, but thank God for my girlfriends who accepted me as I was.
Over the years, I tried to change my look to hide my “flaws,” but the fear of not being pretty enough or good enough followed me from high school and into my job. As I got older, I let the worry and the lack of self-esteem slowly get in the way. I ended up being miserable because I didn’t see that I was beautiful no matter what. I somehow lost the memory of how good it was when I loved myself.
Over the years into college, into my job, that fear was still there haunting me. It made me question whether I would ever be happy, whether I would ever find someone to love me, or if I should just let it all go. To try to change my mindset, I moved out of the situation I was in and started having fun again. I still did not feel the best about myself, but I immersed myself in social activities like volleyball and country line dancing to meet people and have some fun.
Fast forward to my mid-thirties when I met my soon-to-be husband. He made me feel pretty – even asked me to marry him the first day we met! I made him wait a few weeks before I said yes, and we were married 6 months later. Our first years were good. We bought a house, got a dog, went on trips, did things together. It wasn’t until the later years that the darkness of depression and anxiety set in on him.
At first it was manageable, but after years of always having to adjust to his issues, it was starting to be a burden on me. I was a co-dependent to him and his affliction. In the last few years, I felt like I had to do everything – fix things in the house, take care of the yard, dishes, laundry, the list goes on and on. So, for a milestone birthday for him, I tried to do something special – take him to Destin, Florida in February. Lucky us, the weather wasn’t good and we ended up in New Orleans instead. Off we went to spend the last two days jamming as much as we could of what New Orleans would offer. It was the best time we had had in years.
One thing happened that planted the seed for me. While in New Orleans, we met up with a local, and in discussion I mentioned how much I loved Nola. He turned to me and asked, “So why are you leaving?”
That pivotal moment made me question my entire life. Why was I doing so much for others and not for myself? A couple years after that trip, we took a trip to visit friends in St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands, and I felt the difference there too. At the same time, someone I followed on Facebook decided to start doing some group coaching, and everything he ever said in his posts struck a chord. I signed up and started the group coaching program with about 20 other women. At first, I found it hard to talk in the group — not because I didn’t have anything to say, but because everything he talked about impacted every — and I mean EVERY — fiber of my being. It hit so hard that I just couldn’t say a thing.
It finally hit me that I am a beautiful person and I am going to take control. I sought positive affirmations that would sing to my soul, I printed them out and hung them on my bulletin board in my office or on the side of my monitor. The first thing that you need to do is realize YOU are the only one that can do it. Beliefs are learned. I learned from early on that other people may not like me for my height, my skin tone, my size, whatever it is, and we need to consciously program our mind that their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs don’t have to be ours. You need to realize YOU are enough. We all need to set standards for ourselves – what will I accept in my life right now? Does it make a difference in the quality of my life? Will it affect me and my self-love? We have one life, and we need to live by our own expectations and standards, not someone else’s.
Tell us about your experience with the photo shoot.
When I saw the post on Facebook, I gave it a shot and filled out the form. Never did I think I’d actually hear back, much less be selected! I have a passion for wanting to help people, whether at work or in everyday life. You’ve read my story, it’s been a journey. It’s not always easy, but you have to dig down deep and pull out that love for yourself, give yourself a break and spend some time on you the way you like, not on things you think you are supposed to.
As for the photo shoot, I don’t even have the words… First, this was a kind of a birthday present to myself, as my birthday was the day after the shoot. Brandi and Kasper made me feel like I was the queen! They made the whole time comfortable and fun, from selecting my wardrobe to all the fun jewelry. I usually prefer to be behind the camera, but that day, it was so easy to be the one being photographed. I felt like the model I always wanted to be, if only for a day. Seeing the raw photos, I couldn’t believe it was me! It was too hard to choose between them! Thank you both for making it such a fun day!
Anything else you’d like to share?
It really doesn’t matter where you are in life, you can make that first step anytime to find your inner beauty and peace. It doesn’t just happen for a lot of us, it’s often a work in progress. A quote I heard on TV the other day really put it into the words I was trying to find. “What happened doesn’t define you; it’s one page in a very long book. YOU get to write the next chapter.” While it might take a few chapters to get to a place of self-confidence, self-love, and being Bold, Beautiful and Perfect, it is worth the work. Be positive, be kind and be happy. Life is an opportunity, and we can decide which direction we take with every decision we make.
You are beautiful!
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International Award-Winning Portrait Photographer
Brandi Stage is an international award-winning portrait photographer based in Bay St. Louis, MS. She creates an exceptional magazine-style photo shoot and timeless heirloom portraits for women, men, children and pets in her studio or on location.