How I rediscovered my self-esteem.

One upon a time, in a land far far away, I did a professional photo-shoot.**

Thanks to *you* I was voted People’s Choice in the Fila Real Women model search.

Dont get me wrong. I was and *am* super grateful.

You had no way of knowing dancing wasnt my strong suit and I had no way of knowing there would be DANCING INVOLVED.

This lovely misfit dances like the awkward gazelle she is and it’s all reminiscent of Elaine Benis.

It was humorous (especially later when I wrote the posts), but Id be lying if I didnt share it made me feel kind of bad about myself.

They are myriad more articulate & flowery ways to make the statement above—but those 9 slang’y ones capture how I felt.

The experience & the *people* were amazing.  Yet I went there thinking I ROCKED (self-esteem much? I know, but Ive worked 42.5 years to get here) and returned feeling a little less-than.

When they decided not to use any of my pictures, it stung.  I wasnt surprised (please to see awkward gazelle & cross-reference under the Benis)— but it stung. It all conspired to cause me to feel old.

I became a misfit on a mission.

I still had misplaced confidence knew I was a strong writer. 

I never lost my faith in the fact I *rock* on video. 

But the pictures.  The (fingerquote) modeling (unFQ).  I couldnt even watch episodes of A.N.T.M. without having horrible flashbacks.

It bummed me out and my life philosophy is if something bothers me enough to think about it twice—it’s time to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

So I did.

Please to enjoy Three reasons a boudoir photo-shoot resurrected my self-esteem.

  • It was all about ME!  There were no younger, sexier ‘others’ to compare myself to.  I was the best!model!there! because I was the only one there.  And you know what? It’s not a bad thing to set yourself up for success this way!   I also adored my photographer.  For the 2 hours we were together her sole mission was making me feel comfortable so I could be my best, most relaxed, non-dancing self.  We women rarely do anything us-focused and it felt amazing.   (you can invite friends over to help suggest outfits etc if you’d like, but Id definitely recommend being the only one photographed.  It felt deliciously decadent.)

  • I felt the fear and I did it anyway.  Absolutely nothing in life feels better than being terrified a little nervous about something (anything!) and still following through.   Let’s just say I felt for my poor photographer.  I must have messaged her a million times saying how the shoot was outside of my comfort zone etc. etc.  I knew she was the one for me when she always responded with patience and *humor.*


  • It was 100% about the process.  I simply can not capture the restorative nature of the boudoir shoot in words.  It was affirming, fun and silly.  We took some serious shots. We snapped some of me wobbling on Ren Man’s BOSU.    Did he like his present?  Yes?  Im sure he did and yet it wasnt about that at all. The photo-shoot was a gift to *me.*  It was 100% about enjoying the process and gifting myself the time.  It was a reminder how grateful I am for my wrinkling, fighting gravity ‘vessel.’    Sure the end goal of giving him the pictures was nice.  As with fitness, however, the shoot wasn’t done with an eye to the end-goal.  I focused on enjoying every step of the process.  Every “success”(like not canceling) along the way.  

And you?

Have you experienced a crisis-of confidence/self-esteem as I did?

How did you resurrect yours? And, if you havent yet, what’s your new plan?

Have you, as I did previously, mocked the boudoir shoots as self-indulgent & silly and later realized it’s because you own only granny panties & sports bras?


**I know I linked eighty kabillion old posts today.  Mainly because this one makes no sense without some kind of backstory or frame of reference. My FREAKY HAIRED FRIEND taught me that.


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  1. says

    i feel quite honored to know the MIZFIT. She is beautiful and full of life. Her daily posts inspire us and living FULL, FULL of beauty, warmth, and just plain AWESOMENESS!
    Cheers to self esteem, the real SELF…. ESTEEMED!

  2. says

    Oh my gosh this is my favorite thing you’ve ever written. I was wondering if the shoot was going to come up in a post some day. I can’t even explain my reaction right now, half choked up and smiling. I loved this. Beautiful.

  3. Runner Girl says

    My whole life is one self-esteem struggle.
    I love that you will share with us and let us see you’re human.

  4. Healthy Mama says

    Miz this is such an amazing post.

    It’s about the process of finding self-love.

    Just like fitness.

  5. says

    So cool, Carla! I love this. I didn’t realize you had so many rad tattoos. Crap, now I want to get another one! Anyway, I’m so glad you had this experience and shared it with is. We should all have these moments :)

  6. says

    Love this post! You rocked the session…and yes, I always thought those sessions were perhaps cheesy. But you turned that upside down. And glad you turned your self esteem right side up!

  7. Hannah says

    I have always thought of those like the Glamour Shots of the 1990s.
    CHEESY and kind of desperate.

    As always you’ve given me new insight.

    This is a fantastic post.

  8. says

    Not to sound like a creeper but I love that you shared some of the shots and that last one of you has such life!

    My friend is a photographer and does boudoir shoots. She always talks about how amazing it is to watch women come alive and gain more self esteem through the shoot. I can imagine it is!

    And your self esteem is one of the biggest things I love about you. Keep on rocking it. I can tell you it bolsters others up too. :)

  9. says

    am I allowed to write this…but I’m kinda glad you didn’t ‘win’. Why? Because you aren’t some prescriptive image that they wanted to market with. you are YOU! That’s why I’ve come back time and time again over three years later. When I took the blogs down to three, and again when I’ve added more to my leader. I admire the very core of you..literally and figuratively. You’ve supported me for afar. You’re a committed mother, one which I admire. Your admit where you are, don’t play games and are constantly on a journey of self-discovery.

    and you’re hot.

    so skip a bit more today, cause we adore you.

  10. Renee says

    I wonder if the last imagine is how you view yourself?
    It is how I think of you even though we’ve never met.

    (sorry for the double comment)

  11. says

    Love this! I need to go back and read the back story but the message is still clear. Love your confidence.

    P.S. I too dance like Elaine (cracked me up because I have an Elaine reference coming in a post for tomorrow and wondered if anyone would remember her dancing). I guess she is timeless. :)

  12. Wanda says

    I wondered what happened with that Real Woman thing.

    I’d love to do a photo shoot like this.

    How would i find someone where I live?

  13. says

    I LOVE the pictures and it looks like you are having a ball. I’d love to do some photos when I’ve lost weight – mostly because I essentially HIDE from cameras now…

    PS. I constantly live in a state of ‘crisis of self-esteem’. But I hope for more.

    THanks for sharing.


  14. Fiona says

    I love the one where you look as thought you are waiting.
    I’m curious what your face looked like in that one, too.
    I’d have looked terrified.

  15. says

    I would never do a shoot like this, yet can relate in the FEELING THE FEAR and how tremendous I feel afterward.

    Nice post, Miz.

  16. says

    Gosh, I never would have guess that that experience sent you into a tailspin. You come off as such a ROCK.

    When I reached my goal weight I treated myself to Glamour shots (although I’m sure I gave them to my husband as an anniverary gift) because my self-image was lagging way behind my weight loss/fitness achievements. Being confrotned with those gorgeous pictures of *me* (none were of the boudoir kind) helped me mentally/emotionally internalize the progress I had made.

  17. Courtney says

    Thank you so much for posting this! The shots are faboosh! Your post couldn’t have had better timing, too, as I struggle with a little dip in the self-esteem department as of late. Your sharing is a relief that we’re not alone and that we can build that self-esteem right back up where it needs to be! XO

  18. Abbie says

    I like this because it’s applicable beyond photos.

    I needed the reminder to do something for me and not just my kids.

  19. says

    Carla, You know you rock… and I’m a little surprised that you were surprised that you didn’t win the People’s Choice from Fila. ANYTIME you’re talking advertising, you’re talking about being relatable in a VISUAL sense to the greatest number of people. It’s about conformity to some level, and you’re a non-comformist… especially when it comes to your tats. They’re beautiful, they’re authentically YOU, but I’d guess they were looking for someone who could be ANYONE (authentically or inauthentically).

    You are more valuable for WHO YOU ARE than any ad campaign could make you.

    And I’m glad you re-found your fabulous with the boudoir shoot.

    I discovered boudoir and glamour shoots and what they do for your esteem in the 80s, when my later to be fiancee and myself were in a photography class. And it wasn’t about sex, but about feeling beautiful and empowered (there WAS no sex back in those days for me, and I was wearing more clothes in the shot than I wear to a NIA class) I still think back on some of those photos and wish I still had them. I never felt so beautiful as I did taking those photos, and every time I saw them it brought the feeling back.

    It’s something I’ve always wanted to do again… with a professional this time.

  20. says

    Carla, you know this hits home with me big time! How people like you & me never seem to be right or enough or young enough for all that is out there in health & fitness – I mean on video & all that…

    I so loved this post – loved your process & loved you sharing – so much braver than I am!

    The pics are beautiful! You are amazing!

    This: Have you experienced a crisis-of confidence/self-esteem as I did?

    YES! I have, I still do….Every time I think I resurrected it – something hits me.

    I best read this over & over again!


  21. says

    Lovely! It’s amazing how stepping outside of our comfort zones can makes us so much more comfortable with ourselves! And you, my friend, are amazing!

  22. says

    Your beauty isn’t in the pictures, it’s what shines out of the pictures… your spirit and heart. I JUST posted this morning (interestingly) “You’re not born with confidence, its something you gain every time you throw yourself over an obstacle.” Keep throwing yourself! xo

  23. says

    Hell yes I’ve been battered around at times! Fortunately, my table has a lot of legs and when one or two get knocked off, the others have kept me going!

    I’m glad it was out of your comfort zone, Carla.

  24. says

    You look so different in these shots – way more free in your expression than I’ve seen, and it just shows how much you enjoyed the session AND being your true self!

    Thanks for sharing that even *you* can have self-esteem issues.

  25. says

    This post made me grin for about 100 reasons! I love that you did this, even though it was out of your comfort zone. I love how happy you look. I love how gorgeous you look. I love that you did it for you. I also love tha hot pink/red color;))

  26. Milly says

    I would never do this (I’m far too inhibited), but like the end message about loving the process.
    I leap from goal to goal in my quest to lose around 80 pounds.
    I haven’t paid any attention to the process let along enjoyed it.

  27. says

    This. Is. Awesome.
    I felt I had to be less than most of my life. I fight like heck not to go there any more. We all have those moments, but overall I shock myself lately. :)

  28. says

    You look amazing, and happy, and I’m so glad it was exactly the restorative action you needed to get over the photoshoot ickiness.

    We’re heading to Hawaii for vacation next week and I bought my first ever bikini… and yeah, definitely outside my comfort zone! But with you rockin’ it as a role model, I should at least be able to wear it in front of the bathroom mirror… and who knows, maybe to the beach.

    As always, you are an inspiration!

  29. Joni TX says

    Carla…I have no words to describe how much your blog means to me. As the photographer you let into your world I am so honored. It is true that its an amazing thing to see women of all shapes,sizes and ages be brave and open up to remember their beauty and sensuality. Thank you again Carla for being awesome.

  30. says

    That last pic is probably my favorite pic of you EVER!! You look absolutely beautiful, but you also look like you were having FUN!! And girl, RED is your color (or is it hot pink? Whatever it is, you rock it)!!!

    I’m so proud of you for doing this – you make things like this seem actually doable for someone like me. :)

  31. says

    I can’t count the ways this post inspires…it inspires on many levels and in layers. It demonstrates how different and yet how much the same we all are…

    I have had MANY crisis-of confidence/self-esteem moments in my life and I am sure I will continue to have them…and that’s okay.

    BTW, I’ve done my fair share of photo shoots (but none like this) and am thinking that it’s about time I do one. In fact, I’ve been thinking that I want to mark my 50th birthday in some fabulous way and I think this is it…now I need to find the right photographer.

  32. says

    Loved this so much! Especially this line “how grateful I am for my wrinkling, fighting gravity ‘vessel.’ ” That is what I struggle with more than the ‘extra weight.’ The WRINKLES! Where are they coming from?

    One thing I did to fight the ‘less than’ feeling, was to go ahead and publish those ‘less than flattering’ pictures of me yesterday. Its one thing to say in a post ‘I’m old and fat.’ Its another whole thing to prove it to people with pictures. Thank you for the reminder to be grateful.

  33. says

    Wow! I think you are so brave for doing the shoot – it would definitely be a stretch for me too! I love that you went for it, and your reasoning behind doing it is really inspiring to me. The fact that it wasn’t just to do something “racy” or for Ren Man (although both are good by-products!) but that you did it for YOU speaks to me. You’re right – many women don’t do much for themselves. But the way you framed it and lived this experience wasn’t doing it for you in a selfish way but in a life-giving way.

    Thanks for your vulnerability to share the story with us, and incredible photos – I love them all! :)

  34. says

    Love the photos — especially the last one with the red outfit; you look so happy.

    “Have you experienced a crisis-of confidence/self-esteem as I did?”

    Hot Yoga is the time that I usually experience a crisis. In the same session, I like and dislike the way my body looks which kind of reminds me of Zora Neale Hurston’s book: I Love Myself When I’m Laughing And Then Again (When I’m Looking Mean and Impressive)…

  35. says

    ahhhhhhh – almost typeless.
    I love that you’re human.
    I love that you STRETCHED – but in a way that set yourself up to succeed.
    It’s funny, cuz I’m mainly 80/20 confident – but that 20% can be a byatch! I think it’s something about the insides/outsides thing and other people’s perceptions of what is and should be.
    I have another good friend (you all know her) who did a shoot… she showed me the shots and WOW! so amazing… I don’t know if I would do it, but I can SEE the value in giving it a whorl… Sort of like trying the yoga flirt (aka pole dancing) thing. Hmmmmmm…..

  36. says

    Thanks for sharing this! You know, you look so absolutely relaxed and I guess ‘personal’ is the word closest to what I want to say. Thank you for letting us glimpse getting your self-esteem groove back!

  37. says

    Carla I got a big lump in my throat reading this… i’ve always adored your authenticity and inner grace and foxiness, and it is just too darn cool you have that captured in photographic form! So glad it was a helpful process for you :)

  38. says

    How could they not use your photos? You are seriously a ROCK star. The hard work you have put into your fitness and your healthy lifestyle shines in these photos. You are my role model for sure.

  39. says

    That’s cool that you did that!

    I went through something similar when I was interview for First Magazine for Women. I had a professional photo shoot for the first time in my life (complete with hair and makeup). It was the most awkward, fun, weird, and uncomfortable thing ever! I loved the pampering, but felt uncomfortable with the attention. It reminded me a lot of when I was losing my 100 pounds and had to learn HOW TO SAY THANK YOU when people complimented me (instead of diminishing my accomplishments by saying “oh it’s nothing” and “Oh I have a long way to go” etc).

  40. says

    Oh, I love this. I love, love, love, love this.

    I had a HUGE crisis when I was photographed for the cover of Healthy Living, a regional magazine. I saw the pics and thought I looked a) old b) old and c) masculine and old. It was a fun experience but the result made me feel not so good. I’d like to think I’m “above” that but I know I’m not and I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one that this happens to.

    I love your post. Those pictures are terrific — especially that 3rd one. Love it.

    I need to get off my duff and do something.

  41. pudgie-nudgy says

    only goes to show that self-efficacy/affirmation (hence what you call esteem) can only come from oneself and not outside sources.

  42. says

    Love this ‘so personal’ side of you. Couldn’t imagine how you would have had low self-esteem. Who wouldn’t want to look like you?! You are fab and even more so for letting us in on your feelings about all of this.

  43. says

    This is fantastic!
    As awkward as it sounds I misplaced my self esteem sometime before puberty and haven’t figured out how to get it back.
    I love this concept and have always been curious.
    Thanks for sharing your story and your ability to recover your self esteem.
    So, thank you.

  44. says

    Oh my gosh I love this post! When I first heard about boudoir shoots I was like…omg I would never pose half naked! But the more I hear about it and the more I see the pictures, I am really intrigued by it. I’ve heard so many women say how much more confident and sexy they feel after doing it. There is definitely something to be said for that :). I don’t always feel super confident in my skin, but it’s definitely something that I’m always working on!

  45. says

    So happy that we finally heard the whole story! Those tidbits you posted about your broken computer and the contents of your hard drive were such a tease (I know, that’s part of what boudoir shots are all about).

    I have self esteem issues weekly. Mainly because I’m a perfectionist and see all my glaring imperfections through a magnifying glass.

    Did you read Bonnie Pfeister’s post today? You both gave me something to think about.

    Thanks for sharing! I adore you even more now!

  46. says

    What an amazing experience. I think it’s wonderful that even after what 42 years of experience, you can still learn something about yourself.

  47. says


    This got me thinking when I read on the phone this morning, what am I afraid of? I find myself pretty confident these days…And BAM! There it was.

    I thrive on progress. I’m terrified this is the best I’m going to get. Mostly, in the terms of weight/body comp/training progress/etc.

    All I can do is show up each day, head in the game, to fight it with the best of my ability, and learn and grow from my mistakes.

    It made me kick some booty on the bike and on the weight floor.

  48. Bridget says

    I’m getting boudoir style photos done in 2 weeks.
    Sometimes you have to see yourself in a “third person” type thing to really SEE yourself.

  49. says

    Look at you and your confident self. Love the photos and I have to say I am quite the shy one. But for Christmas I did a boudoir shoot for my hubby. I felt absolutely beautiful! I lived my photographer and she brought out all my best qualities.

  50. says

    I am standing up, clapping and saying “bravo” to you as I read this post. (my husband thinks I’ve lost it…kidding)
    You are so amazing Miz, and I’m soooo happy to read posts like this. BTW, the pictures are GOR-GEOUS!!!! Have a wonderful day!!!!

  51. Joy says

    You are so brave!! I love how you put yourself out there and experience!! I am learning how to do that. A long time ago, a friend and I were walking on a shore. Up ahead was something that looked like salt and I’m thinking…Hum I wonder if it is salt. My friend, who is adventerous, bent down, stuck her finger in it and tasted it. Yep ~ Salt. I have for too long wondered about things. It’s time I experience. Thanks for the lesson!

    Keep focused!

  52. says

    i’m definitely not at a place where I could do a bedroom photo shoot…I’m ok outside my comfort zone but that one just not there yet :)

    i realized last week that I was getting really upset because I had lost a lot of readers and I was taking it personally like maybe I was doing something wrong. but truly i haven’t changed so maybe their needs or time have and that mindset helped me start to turn it around

  53. says

    Self esteem began only as an idea for me. So I tried to do the right thing….act as a woman who believed in me…I took care of my exterior & interior self. Every step I took was to take care of me, including feeding the homeless & giving a helpful hand to those who crossed my path, in need. I truly believe that if you walk the walk & talk the talk, you can become what you choose… that would be a woman with positive esteem & confidence!

    Thank you for the great article!!

  54. LeslieK. says

    This is awesome. I’ve always wanted to do this. But, what I did for me to start enjoying life again, I was terrified to try. I started taking classes to learn to play roller derby on the banked track with Austin’s TXRD – the ones who started it all. I was a skater as a kid, and was so afraid of making a fool of myself. But, once I was there, one class and I was hooked. I have been taking them for a year now, and sneaking up on 40 I’m in the best shape of my life – skating outdoors 6-8 miles a day. I even tried out this summer and was on the training team until I injured my knee in practice. I try out again at the end of March and, oh yes, it will happen for me this year – I will be a Rollergirl at age 39. Look out 20-something’s, because I have almost 20 years of pent up aggression to expel on the track. Up next will be, like you, to transform into a pinup girl with some photographer in town I can afford 😉

  55. says

    That’s great. When I have the money (and a hubby) I’ve always wanted to do a photo shoot. Not only to get to dress up, have flawless hair and makeup, and be the center of attention, but to have a final product to be proud or and to look at and think, “I look damn good!” when you’re old and wrinkled. One time I had a major confidence booster was surpassingly in a dressing room at a department store. i was trying on dresses for semi-formal event I was supposed to attend with a date, and I was feeling bad about the way I was looking in my different choices. When I came out in a red number and stood in front of the full length mirror, I heard the voice of a woman behind me say “Wow, you look great in that, I wish I had your legs!”. Even though I didn’t feel completely happy in it, it was nice to know that others may see a better version of me, even though I may not feel it at that moment. Kind of spiked my confidence in that one dress and I went ahead and bought it!

  56. boudoir photography los Angeles says

    I would say that people are looking for creativeity in the works as you gave her. I want to arrange an boudoir photography for my wife, she is gorgeous do you think that should she be wearing thong or sexy lingerie.

  57. says

    wow Carla you look so relaxed and happy in those pictures…..not to mention SMOKING HOT!! :) hehe xoxo