a raw conversation…
Posted in motherhood, personal April 30th, 2014 by pia

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A few weeks ago, just before I finished writing my last blog post – ‘being enough’ – I serendipitously received an email from RAW beauty talks asking if I’d participate in a challenge today (Wednesday April 30, 2014) to post a photo of myself on my blog without any make-up, photo editing or filters – completely raw.

As those of you who have followed me from the early days of my blog will know, I rarely post an image of myself. And I’d love to tell you it’s because I’m really shy, modest and/or want to keep some anonymity. But truthfully, it’s because of a much simpler reason: I believe I’m ugly.

I’ve always been interested in learning more about my inner workings, connecting with my inner world, but it wasn’t until I became sick last year after my last book feat that I changed the balance of things in my life and started to focus less on work and more on my well being. These past few months in particular I’ve been working on letting go of old self-beliefs, letting go of old perceptions and welcoming new ways of seeing my world.

When I agreed to take the challenge, all those thoughts about how I look came up louder than ever before as I wondered how I was going to be able to do this. Although I rarely wear makeup, the biggest challenge for me comes simply from posting an image of myself where I am not turned away from camera, and I haven’t cropped it, photoshopped it, or added a filter. I’m a photographer after all, purposely behind the camera, seeking to enhance the everyday, being asked to let go of all that to create dialogue between you and I about the pressures we face in how we look, and the socially constructed notion of ‘beauty.’ Big challenge. Big ask. Here goes nothing…

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Today, while looking at these photos I see my ugliness, I see all my faults, and I hear the unpleasant words used to describe my face and body over and over again as a young girl and young woman, but now each time I think those things, I’m releasing them instead of holding on to them. And as I release those thoughts there is then space, and in that space I have made the choice to only allow a new, positive perspective on myself to fill it.

These photos were taken by Romain on Monday, while the three of us were on a mini break in Byron Bay. It was a cloudy afternoon after a stormy morning, and the 3 of us spent a few hours playing at Watego’s Beach. With nothing but white sand, rocks, and ocean to entertain us, we had a blast. I felt good. I felt free and happy, and it felt like a good time to ask Romain to take some photos of me by the water’s edge. At that moment I thought, no matter what these photos turn out like, or how I feel about myself when I see them up on the screen, I will post them.

I’d love to invite you guys to join me in this challenge by posting your own raw photos on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, just add in my name @piajanebijkerk as well as #rawbeautytalks and/or #rawbeautychallenge so I can see your beautiful face and join in the conversation.

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I do this for myself, and as much for my little girl. I want her to feel confident and I want her to love herself exactly as she is, everyday. I don’t want her to ever question her beauty. And I know that the only way to achieve this is to do all I can to lead by example.

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With love,

Pia x

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62 Comments

  1. Susan Nethercote says

    I am moved to tears. This is beautiful. As the mother of two girls, I think I may just do the same. Thanks Pia xx

    April 30th, 2014 | #

  2. Pink Ronnie says

    Oh Pia, this is a beautiful thing to do.
    And you are beautiful, so very beautiful.
    I’m going to try and do this in the next couple of weeks and either share it on Instagram or my blog…
    Ronnie xo

    April 30th, 2014 | #

  3. lisa | renovatingitaly says

    Ciao Dear Pia,

    I took my most beautiful friend to a seminar and the leader of the seminar came over to us to answer some questions and after a few moments of conversation said to my friend “You don’t think you’re beautiful do you?” and she burst into tears. It never crossed my mind that she felt this way to me she is stunning. So much came up for her and her relationship with her sister and her parents saying she was the smart one and her sister the pretty one.

    My aha moment came recently when I won a portrait package in Paris with renowned photographer Carla Coulson. I turned my camera on to thank her and record the moment and the video touched so many people. I almost didn’t post it as it’s not flattering and shared from the heart in a moment of total vulnerability. You can see it at the end of this post. I shared it for my daughter also (who had corkscrew curls like yours when she was little, she’s now 12).

    http://www.renovatingitaly.com/time-shine/

    It’s so beautiful that you share your face and your thoughts, believe me I know how hard it can be and how much easier it is on the other side of the camera. These portraits are beautiful and of course I see you in a totally different way than you see yourself. I know that no amount of others telling you this makes a difference to the way you see yourself, but slowly it will.

    with much love
    lisa x

    April 30th, 2014 | #

  4. Christina says

    Thank you for your raw honesty Pia. And you are beautiful – inside and out x

    April 30th, 2014 | #

  5. John says

    Pia,

    I have been reading your blog for years. You and your life–and what you have created–are beautiful in every way. Never think otherwise.

    John

    April 30th, 2014 | #

  6. Michelle says

    Gorgeous photos Pia, and beautifully written. As I read your post I couldn’t help but think if my six year old daughter, who asks me “mama, am I beautiful?” My heart tightens as I wonder why she questions this at a young age. I say “yes, you are beautiful, and you are smart, you are kind and you are funny and so much more”.

    April 30th, 2014 | #

  7. gotham girl says

    I love the rawness in these photos…beautiful outside and inside!

    April 30th, 2014 | #

  8. maggie bernaldo says

    Pia – so delicate & divine & delightful ~ Maggie B

    April 30th, 2014 | #

  9. vanessa joie says

    Pia, i have always thought you were beautiful. I remember watching your clips on Erin’s dialogue series and remember thinking that not only did I admire the way you lived your life and envy your beautiful accent but how beautiful you are. A lovely face and a lovely life. I was a little bit jealous. I can only imagine that to your daughter you’re the mist beautiful woman she’s ever seen or ever will see. I hope you see it too.

    April 30th, 2014 | #

  10. thisbrownwren says

    I don’t see any of the things you talk of when I look at these images. I see a strong, loving, fiercely protective, magnificently creative, beautiful woman. Such a light in your eyes and such fire in your heart…always such grace. You are a woman of substance and one I admire greatly. You outside shell reflects all that you are inside and that is why you shine. Much love xxxx

    April 30th, 2014 | #

  11. Catalina says

    You are beautiful! (maybe just different of the way you wanted to be, but there is beauty in you, go find it!)
    love your smile

    April 30th, 2014 | #

  12. Dee says

    ugly? you are adorable!!!!

    April 30th, 2014 | #

  13. shawn says

    you are just beautiful. and you create and expose the beauty around you.

    April 30th, 2014 | #

  14. eleni says

    Isn’t is strange how we measure courage nowadays? By posting an image of ourselves, free and real. I hope to do this one day too.

    April 30th, 2014 | #

  15. Theresa says

    You nailed Pia… If u can’t muster the courage to love yourself how can you expect your child to do the same… Thanks for your honesty on such a public forum. X

    April 30th, 2014 | #

  16. katiecrackernuts says

    Pia, You are a beautiful, strong woman and I can see (read) that you’re struggling to believe that but you are. You’ve told me about other women in your family – namely your ma – and I know you must come from amazing stock and have a gorgeous daughter to raise, who I am sure, with yours and Romain’s guidance will be amazing in her own right. Be raw. Be honest. Be yourself. What else is there to be?

    May 1st, 2014 | #

  17. chris says

    Wow Pia, you have to be one of the most honest, beautiful, natural women I have ever come across. Did I mention talented, utterly intuitive and gifted with an amazing way with words. In a world of fake you are a perfect reflection of beauty. Just saying xxx

    May 1st, 2014 | #

  18. Angy Braine says

    It’s a mystery to me
    We have a greed with which we have agreed
    And you think you have to want more than you need
    Until you have it all, you won’t be free

    Society, you’re a crazy breed
    I hope you’re not lonely without me

    When you want more than you have, you think you need
    And when you think more than you want, your thoughts begin to bleed
    I think I need to find a bigger place
    Cause when you have more than you think, you need more space

    Society, you’re a crazy breed
    I hope you’re not lonely without me
    Society, crazy indeed
    Hope you’re not lonely without me

    There’s those thinking more or less, less is more
    But if less is more, how you keepin score?
    Means for every point you make your level drops
    Kinda like you’re startin’ from the top
    And you can’t do that

    Society, you’re a crazy breed
    I hope you’re not lonely without me
    Society, crazy indeed
    I hope you’re not lonely without me
    Society, have mercy on me
    I hope you’re not angry if I disagree
    Society, you’re crazy indeed
    I hope you’re not lonely without me

    Eddie Vedder

    PS – Pia … you’re stunner. Brave is so beautiful ♥

    May 1st, 2014 | #

  19. annton says

    you are so beautiful. I love everyrthing about those pictures. and your writing. reading it, I was reminded of my friend Jade, who a couple of years ago started a photo project, that has grown into a book. it really changed my own perspectives too. Maybe you have heard about it already or you like to have a look http://www.abeautifulbodyproject.com/

    May 1st, 2014 | #

  20. Charline and Pamce says

    I saw the first photo and then read you did not post photos because you believe you are ugly. Lady you ARE beautiful, nothing added nothing hidden, naturally beautiful. thank you for sharing

    May 1st, 2014 | #

  21. Francesca Muir says

    Pia this is your best post yet… your gentle sensitivity is touching and your inner and outer beauty glows in every photo. Brava to you my friend – a brave and beautiful step. Have a wonderful day and many wonderful days to come. F xx

    May 2nd, 2014 | #

  22. pia says

    Thank you so much Francesca x

    May 2nd, 2014 | #

  23. pia says

    Thank you! What a lovely thing to read upon waking this morning!

    May 2nd, 2014 | #

  24. pia says

    I hadn’t heard of this book Annton and I’m so glad you shared it with me, thank you!

    May 2nd, 2014 | #

  25. pia says

    Oh how I love that song, thank you for posting the lyrics and reminding me of the words again Angy, so needed to read them. THANK YOU. X

    May 2nd, 2014 | #

  26. pia says

    Wow Chris! Your words to me made my day yesterday. “In a world of fake you are a perfect reflection of beauty” – I will need to remember that and pass it on. THANK YOU XX

    May 2nd, 2014 | #

  27. pia says

    That’s true Katie, what else is there to be. I do come from a strong stock of women, I need to remember that and breathe it in. Thank you for always making the time to comment, send emails, and even though I don’t always reply, you understand and don’t judge my absence. THANK YOU. XX

    May 2nd, 2014 | #

  28. pia says

    thank you for being here!! X

    May 2nd, 2014 | #

  29. pia says

    Yes it is strange isn’t it. To re quote Chris in a following comment: “In a world of fake, you are a perfect reflection of beauty” – go for it Eleni! X

    May 2nd, 2014 | #

  30. pia says

    thank you so much shawn.

    May 2nd, 2014 | #

  31. pia says

    oh ha! Thank you Dee.

    May 2nd, 2014 | #

  32. pia says

    yes different to what I wanted to be for sure. Thank you Catalina!

    May 2nd, 2014 | #

  33. pia says

    Oh Steph, thank you so much, your support and love absolutely reaches me, every time. You are light. Thank you XXX

    May 2nd, 2014 | #

  34. pia says

    Thank you Vanessa, I can’t see what you see but I feel that I’m finally working on being able to feel better about myself, to be less judgemental and more loving. Unconditional love has to start within doesn’t it. Thank you for always sharing your thoughts with me. X

    May 2nd, 2014 | #

  35. pia says

    Thank you Maggie.

    May 2nd, 2014 | #

  36. pia says

    thank you!

    May 2nd, 2014 | #

  37. pia says

    Oh yes, I hope your daughter really knows deep inside that she is beautiful. It’s all of those qualities right – smart, funny, and filled with love and light. Thank you Michelle.

    May 2nd, 2014 | #

  38. pia says

    Thank you so much John.

    May 2nd, 2014 | #

  39. pia says

    Thank you so much Lisa for sharing your experiences and for your beautiful words, and wow, congratulations on your portrait package with Carla in Paris, how fantastic!! Your video was so raw and honest. This emotion makes many people cringe, I know – I feel like most of my early life was surrounded by people who cringed each time I opened my mouth! Now I have people in my life who love it when I open up -including you and everyone here on the blog who comes to read my words, no matter what I say. It all helps so much to make me stronger and confident. I can’t thank you enough for being here. Love to you. X

    May 2nd, 2014 | #

  40. pia says

    Thank you ! I would love you to join in, please let me know if you do. xx

    May 2nd, 2014 | #

  41. Kreetta says

    Hi Pia!
    I’m happy for you. It’s not easy to be in pic. It’s not easy to live with certain image in mind that you have heard or made by yourself. I think we have to work to accept who we really are and forget also other people’s comments or things that have left unspoken.

    I’m also photographer and time to time I have to be in photograph too that I remember that it’s not so easy and what I’m asking from people. And I have to say you look wonderful! I have said this many times to people who I’m photographing also because we are way too cruel to our own image. Yes, I’m like that too. Happy Friday!

    May 2nd, 2014 | #

  42. Kirstie says

    Well my first thought was “Oh Pia, how can you think that?! You are beautiful” but when you described how you felt I found myself tearful because I had those thoughts about myself and could understand how you got there. Its a really good reminder of how us Mum’s and girl’s put ourselves down and put off the me time we all deserve. Thanks for the talking to. Wonderful photos – you look relaxed and free and absolutely stunning!!

    May 2nd, 2014 | #

  43. jo says

    Pia you will now realize that so many women feel just as you do about your looks. I have thought all my life th

    May 2nd, 2014 | #

  44. jo says

    the exact same thing and as you say it is incredibly hard to let go of these thoughts. They are very destructive and I struggle to ensure my 5 years old son never hears me being negative about the way I look as I do not want him to grow up thinking this way. I personally think you are very beautiful and you have given me inspiration to look in the mirror and be positive.

    May 2nd, 2014 | #

  45. joanne says

    the exact same thing and as you say it is incredibly hard to let go of these thoughts. They are very destructive and I struggle to ensure my 5 years old son never hears me being negative about the way I look as I do not want him to grow up thinking this way. I personally think you are very beautiful and you have given me inspiration to look in the mirror and be positive.

    May 2nd, 2014 | #

  46. Maria Ernest Fragopoulou says

    Natural beauty is the only beauty there is! It always comes from inside. It is part of our personality and not separate from it. It is more easily reflected when we are happy and at peace with ourselves. Beauty is a direct eye and wrinkles created by our laughter and cry.

    May 2nd, 2014 | #

  47. Sidney says

    Pia, you’re absolutely adorable! I would kill for your hair, your freckles, your honesty. You go, girlfriend.

    May 2nd, 2014 | #

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    May 6th, 2014 | #

  49. Lea says

    I think beauty is in what you express, not in the way nature happened to arrange the bones in your face. I think too many people forget that, because the glossed-up pictures of empty-eyed models in all those magazines distract us from what we should focus on – the honesty of feelings, and that they make us beautiful.

    The photographs in your post captured my attention first and I thought, what a beautiful, honest and strong woman. Then I went and read what you wrote and it nearly broke my heart when I came to the part where you said you think you’re ugly. You’re not in the least. I love those pictures, their honesty and expression. You should feel beautiful, because that’s what you are.

    May 6th, 2014 | #

  50. Tara Bradford says

    You are one of the most beautiful women I know Pia – inside and out. And thank you for your lovely message; am sorry I haven’t responded yet; will write soon. Lots of love to you.

    May 9th, 2014 | #

  51. Juultje says

    I just wanted to say that i think it is so very sad that you describe yourself as ugly. I don’t think you are ugly, you have some kind of youth ness about you that you should treasure. Please,take a close look at the pictures again, i hope you eventually will see the beautiful women i see.

    May 10th, 2014 | #

  52. Wanda Marie Miller says

    I shed a few tears, you are brave and beautiful and such a gift to your daughter…amen xoxo, wanda

    May 11th, 2014 | #

  53. claudia says

    I have been reading your blog for years now and to me you are truly beautiful…makes me think that if you think you´re ugly, but you aren´t – maybe I´m not either.

    May 11th, 2014 | #

  54. Carol says

    Pia, you ARE beautiful.

    May 18th, 2014 | #

  55. P says

    You look like your words, soulful and heartfelt. Honesty is beauty.

    May 31st, 2014 | #

  56. Julie Kinnear says

    I learned that real beauty is not where most people see it, not nowadays. It’s something much more difficult to describe and see… In a sea of people my eyes are always searching for the special ones who may look not perfect but in some way a little bit disturbing, unique. It’s really not easy to get over all the unpleasant words, I know how you feel. I share many of your feelings and went through difficult times as well, and I’m still feeling like it’s not over.
    These words make me think about my attitude towards myself: Do you EVER allow yourself to be fully vulnerable? I think you did it, now. A huge respect for that…

    June 4th, 2014 | #

  57. annabelle says

    I used to admire you. I’ve read your blog from pretty much since it started. But now it seems you just want the sympathy vote. When it looked like you were not going to get the funding for your book you had a little baby cry and then all these donations came pouring in. When you got the funding for your book project you were not satisfied, you wanted more more MORE! I lost respect for you at that point at how greedy you were. Most people will never get their kickstarter type projects funded. You got SO much money and were still not satisfied. I have asked you some simple questions on your blog and not once did you answer them. Just goes to show how one-sided everything is. You’ll only respond to people if they are praising you. Your piano playing/’composing’ is not that great. Not sure who is paying your rent.. your parents? your boyfriend? the government? but you are luckier than most people who actually have to WORK and not just collect chicken’s eggs and do finger painting all day. And yet you are constantly whingeing about how ‘hard’ your life is. Give me a break. Take a look at some single parents for a change. You are a spoilt little brat and as a devoted follower for at least 5 years I’ve had it. I no longer admire you, I deplore you for your fake niceness and your mother nature hippie crap. But most of all for your me me ME attitude. I’m not going to comment on your outward appearance (for I’m sure you already know if you are beautiful or ugly) but inside you are UGLY. You just take and never give.

    June 7th, 2014 | #

  58. pia says

    Hi annabelle, I was very hurt when I read your comment, I can see you have been triggered by my recent posts which reveal more of who I am and how I feel. You are angry and it’s upsetting that you feel that way. You’ve taken things that I’ve mentioned on my blog and created a 2-dimensional version of who I am, without knowing the full circumstances of my life. My blog is not a design blog, it’s a personal blog – a space that I’ve created over the last 7 years where I choose to share some of my life experiences and interests. I understand that as I grow, change, and learn – and choose to share certain aspects of my life – some of my long time readers may not have the same opinion as me or be able to connect with my experiences, and so decide not to continue reading my blog posts. This is your opinion of me, and here it is for all to read. Thank you for your readership to this point.

    June 11th, 2014 | #

  59. Helen says

    This is the first time I have been on your blog. I read your blog and then looked at you and couldnt believe that you think you are ugly. You are far from ugly and that is because your inner beauty shines through you. You are more beautiful than this world deserves with its fake and superficial ideas.

    June 18th, 2014 | #

  60. kathy says

    I came across your entry by chance looking for info on how to make a pallette bed. You touched my soul at its core. I am now 60 years old and since I can remember, I have felt ugly, fat and ashamed of my body. When I look at the few pictures I’ve allowed to be taken over the years, I actually feel sick. I wish I had the courage and strength you found to expose a secret that feeds on itself in the shadows. What I see in the light of the pics is an ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL WOMAN with courage and strength illuminating from your eyes in each pix. Your daughter has been given a gift through the photos that is priceless. Congrats and thanks for sharing that gift with the rest of the world as well!

    June 18th, 2014 | #

  61. anastasia says

    what an honest blog post – what beautiful beautiful photos…please be kind to yourself, we all have doubts about how we look.. geesh i know I did growing up I can even say i too felt the same as you but with the years, the life experience, with love, with unconditional love, with the friendships, whats really important to us shines through to make the real difference…

    June 20th, 2014 | #

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