8 Women Get Real About Their Body Insecurities — & How They're Overcoming Them

Body insecurities may be highly personal, but their universality is undeniable: When we polled our readers this year, nearly 80% of them said they walk around feeling somewhat dissatisfied with their bodies at least half of the time. So how do we make these perceived flaws hold less power over us? We put them out there and talk about them.

Eight women recently shared their insecurities with us and allowed us to photograph them on analog film, without any retouching or modification whatsoever. All the portraits were shot by Daisy Walker, a fashion photographer who focuses on the representation of women and gender. The resulting images are raw, honest, and absolutely stunning.

After talking to these women about their hang-ups and how they conquer them every day, it soon became clear that, while no woman felt 100% about her body, they were all working on accepting — and loving — their bodies as they are. Stretch marks, freckles, or hair might spark insecurities, but these qualities aren't "flaws" — they're what makes each woman unique and beautiful.

Click through to see eight women embracing their so-called imperfections and celebrating their uniqueness. And let's keep this conversation going.

It's your body. It's your summer. Enjoy them both. Check out more #TakeBackTheBeach, here.
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY DAISY WALKER
Raph

"I was always self-conscious of my freckles on my face. I thought [they] made my skin look 'bad.' At school, I was forever wearing really heavy foundation to cover them. I was also uptight about a cluster of them that would gather around my lips; I thought it made me look like I had chocolate around my mouth in photos! Now I really appreciate them. I recognize that they're unique and special, and I think they're a really integral part of who I am. My sister's face is covered in them too, and when I look at her, I think how beautiful they make her face. It's a characteristic that connects us both."
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY DAISY WALKER
Nellie

"I really like my bum now, but in all honesty, I've only come to like it in the last few months or so. Maybe three to be precise. Before then, it was the focus of all my body hang-ups.

"At 5'2", I have always been petite. For the majority of my adolescence I was rather slender. I was very casual about the fact that, at any store, from high-street to high-end, I could safely slip into the smallest size on offer. People remarked on how small my waist was and how 'skinny' my legs were. I was, in fact, unhealthy, and I had no idea. I was small enough for my periods to stop completely for three years. After I finally got the nerve to see a gynecologist, I discovered what I'd long suspected: that I have polycystic ovaries, and that my body had been going into shut-down mode, and that I needed to gain some weight.

"One packet of contraceptives later, [plus] one break-up, six months of heavy partying and heavy eating, and my body had entirely changed shape. Most notably, I had grown a rather sizable butt, and I didn't' recognize myself. While people insisted I looked 'healthier,' I was in denial about the fact that I'd leapt up a dress size or two. I was suddenly self-conscious. I blamed my ass for pretty much all of my pants not fitting. I thought I looked ridiculous in suit trousers (my old faithfuls). For a long time, I just wore looser skirts.

"I remember one night, coming home and getting changed and looking at myself in a thong in the mirror long and hard, and thinking, Sure, it's bigger, and there are stretch marks, but it looks alright. Like, squeezable. So that's how I'm currently styling it out now — 'more cushion for the pushin' or whatever."
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY DAISY WALKER
Sophia

"When I was growing up in school, you never saw Black British women in the media. I only ever saw white girls with straight hair, and that was what was seen as pretty. I looked completely different from that, and it's hard not to spend your time wondering if your hair isn't pretty. So I spent my time straightening my hair. I used to put weave in.

"I actually only stopped having weave at the beginning of last year. I just cut my hair and thought, No more, and it's been a revelation. I've never felt more me. It's strange because I come from a strong background, but I've been suppressing my ethnicity, my natural self, my hair, unknowingly. My parents are Jamaican, but I grew up in the countryside.

"I have sisters, and we've all had weave since we were little, and we've all gone natural recently. It's funny; my mum has never worn extensions. I looked up to my older sisters, and we'd gotten into this cycle. The music we grew up with, those pop stars all have weaves. I used to say, 'I'll never not wear a weave! I'll be in my coffin in a weave!' And now I can't imagine ever going back.

"Last year, I was [at] the hairdresser's, and I had two bags of weaves, and I was about to have them put in, and I felt so annoyed because I couldn't really afford the hair — it's so expensive — and then I just thought, I should shave my hair. I turned to my hairdresser and said 'Shave it off!' So she gave me a buzz cut. I disconnected from myself for half an hour while it was done. Afterwards, I thought, This is great. I'd spent all that time without my hair. I literally hadn't touched my scalp, or had water from the shower hit my head, in maybe 15 years. When I got home and showered, I felt this euphoria.

"I'm an actress, so I'm in the public eye. I feel like it's a political statement for me. I wear it with so much more pride. I want young Black girls to look at me and see it's fine and it looks beautiful and it's acceptable. When you type in 'unprofessional hair' into Google, you get an array of Black hair styles. That needs to change. This is why young Black girls feels this way. These latent undertones make up the collective attitudes that suppress a culture. For me, this is a personal movement to let young people know they can wear their hair however it comes out. I wake up and afro pick it, and I'm done."
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY DAISY WALKER
Tessa

"I got stretch marks when I was about 11, which is really, really young. I was at dance school, and I grew really quickly. I was 5'10" by the time I was 14. That's a lot of growing to do. They're really prominent all over my legs and my butt, and I have really small boobs, but I also have them there. I just don't have stretchy skin.

"On a school trip in ninth grade, some of the boys started shouting out, 'Tessa's been attacked! She's injured.' Then everyone noticed them, and I had to wear joggers for the rest of the holiday. Obviously, they fade, and when they're not pink, I worry less. I think, as an adult, I've always been the most self-conscious about the ones in between my legs, because of boys and things like that. With my job as an underwear model, I am naked all the time. Since I started modeling, I just had to stop assessing myself. I used to turn up to shoots with Mac Face and Body makeup, but I gave up when I noticed my little sister obsessing about hers. I just thought, I can't let her see me worry.

"Of course, they Photoshop my stretch marks out, so my friends forget, and then we'll be on beach with them and they're like, Oh. I wanted to do this today as a bit of exposure. I was on set recently and a stylist said, 'Any model with stretch marks would've got those sorted by now.' I stood up and said, 'I don't work this hard to spend thousands on laser to get rid of stretch marks that are part of my body.' Any scar, of any sort, is just a mark to show that you've grown, and you have to love it. You only get one body."
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Taiba

"I used to feel insecure about my boobs, because I didn't know what they were supposed to look like. I saw the ones on TV, and mine didn't look like them. My sisters are blessed with massive boobs...so I always felt like I'd gotten the short straw. I felt like I had bigger nipples, too, considering that my boobs aren't very big, so I used to worry about those as well. Then, I got boyfriends, and they were like, 'They're nice; they're lovely.'

Now, I accept that everyone is different in shapes and sizes. I see other people getting their smaller boobs out, and I think it looks really cool. I'm definitely going to try harder to be out and proud of them. My girlfriends tell me that they think my boobs are cute. And underwear shopping is easy-breezy."
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY DAISY WALKER
Rose

"I used to be so insecure about my thighs, and I've recently just started to get over it, so I thought doing this shoot would be a nice way to celebrate that. I hit puberty really early, and they were the first thing to happen. I think if you get big boobs, people can say nice things about them, but when you have big thighs and you're 11, there's nothing really nice about that.

"I went to an all-girls school, so I noticed how different I looked, and it wasn't a positive thing. I remember so vividly looking at other girls when we'd be out for a walk, and they'd be in skinny jeans, and their thighs wouldn't touch. That looked 'normal' to me. The whole thigh-gap furor was actually a positive thing for me to see because of the backlash it involved. People were saying that, firstly, this isn't necessarily healthy, and secondly, it's not physically possible for most people.

"There was a period of about five years when I didn't wear pants. I was convinced they made my thighs look bigger. So I wore '50s-style skirts. Now, I'm fine with it. I went to fashion school and was around women who were all shapes and sizes. It dawned on me that I was being a bit dramatic. I think other people's positive comments helped; other people's support helped. Now, it's only in the summer, when I see my stretch marks and I feel my thighs rub together, that I remember those feelings. But now, I think this is the payoff for big boobs and being the size I am. And I'm happy with that."
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY DAISY WALKER
Natasha

"When I walk onto [a train], or into a room full of strangers, or I'm sat at a meeting table, the first thing I look at are people's hands. I consciously seek out hands like mine to make me feel comfortable in a situation. I have bad circulation, and my hands are usually a painful shade of red: red, itchy, and swollen in heat; magenta and purple in the cold. Press your fingers hard enough into my palm, and the blood can take 10 seconds to return color to my skin. Every single time I shake a stranger's hand, they comment on my cold touch. 'Cold hands, warm heart,' I reply on auto, because I having nothing else to say. I cringe.

"A doctor diagnosed me with mild Raynaud's in my teens. Taking the medication made me feel like I had a disease and gave my hands more significance in my identity than I thought they deserved, so I stopped. Now, instead of wasting the energy worrying or drawing attention to myself by awkwardly hiding my hands in company, I take more care to look after them: [I wear] gloves as soon as the temperature drops from autumn to winter, and [I keep them] cool in summer with fancy mists. It took a long time to realize that, apart from the ice-queen touch, people just don't notice. No one is staring at my hands when I speak — they're listening to what I have to say."
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY DAISY WALKER
Daisy

"I have really large hips, and when I was younger, I was upset that my hips were much larger than my waistline. I thought that made me look 'curvy,' and I thought that wasn't a good thing. Other people at school brought it to my attention, and their comments resonated with me. Sometimes it was meant as a compliment.

"I actually suffered from anorexia until I was around 19. When I got over that, I stopped caring about my appearance in general. I gave up caring whether people found my physical appearance attractive or not. It was an internal decision to be happy. As a photographer, when I'm casting, I'm very conscious that I'm casting representatively in terms of race and size and age.

"As a photographer, my body allows me to do my job. I have to be strong enough to do my job. My body is there so I can achieve things in my life, not so I can look good for someone else. I feel more womanly now. I think my anorexia was all about being afraid of turning into a woman. Now I have no fear of that."
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