I am not a professional model. I do not get paid for getting my picture taken, but ever since I was fourteen years old, I have been modelling recreationally. Growing up, my mother had plenty of friends who were professional photographers (being a model herself, whose photos have been published in magazines), and this gave me plenty of opportunities to get in front of the camera in my pretty costumes and just have fun.

Fourteen was the perfect age to start doing this, too, because it meant that, all throughout high school, I was never really all too self-conscious about my appearance. I mean, sure, I had some pretty bad acne, and I wasn't a size zero at the time or anything like that, but whenever I started feeling low, all I needed was a good photo session with a talented photographer, and the next thing I knew, I'd be receiving airbrushed photographs of myself where I always looked stunning.

I knew that it wasn't always reality, sure, but even still, it made me feel good. It helped me to see myself from an objective, foreign perspective. When I looked at those photographs, I wasn't looking at myself in the mirror, picking apart my every flaw and imperfection. I was looking at a beautiful woman, and then realizing that that woman was actually me! It made me realize the value of make-up and costumes and confidence, because when I felt pretty, I felt happy, and that happiness made its way into other aspects of my life - more important aspects, like my confidence in my school work, and my socializing, and my art.

Maybe the whole concept is problematic, from a feminist stand-point, but we live in a problematic society. And the way I see it, if there is something in this world that is capable of boosting your confidence, then what's wrong with it? Especially when there are so many things around us - things like the media, and our peers - who try to tear our confidence down because they can sell us more products or feel better about themselves when we're weak and vulnerable.

But here's the thing - I started modelling when I was fourteen years old, and the photographers that I worked with were friends of my mother, so very rarely were the photographs all too sexualized. But there are many women in our society who feel most beautiful when they are sexualized. You see it often on Facebook - women, adults and teenagers alike, who photograph themselves with their own cleavage as the focal point, or in an outfit that you know was deliberately picked out to show off as much skin as possible. My photographer friends, too, post photos all the time of women in lingerie or, at times, completely nude. So what about these women?

I mean, on the one hand, an argument can be made that they are even more problematic than I am. All I am doing is taking my confidence from my own physical beauty, as the patriarchy has taught me to do from the time I was young. But these women are specifically dressing themselves up (or down) for the male gaze, right? They are deliberately objectifying themselves. Right?

Well, believe it or not, I disagree.

I mean, I understand where this argument comes from, and I won't deny that there may be some problematic aspects to it, but in the exact same way that there are problematic aspects to what I do.

Because these women, really, are doing nothing more than what I do. They are capturing images of themselves where they personally feel beautiful. And these women just happen to feel beautiful with cleavage, or lingerie, or completely naked - whether they felt beautiful that way before they took the picture, or they simply think that they look beautiful when they look at the picture later. Either way, it's a confidence boost, something that will make them feel happier in the long run, and that will find its way into other aspects of their life. Whether you agree with what they're wearing or not wearing doesn't matter - you can at least admit that these women deserve to feel confident and beautiful. And if that is what it takes for them to feel that way, then more power to them!

Is there something problematic about women taking their confidence from their physical beauty? Maybe. But regardless, we live in a society where that is still reinforced. How many of us today grew up being complimented on our beauty, or picked apart because we didn't look the way that other people thought we should? Whether we like it or not, beauty is still an important factor to many people. It isn't the most important trait we have, not by a long shot, but it's still something that we think about, something that can make us feel more or less confident as a person in the long run.

And the thing is - every woman can feel beautiful, because every woman is beautiful, regardless of whether or not we fit into the standard definition. The difference is in what we're all comfortable with. Some women feel most beautiful naked. Some feel most beautiful covered up. Some feel more beautiful within some sort of middle ground. And at the end of the day, it doesn't matter how you come to feel beautiful - all that matters is that you do.

So, ladies (and, I'm sorry to have ignored you through most of this post, gentlemen) - feel free to present yourself any which way you want! Beauty isn't the only method that has the potential to increase your confidence, but it is one, and it's a simple method too. Because all you need to do to achieve it is find what makes you comfortable, whatever that might mean, and go with it.

Published by Ciara Hall