These Photographs Force Women To Admit One Critical Thing They Usually Refuse To Believe

What's your essence?

Let's do a little experiment — name three things you dislike about your body.

Now name three that you're really proud of. Which of these two questions was easier to answer? We are 99.99 percent positive it was the first one and the reason is not even surprising. 

Instead of exploring what makes us beautiful and unique, we tend to obsess over irrelevant details that we think influence other people's perception of us. Like true detectives, we investigate every single imperfection of our bodies just to compare it to prevailing beauty standards and beat ourselves up for not fitting the frame.

Sounds crazy, but that's the everyday life of millions of people. Of gorgeous, smart, successful individuals who shouldn't be wasting their energy on silly things like that. One photographer wants to remind them of that.

Meet Eva Woolridge, the photographer whose latest series 'Embrace Your Essence' challenges women to ditch self-shaming and celebrate their beauty.

In spring 2015, Woolridge was a student at the University of Maryland, where, as she describes, she was "surrounded by women who were strong, intelligent leaders and who still fell into the trap of self-criticism."

Woolridge was astonished how much energy women waste trying to foolishly obey existing beauty standards and how little praise they give to themselves on a daily basis. 

So she asked herself: "Could you imagine how beautiful the world would be if we embrace the essences that make us uniquely beautiful?" This thought was the beginning of her new project, Embrace Your Essence.

The essence I embrace ... 'Is Lola. That's the name of my hair.' — Brianna

Woolridge started onboarding women she knew from her classes, but the word started spreading soon with more and more ladies wanting to participate in her self-love project.

"Women wanted to be a part of the solution. They wanted to change this cycle of self-criticism and embrace every element that made them beautiful," Woolridge told A Plus.

At first, the photographer says her subjects were hesitant to open up and identify what they saw as beautiful in their appearance. Most of them would start the sentence by saying, "Well, people tell me that ...," but Eva would stop them right there. She didn't want to hear others' opinions — she wanted to the models to find true beauty on their own.

The essence I embrace ... 'Are my curves. I kind of want to be like this all day, just naked.' — Felicia

Woolridge says that after the photo shoot, most women would experience powerful moments of self-acceptance and thank her for showing them it's much easier to embrace our beauty than we're often made to believe.

"I want women to understand that we all have our insecurities. Personally, I don't like my hands, but I have a striking smile. Embrace the parts of your body and personality that you love. Embrace the essence that makes you uniquely beautiful," Woolridge said in an interview.

Check out rest of her work below and be sure to follow Eva Woolridge Photography on Instagram.

The essence I embrace ... 'Are my eyes.' — Leigh Ann

The essence I embrace ... 'Are my dimples. It's funny; technically a dimple is considered a skin deformity, but I always saw it as a reminder of my childhood innocence.' — Niny

The essence I embrace ... 'My clavicle. I was the first multi-ethnic child born in my village. It has always made me value my diverse background much more.' — Soraya

The essence I embrace ... 'Is my bone structure. I feel like I have really Indian features. Growing up, my strong, facial bone structure made me insecure, but as I got older I practiced self-love and embracing who I am.' — Sana

The essence I embrace ... 'Is my nose, I actually bought this nose stud and scarf when I was visiting my family in Pakistan.' — Ghonva

The essence I embrace ... 'Is my stomach. A strong core means I can hold myself up; every day, in yoga, in life, and through many hours of supporting women through childbirth. My belly may not be your perfect, but it's my perfect, and it is my teacher every day.' — Roni

The essence I embrace ... 'Is my birthmark. It covers my entire left leg.' — Opeyemi

The essence I embrace ... 'Are my feet. My whole life I loved to dance, but people don't really understand how much work goes into the craft.' — Sydney

The essence I embrace ... 'Are my lips.' — Kanisha