I Have Been Here Before - By Carre Otis

I Have Been Here Before - By Carre Otis

It is something we have all experienced. We have all been subject to it in one way or another. And sadly, whether we feel like admitting it or not, we’ve also been the perpetrator. Judging and labeling is pervasive, it might arguably be an inevitable part of the human condition—automatically comparing, assessing, and deciding what’s wrong and what’s right about another. And now that we have the Internet and social media, we can be the judger or the judged on a global scale.

It's become a cultural norm, and we are so desensitized, even educated individuals contribute to this shallow banter.

It is something we can all relate to.

Photographer : Bruce Weber @bruceweber, shot in 1991

At different moments in my life I have felt the impact of others’ attempts—the entertainment/modeling industry’s and specific individuals’ efforts—to put me in a box. I have never been “conventional” (whatever that means!), and do not plan on being so anytime soon. But having experienced the expectation that I fit into some prescribed category time again has led me to wonder: Do the labels begin at birth? Are they gender-oriented? What makes someone more likely to be judged and what makes someone more likely to judge.

When I was “diagnosed” as dyslexic in the third grade, it was an obvious example of being officially labeled. Academically, I didn’t fit in. Later, as a young rebellious tattooed model, I challenged industry norms. I would hear it over and over from my agents: “Nobody knows what to make of you, Carre. . . Nobody knows how to cast you.”  I was ambivalent: initially grateful to make some money when I’d so recently been a homeless teen, excited to be invited into this strange new world where posing for pictures was glorified, and yet increasingly insecure about being told that I didn’t quite belong.

Years later, as an adult who’d recovered from substance use problems and an eating disorder, I was deemed a “plus size model.” However, hovering between a size 8 to 10, I wasn’t quite big enough for that industry category. I was frequently asked to wear a “fat suit” under the clothes I would be modeling. (Talk about false advertising!)

And certainly my five-year commitment to celibacy really had heads rolling. Why on earth would I do that to myself, people would ask. Both women and men were concerned that I was wasting my most important childbearing years. They warned me: Time is running out! I should be looking for a husband and making myself ready to birth babies. But the truth was that my choice of celibacy turned out to be the best gift I have ever given myself. It was the most empowering and defining moment of transformation in my adult life.

I continue to witness this cultural pull toward judgment and divisiveness. Humanity, it seems, works to separate us, from ourselves, from others, from our path, our purpose, and our deepest truth. Recently, I’m noticing this phenomenon with regard to a specific aspect of my appearance: I’m embracing my silver hair, and I find it fascinating that my choice to leave my hair dye-free is so disturbing to so many. Total strangers on social media and as well as people I encounter in real-life have told me they think I would look so much better without my greys.

I am fifty. I love every aspect of my life and myself today. Why on earth would I hide or alter any aspect of myself? I get why others may want to, and I don’t judge them for it. But why am I somehow expected to defend or answer to my choice? As a female, I have experienced an expectation that I am supposed to stay silent and be the keeper of secrets. I believe many women have experienced this. But I’ve made the conscious decision to represent a truth: we all age and change.

I realize the discomfort this creates for some. We are living in an unprecedented time where much of mainstream media has become a dictating monster perpetuating great myths and dark lies. We are objectified. We are sexualized. A porn-culture has normalized a singular view of unrealistic sexual dynamics while contributing to a world that has forgotten—or simply will not tolerate—what real women look like. Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten what’s sacred. We have dismissed the natural perfection of every single stage of this human life.

Thankfully, I have wise elders in my life, as well as a deep connection to Indigenous communities where these qualities are honored and revered. There is a deep respect for the cycles of nature as well as the cycles of the human body. As I walk my walk and relate to others, as I mother and offer my gifts to the world, I hold this space for people to wake up, remember, and embrace these essential wisdoms. It is my belief that for us to not only survive but thrive as individuals and communities, we will have to remember and even return to these ways of being. It’s the natural order. And the dis-order we have created is destroying us. It is not sustainable.

This moment is powerful. The feminine is rising. Our voices are being heard. All across the world, the #metoo movement has contributed to a great shift in our course. We are voting. We are coming OUT. And we are safer together than apart. The ancient adage reminds us: As above, so below.  When we work to shift our individual consciousness and intentions from destruction and negativity to solutions and love, we can change our world. Our internal environment reflects the external one, and it is really the only environment we have control of.  

The changes we make take practice, discipline, and dedication. Yet they are accessible to each and every one of us. Commitment to a daily meditation practice can literally rewire neural pathways. Starting with a simple breath-meditation is something anyone can do.

The power of affirmations and consciously changing our inner dialogue into one of small, positive affirmations is far more powerful than people might think. Self-reassurance with statements of love affects us on every level. Taking the time to get out into nature, consciously breathing, slowing down our steps, and connecting with all living beings around us allows for a powerful re-set.   

We can all work toward an environment of respect and inclusiveness by practicing an acceptance of our differences and a celebration our uniqueness. These small practices can help us take the steps towards the triumph of self-love and self-acceptance. And this is the first step to accepting one another.


Team Credits:

Model: Carre Otis at Iconicfocus NYC/ LA
Photographer : Diana Ragland
Make and Hair: Helen Robertson at Celestine Agency

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