"The unique things about us that make us beautiful have so little to do with outward appearance," says Jessica Fielder
Photographer Jessica Fielder created her “Project: Self Love” photo series to teach her daughter that women are so much more than what’s on the outside.
“As a woman, I’ve always been very aware of the ridiculous beauty standards society imposes on us, and I’ve always taken issue with that,” Fielder, 27, tells PEOPLE. “Since having a daughter, I’ve thought a lot about wanting to both protect her from that, and prepare her for it. I want her to grow up with a mother who places more value on who we are than what we look like.”
“I want her to know that having flaws is okay,” she continues. “I want her to know she is so much more than her perceived flaws, and I thought this would be a great first lesson. ”
Fielder approached 17 women of varying ages, shapes and sizes and asked each one to write down a negative comment she’d heard about her physical appearance that had affected her self-confidence. Then Fielder asked the women to record a positive quality – something not physical – that they loved about themselves.
“I wanted the women to take ownership over the things people have said to hurt them, and show how ridiculously irrelevant they are compared to the things that mattered about them,” she says.
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The New Jersey-based photographer wants the photos to show that physical appearance is not an important part of what makes up a person.
“The unique things about us that make us beautiful have so little to do with outward appearance,” she says.
Fielder hopes that her photo series will make people think twice before criticizing others for the way they look.
[IMAGE “9” “” “std” ][IMAGE “10” “” “std” ]”I want people to look at these raw emotions and these ugly, unkind words, and realize the impact the things we say can have on others,” she says. “I want women to look at this and have it resonate, and have them realize that they are beautiful the way they are.”
And she hopes it will inspire other mothers to pass down lessons of self-love to their own daughters.
“I think loving yourself is the absolutely most important thing,” says Fielder. “When we love ourselves, we respect ourselves and we command that respect from others. That’s so important.”