For a woman who spent most of her twenties avoiding cameras, a boudoir photo shoot always seemed like a silly indulgence and undeniably awkward, if not absolutely mortifying. And yet, when the opportunity presented itself, I booked an appointment with Alyss, shocked by how easily this perfect stranger seemed to disarm my apprehension with a simple email and the Instagram messages we exchanged.

Her calm reassurances and incredible sense of humor were exactly what I needed to relax into this secluded, alternate universe where my typical insecurities and self-consciousness just didn’t exist.

Despite my nerves, I survived a solid hour in front of Alyss’ camera. Over and over again, she gave me clear, detailed instruction how to pose and position my body in a way that felt coached, but comfortable, murmuring the words, “Beautiful…perfect,” so many times I actually believed her!

Later the following week, I almost cried when I saw a sneak peak image from our session together. The lighting was impeccable, the soft curves of my figure and finest features captured at their very best, including the hint of mischievousness in my smile and lively, sparkly eyes. The woman Alyss found in that picture was stunning, confident, and most importantly, happy.

Of course, I’d love to tell you that some miracle occurred and I now look this gorgeously sexy all the time, but a different kind of magic happened. I now apologize for myself a little less and have warmed to the tired bags under my eyes. The anthology of images that Alyss captured isn’t Photoshop perfect or even overtly sexy. In fact, the photos are arguably modest, but capture the depth and breath of my soul, not just the landscape of my body. Ultimately, this experience cemented what I already knew – that what matters most is how I choose to see myself: powerful, brilliant, brave, and yes, even beautiful.