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Steve Rosenfield's viral project 'What I Be' asks people to display their insecurities to the world

Saturday, 22 February 2014 - 8:00pm IST Updated: Saturday, 22 February 2014 - 6:00pm IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna webdesk

The 'What I Be Project' created by Steve Rosenfield is an ongoing social experiment that went viral and became a global phenomena. The project focuses on people's insecurities and the fact that these insecurities do not define them. "In today’s society, we are often told to look or act a certain way. If we differ from these 'standards', we are often judged, ridiculed, bullied and sometimes even killed over them.", Rosenfield mentions on his website.

He started the project by asking people from all around the globe to complete the following statement 'I am not my...', filling the blank with some sort of insecurity or anxiety that plagues them. Realising that the project would involve asking people to reveal their deepest darkest secrets, Rosenfield thought that he would at most be able to get about 100-150 images. However when more and more people started responding to the project he was soon flooded with more than a 1000 images. Rosenfield was overwhelmed, mentioning, "I wanted to start a dialogue between people that showed we all have things we’re battling from. If we share them with others, others will share with us. It will create and open forum where people feel safe to be themselves. That’s the super short story of course".

And he accomplished just that.

Rosenfield shot his volunteers in simple positions, simply decorating subjects with bold black phrases of their choice, written on their arms, chests or faces.

"Some of the faces you may recognize, some you may not. Take the time to connect with each one. You may see yourself within one of the photos.
I would like to thank you for showing interest in my project, and for taking the time to read what it’s all about."

The first person to take part in the project was a friend of Rosenfield. Her name is Amanda and here is her story.

 "I Am Not My Body Image"

What I Be Project - Amanda "I am not my body image" (Anorexia)

Following her lead here are only few of the thousands that took part in this inspiring project.

"I Am Not My Preference"

It has only been three years since I’ve been true to myself. Tensions between my insecurity and identity led me to rid myself of the self denial I so naively swam in for so long.
In high school I never dared once think of myself as being a lesbian.
I started gaining confidence when I met a few queer observant Jews and I asked them the same question that people ask me today. How do you justify homosexuality within the contexts of Judaism? I had discussions with my new friends that brought me to close relationships with people who I felt were like me. And for once in my life I had validation.

Read more here.

"I Am Not My Scars"

Growing up I was always known as a daddy’s girl by my family members. I was in constant need for his love and attention. Once I started high school, that need faded and eventually turned into bitterness, then anger. I started cutting myself in a pathetic attempt to get my father to notice me and how angry I was. I went through multiple therapists within a 12 month time period. I was constantly on suicide watch in the psychiatry center, but what I didn’t tell them was that I didn’t actually have the courage to do anything close to that.

Read more here.

"I Am Not My Gender"

My major insecurity has been the fact that I am Transgender. More specifically, I am a 32 year old post-operative Transsexual woman. Until recently, simply saying the word “transsexual” or hearing the word “tranny” made me extremely uncomfortable mainly due to my own internalized Transphobia. As a Trans woman I’ve carried around a lot of feelings of guilt, shame, and embarrassment due to my first hand experiences of discrimination, ridicule, and accusations of being deceitful or questioning the authenticity of my womanhood. I am not my gender, nor am I my surgeries. I’m an artist, a musician, a seeker, a wife, a friend, a sister, granddaughter, a free thinker, a believer and much, much more.

Read more here.

"I Am Not My Appearance"

For as long as I can remember I’ve had a problem with making my voice heard. I’ve always been quiet and had trouble with expressing how I feel about things. It leads people to brush me off, talk over me, not take me seriously. My way of standing out has always been modifying my body, whether through tattoos, piercings, dying my hair crazy colors, or when I was younger a whole lot of less healthy avenues.

Read more here.

Some provided statements for their photographs, while others decided to let their pictures speak for themselves.

"I Am Not My Dyslexia"


"I Am Not My Depression"


"I Am Not My Molestation"


"I Am Not My Sexuality"


"I Am Not My Thoughts"


"I Am Not My Turban"


"I Am Not My Vices"


"I Am Not My Viruses"

For the complete set of people involved with the project, click here.

There were many who wanted to speak out about their anxieties and insecurities as well.

What I Be Project - Roberto "I am not my exterior"

What I Be Project - Dani "I am not my chronic illness"

With the project taking off faster than Rosenfield could imagine his next step is to write a book on the project. To which he says, "I’m currently working on a book for the project. It’s going to be a pretty special book."

(All images and inputs courtesy of Steve Rosenfield and the 'What I Be' project.)

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