mirrorsmile

I’m so in awe of your smiles you’ve shared this week. So grateful. If you haven’t checked out the #beyourownbeloved hashtag on Instagram…I highly recommend it for a dose of inspiration in your day! And I’d love to hear how this experience has been for you!

I’ve had a lot of smile realizations come up this week and have been loving reading alongside the photos of folks participating what they are realizing too.

One of the biggest things is this realization, which of course I’ve known before now but really hit home in this context.

We are so much harder on ourselves and our SMILES than we would ever be of anyone else.

Why do we walk the world thinking everyone is seeing us critically when in reality we are the most critical of ourselves?

And while it can be so powerful to have people tell us what they like our smile…we have to be ready and willing to see it ourselves, in our own time and in our own way.

Which is why I really wanted to do this experiment and why I’m so grateful you are reading this post.

So, to end this experiment, I wanted to ask you…what if we let in the love?

That’s the other thing I’ve realized this week…that sometimes we hide love away from ourselves.

As I’ve mentioned, finding that one way I like to smile in photos was SO powerful.  Yet after only doing that smile for years I realize that by not letting myself authentically smile on the days when I really wanted to, I hid myself away from more love.

It reminded me of the way I used to hide my body behind extra baggy/flowy clothing.  Even though I felt good in those clothes, I couldn’t really see my body and when I started to wear more fitted clothing I realized there was a body under that flowing clothing I could have seen with love all along…

I think, especially in the case of our smiles, it’s easy to hide behind a posed smile and I want to continue to reserve the right to. But I realized that by hiding my teeth, by hiding my authentic smile in moments when I truthfully wanted to smile…I was hiding love from myself.

I was hiding the potential to love my smile just as it is.

I wasn’t even offering myself the option.

I think as women we are brilliant at that.  Hiding ourselves under baggy clothing.  Hiding ourselves by playing small.  Hiding ourselves behind negative words we share about our body aloud to friends.

We are hiding and holding back our potential for self-compassion.

We all have it.

We weren’t born hating our bodies or being critical of our smiles.

When we first smiled at someone as a small child, would we have ever imagined it would be something we would some day need to make peace with?

Let’s reclaim the inherent right to see our own bodies without critique.  I’m not talking vanity here. Just the inherent right to see ourselves without critique.

And in order to reclaim that, we get to make that choice.

To choose love or hate.

To choose kindness over critique.

Sometimes, its even awaiting us in a smile, isn’t it!

 

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I have a specific activity to end this week but of course…if there is a certain way you are craving to smile today, go for it! This is about you sharing your smile, so bring it on.

For our final selfie experiment, I’d love for us to meet that woman in the mirror.  The one who we may often see with critique but who indeed has been waiting all this time for us to see with love.

In the Be Your Own Beloved classes we only do a few activities with the Mirror (I’d actually LOVE to do another Making Peace Experiment with the mirror sometime….let me know if that would be of interest) but this is one of my favourite ways to take a mirror photo, that doesn’t feel as vulnerable as a full body mirror photo but at the same time is such a powerful way to connect with ourselves in the mirror.

Your task is this.  Just like in the example photo above.  Get right next to the mirror.

  • Cheek to cheek or play around with angles and find a way that works for you.
  • Take a lot of photos and play around with having your eyes open or closed…or do what feels right to you!

And most importantly, smile with her.  Smile at her.

Send her some love today.

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I truly can’t wait to see your photos today.  If you’re joining us beyond this week we’ve been doing it live, please don’t hesitate  to share your photos.  Feel free to tag me too.  My Instagram name is @viviennemcm or if you are tagging me on Facebook to see it, please use the @BeYourOwnBeloved page to tag me! Or please don’t hesitate to add your link in below too!

You can find all the posts from this experiment here!

I also want to thank you for being a part of this! It has truly been a joy in my days this week to see you exploring seeing your smile with kindness.  If you feel drawn to explore more self-compassion through taking selfies, the class Beloved Beginnings is a self-paced class you can start at any time!  It is super beginner friendly (even more gentle activities that we’ve been doing this week) and is also super affordable!

I’m also starting a brand new session of Be Your Own Beloved on Valentine’s Day! It is going to be a bit different as I’m adding some things to it! More instructional videos (about how to find your timer, how to take selfies) as well as videos sharing more about Being Your Own Beloved. Plus, the price hasn’t gone up (though it will after this session)!

I am so beautiful, sometimes people weep when they see me. And it has nothing to do with what I look like really, it is just that I gave myself the power to say that I am beautiful, and if I could do that, maybe there is hope for them too. And the great divide between the beautiful and the ugly will cease to be. Because we are all what we choose.” 

― Margaret Cho

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smile600

So how do we make peace with our smiles?

While the activities we’ve done so far have been playful, they are also very much with intention!

Because from what I’ve experiences, making peace starts with breaking out of that comfort zone and with showing up in front of the camera, being willing and open to the possibility of seeing yourself (and your smile) in a different way.

But the process of actually making peace often doesn’t happen exactly as we may expect.

I think often we expect it to happen immediately or we even put pressure on ourselves to make peace happen! Sound familiar?

As I’ve been working on making peace with my own smile, I noticed a bit of a pattern that I thought I might share with you.  As I’d take selfies capturing my smile, there was a slow evolution and change I saw happen that went something like this!

This is where it began a while back:

“Oh my…that is a whole lot of smile and all I see is critique. No love”

Then after continuing the practice it rolled into:

“Yup, there’s my smile again” And it almost became a place of neutrality where I wasn’t critiquing myself but didn’t necessarily see it with compassion yet.

Then it shifted and I started to appreciate my own smile in the same way that I would seeing a friend’s smile of someone I adored and feel like:

“Hey lovely” to the woman in photo or in the mirror!

And the shift to the last stage has always felt so subtle to me too. After a lifetime of body critique one might expect making peace to feel like crossing the finish line, but after walking through that place of neutrality for a while, it just feels like it becomes our new normal.  You know what I mean?

And it takes time. I think that it’s so easy to feel like we should suddenly ‘get it’ and instantly feel wonderful about ourselves after having hidden that potential for self-love away for a long time.

I find that in my classes where people confess that they expected to take one workshop and suddenly not struggle but for many of us this is a lifetime of unlearning we are doing and if it was instantaneous…well, there would be a lot less women hating their bodies wouldn’t there!

It can really feel like work to make peace with our bodies.  But it’s worth the work!

I wanted to share that with you today in case you’re putting pressure on yourself to immediately LOVE your smile or other parts of you that you are choosing to make peace with.

So I have an activity for you today (of course).

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What part of your smile can you already see with love or are finding yourself learning to? Let’s celebrate that today. 

It could be:

  • the shape of your lips
  • the uniqueness of your teeth
  • the curve of your smile
  • the way your cheeks are when you smile.
  • or maybe you’re beginning to see your whole smile with love

It’s not for us to tell you either (though I’ve been loving the way folks are cheering each other on and sharing what we like about your smile).  But you get to define what you want to celebrate and acknowledge what you may still be feeling neutral about! You get to do this at your pace!

It can feel like choosing to see our smile with love is one small part of learning to love our body as a whole, but we can also take a smaller step.  There is no step too small.

What small step could you take today towards seeing your smile with love?

Let’s make this a practice. It may not happen overnight.  But the more we can show up in the camera and the mirror and meet ourselves with inquisitiveness, with neutrality and yes with love….the more we open up to making that change towards self-love.

Be inquisitive.

Be open.

Be willing to take just one step first.

I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.

-Brene Brown

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toomuchsmile

So far we’ve gone wild taking a whole lot of smile selfies, haven’t we! I’m super proud of y’all for just going for it!

How was that for you? Did you see some you loved? Did some feel more vulnerable for you?

For me, the candid ones feel like they feel much more vulnerable in two ways: the physical aspect and the ME-ness that comes through with them.  It’s that second part that I wondered if y’all would be into digging deeper into today with me.

What is it about our candid or natural smile that can feel so vulnerable?

I’ve been pondering this and this is what keeps coming to mind for me.

Keeping my smile small and is a way of keeping me composed, feeling in control of my self image…without that smile I feel unmasked, exposed, vulnerable, too happy, too much.

The more I keep my guarded posed smile up, the more I keep my boundaries up and choose the story I want to tell in the photo. There is indeed something empowering about that and it is a vital part of reclaiming our self-image to feel in control of the story we tell when for so many of us, we’ve believed stories from outside ourselves for so long.

Yet the more I let that unguardeness go, the walls drop and you can see the emotion on my face and in my smile.  That feels terrifying some days and I just want to keep it all private.

But at the same time I don’t want to keep myself small. I don’t want you only to know or to see the curated version of me.  And I don’t only want to know the curated version of you.

I want to unmask the smile.

Unclench my jaw.

Unlock the guarded boundaries my smile holds back.

Unearth my  ‘too muchness’.

To value my urge to smile over my worry about how it will be seen by others.

Yet I can’t help but also recognize how the physical elements of taking such a vulnerable kind of selfie bring up feelings of ‘not enoughness’ too.  We are pushed and pulled by these two different strong emotions of not enough and too much!

Does the not enough & too much-ness sound familiar to any of you?  I have a feeling it might.  So many of us as women hold back, play small, keep contained for the sake of other people and that ‘not enoughness’ indeed keeps us in that place of smallness.

I want us to reclaim that today.  Want to join me?

What would happen if we let ourselves be TOO MUCH in our smiles today?

What are we afraid of?

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The ‘Too Much’ Smile!

Let’s embrace being ‘too much’ today! Let’s not hold back, let’s not be composed, let’s not try to be ‘perfect’.  Let’s embrace being our big, bold, vibrant, too much selves!

Let’s claim space.

Let’s not play small with our smiles.

Let’s take up space!

You might:

  • Put on lipstick! Especially if that isn’t in your comfort zone!
  • Get in close to the camera and make your lips and smile the focus of the photo.
  • Let your biggest grin out and not try to keep it small in any way!
  • What are the ways you feel like you compose or curate your smile?  How could you go wild in the other direction?  Don’t hold back your sexiness, your uniqueness, your vibrancy. Your YOU-ness!

I encourage you to start taking these photos without putting pressure on yourself to share them.  Take them for YOU. That way we can probably let even more worry of our shoulders about being ‘too much’.  Then after you take them, see if there is indeed one you want to share after all…but take them for yourself first!

If you do choose to share them today, tag them with #beyourownbeloved so we can cheer you on and leave a comment or add your link to the list below!

You’ll learn, as you get older, that rules are made to be broken. Be bold enough to live life on your terms, and never, ever apologize for it. Go against the grain, refuse to conform, take the road less traveled instead of the well-beaten path. Laugh in the face of adversity, and leap before you look. Dance as though EVERYBODY is watching. March to the beat of your own drummer. And stubbornly refuse to fit in.

-Mandy Hale

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candid

Oh that made me happy seeing y’all go out of your comfort zone and share your smiles be they silly or subtle!

We’re going to dig in a little more today into how to make peace with our smiles as there are really two different approaches we can take to smiling in a photo: posed or candid. Have you found you have a preference?

During your experimenting yesterday you may have noticed yourself cross over from posed to more natural or candid photos and back again. Today we are going to play around with that!

Posed

Just like we talked about yesterday, we may have our comfort zone with smiling, a way that we like to smile that feels comfortable, even if it isn’t our ‘natural’ smile!

I know it might be natural for many of us to think of posed smiles as not being ‘real’ but I encourage you to let yourself out of that myth.  A posed smile is just us, in our comfort zone.

One trick I like to do (and you could try today) is to remember that we smile with so much more than just our lips.  I have an activity in Be Your Own Beloved (which I won’t totally give away…keep it as a surprise for you in class) but in it we explore looking into the lens thinking of someone we love.  What I find happens when we do this is that our eyes light up, our smile becomes softer and its as though you can see the love in our eyes.  Try this today and I think you’ll see how smiling is about so much more than just how we position our lips, isn’t it!

Candid

Our ‘natural’ smiles on the other hand, are those kind that we probably don’t think about that much…that we just do!

I love starting my in person workshops asking the question “What is your favourite photo of yourself (be it a selfie or a photo of you)” and so often one of the favourite types of photos folks have is that one that someone captured of you in a moment of laughter at an important time in your life (like at a wedding or a family gathering).

But we can totally have our candid smiles in selfies too..and we’re going to explore that today!

I know for me, these kinds of smiles feel a lot more vulnerable and indeed we are going to dig into that further later this week as I have a feeling I’m not alone in that!

A few questions for you:

How do you feel about your candid smile vs your posed smile?

Are there any photos you’re getting that are surprising you?  

Does one type of smile feel more vulnerable than the other?

So today let’s experiment with our candid smile (as it probably is the kind that is less common in our photos)!

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Take a Candid Smile Photo!

So how do we do this?  Indeed, we are going to continue on with the playfulness we started with yesterday!

You might:

  • Put on your favourite video…you know, the adorable animal ones that make you laugh or grin (my favourite this week is the one of the Golden Retriever totally failing an agility test in the best kind of way)! Keep your camera handy and capture some selfies as you find yourself cracking up or smiling.
  • Or get someone in your life to make you laugh! Or look at someone who just makes you smile to be in the same room as them…and try capturing some selfies as you smile or laugh! You could look into the camera, or not…do whatever feels right to you!
  • Or try looking right into the camera and okay…I know this is going to feel silly but make yourself laugh! I know that at first it feels fake but soon it can’t help but shift into real authentic laughter!
  • Or try just looking into the camera and playing around with what feels like your authentic smile.

Share your favourite shot with us or you could even pair a posed and a candid shot together like today’s example photo (I used the App Pic Jointer to pair these two together)!

Come share your candid selfie with us today using the #beyourownbeloved hashtag or add your blog or Instagram link to the list below!

A smile is the light in the window of your face that tells people you’re at home.

-Author Unknown 

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comfortzone2

I don’t know about you…but this is outside of my comfort zone.

Of course, the selfie part isn’t for me (but it may be for you and that is totally welcome) but the smiling part is.

I mean, I love to smile. I like to walk the world with a big welcoming smile on my face, to greet people with a grin and to welcome the radiant smiles that they send back to me.

In fact, in my path to feel less invisible and more connected in my daily life, smiling has been at the core.

What about you? How do you feel about your smile outside of photos? How do you feel about seeing your smile in photos?

But as I mentioned in the first post introducing this experiment, when I look back at the last 8 years of taking self-portraits especially the past few years of really trying to not hide my smiles in the world…I don’t see that story told there at all in my photos.

Yet there is another one told there. One of a woman learning to see herself with kindness through her camera and that story includes finding a way to smile that in photos that doesn’t invite in my inner critics. One of a woman who found her smile comfort zone and has been really happy there!

As I’ve been teaching Be Your Own Beloved and other self-portrait classes over the past 4 years I’ve noticed that often we go through a cycle much like I have been with my smile.

When we are entering taking selfies and seeing ourselves with kindness through our cameras, everything is really vulnerable at first.  Our inner critics may rise up and try to stop us. So we seek out comfort zones, ways to take our photos that we feel good about, angles we like, ways of shooting or processing our photos that feel good to us.  This rocks.  We are allowed to create comfort zones for ourselves and every one of us have them.

Then after we’ve happily been hanging out in our comfort zone for a while, things outside of that comfort zone ask to be heard. That’s really were this whole project has come from for me and I’m excited that you are here and wanting to explore your comfort zone (be it creating one or breaking out of it) around smiling in photos!

A few questions for you: 

What is the story of your smile that you normally choose to tell in your photos?  

What do you think your comfort zones might be?

comfortzonesmile

Let’s chat for a second about what our goal this week might be? 

While my goal is really to try to see my authentic smile with kindness and let a little more ‘me’ into the photo, to be less composed…your goal might be to find a way to smile (be it posed or unposed). There is no right or wrong goal to have this week.

This is an experiment too…so you don’t have to have a goal at all! It might just be to see what happens!

So how do we begin this journey to make peace with our smile?

Since we’ve chatted a bit about what our smile comfort zone might be…now break out of it! I promise this will be fun!

Here’s your first selfie smile experiment!!

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Let’s get outside of our comfort zone! Here’s your task! Take a whole bunch of smile selfies, one after another! Go for it…try all the possible smiles you could do on for size.  Get silly. Let your awkwardness or fear out.  Try not to let your inner critic get in the way!

Here are a few examples of getting out of how I’ve gotten silly with this activity (you know…just in case you were worried about making a fool of yourself…I thought I’d make it easy for you and do it first)!

comfortzone3

Part of the reason I want to start with breaking out of our comfort zone is well…because this process of making peace with our bodies can be playful, especially with our smiles.  Now, after you’ve gotten silly, keep taking a few more smile shots as I have a feeling that’s when we might see our most relaxed & authentic smile too.

Alright, time to give it a try! Grab your camera or phone and go for it! Take at least a dozen photos if not more!

The more photos we take in this process the more likely we are to see that one photo that has us say “Oh my, that is a smile of mine I’ve never seen captured in a photo before”.

Then share your smile with us!

You might choose to share your favourite of the bunch of your photos you take today. Or you might want to share a collection of them! These mosaics of photos are just taken by taking a screenshot of my ‘Photo Stream’ on my camera, but you can also use an app like Party Party to make a mosaic or you can also make it into a GIF out of them too!

One of the powerful things about the Be Your Own Beloved class is that we take it in community (as opposed to a self-paced class) and we can support and encourage one another.  Which of course we can do this week too.

Share your favourite smile shot using the #beyourownbeloved hashtag on Instagram and we can cheer one another on too. I’ll be eagerly awaiting your smile photo to cheer you on (and if you haven’t already, you can also list your blog or instagram link below too so we can come find you)!  If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments here!

Okay, let’s get smiling!

If you smile when no one else is around, you really mean it.

-Andy Rooney

 

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