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Earlier this month I had the honour of doing a talk at Creative Mornings here in Vancouver. If you’re not familiar with Creative Mornings, it is a speaker series that goes on in 149 cities around the world each and every month. There is a global theme each month and a speaker is invited to speak to that theme through their talk.

This months theme was…LOVE…a theme that was of course something I could speak to especially in relationship to seeing ourselves through a lens of love using our camera as our guide. And the best way I find to do that, is to share a bit about my story and how I learned to see myself with compassion and neutrality through the camera.

The day of the event was a great experience. I’ve been a longtime attendee of this event so it was pretty wild to be the one on stage this time. And while speaking is still outside of my comfort zone in a lot of ways, it’s something that feels important to do as a part of this Be Your Own Beloved work not for self-promotion but rather for connection…in hopes that sharing my story of shifting from self-critique to self-compassion just might make the difference in someone else feeling empowered to make that choice for themselves too.

If you’re interested in checking out more talks, a few of my local faves are Sam Bradd’s talk on Visual Language, Danielle Krysa (aka the Jealous Curator) and her talk on Humility, Kim Werker’s talk on Crafting to Fail and Rachael Ashe’s talk on Making by Hand. And if you haven’t been to a Creative Mornings event before you might want to see if there is one happening in your city or one near you!

So here it is (and you can also check it out here on the Creative Mornings site)!

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What does confidence look like through the camera lens?   

We know what we’re told confidence it’s ‘supposed’ to look like. We’re told it’s our goal, told what it looks like, what it wears, what it’s proportions are.

Or at least that’s what I thought. That’s what a lot of us think, even as we’re in the process of unlearning the expectations of what our body is ‘supposed to look like’. It felt like one of the remaining big expectations I had put on myself in my own body acceptance journey.

As though finding ‘confidence’ and taking photos that embody it was going to prove I crossed some body-love finish line.

And I believed that, until I tried to make it happen.

Until I chose ‘confidence’ as my word of the year a couple years ago. I don’t know if you do this practice, of choosing a word of the year and inviting it to permeate and inspire your year. I like to choose juicy words of the year. Ones that are going to shake up my world a bit and leave me thriving even more. Confidence was clearly going to be one of those. A success I’d reach in learning to love myself. A goal.

So I went out that year to discover my own confidence. What would it feel like? What would it look like? How would it change me? 

There were so many realizations that happened when I started to explore inviting in confidence through the camera and into my life as a whole and I’d love to share some of them with you today. I quickly realized that I was starting to equate ‘confidence’ with ‘perfection’ or feel like I was getting it right. It felt like one of those sticking points in my own body acceptance. To let go of ‘perfection’ as the goal and really learn to confidently walk the world in the skin I’m in.

But, much like any journey, it never quite goes as planned does it, and we find ourselves learning something completely different than we expected.

So there are 3 things I learned about what confidence looks like through the camera:

 

1.It looks different for everyone. 

There is no one way ‘confidence’ looks. I know it’s easy to think that’s not the case. Especially in the visual culture surrounding us ALL the time, including a lot of selfie culture. Confidence is supposed to look carefree, empowered, something we aspire to.

If I’m really honest with you, I sometimes find myself comparing myself to folks in the body positive world who rock bikini selfies or amazing shots in their bra and undies that make me stand up and give them an ovation. I get caught up in that whirlwind a lot, until I listen in to my way of finding confidence through the camera and remember that it doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.

And because there is a different kind of confidence awaiting me if I listen in for it. I thought maybe someday it would be but now that I’m starting to see what confidence looks like to me, through my own self-portraits, I’ve let go of any specific type of photo as what I hold up as embodied confidence.

I see it in the incredible people I get to work with too. Confidence is putting your toes into the frame of your very first selfie. Or sometimes not wiping the tears away and looking directly into the lens. For some it’s showing a part of ourselves that we’ve been hiding from the camera for a very long time. It might be not retouching our photo or even using creativity as a tool to see our photos with more love.

Confidence doesn’t look one way. There is no one kind of selfie you need to take to embody confidence. There is just you, showing up for yourself with resilience and an openness to see yourself in a new way. That’s what confidence through the camera looks like to me.

 

2. It’s from within. It’s the feeling translated through your photo.  And it doesn’t have to be seen by others to exist.

Confidence comes from listening to your own inner voice and letting it be heard. Not just the external expectations. It’s empowered self-awareness. Yet, saying that, it can feel like something that we need to achieve doesn’t it.

Or maybe I should say, it’s about giving less of shit about what other people think and caring more about what you think outside of those external voices! This is definitely a practice where the camera can be so helpful. My experience in that year and every since was that confidence looked like ME looking back at me in the photo and the strengthening of that inner voice than counteracted my inner critic, even if at first it was only a whisper.

What I love about this is that we can translate that inner self-awareness externally. Through our clothes or style. Through our expressions and creative explorations through the camera. And like I mentioned in #1…it doesn’t look any certain way. It’s you, listening in for your story and letting it be heard. 

Oh, and there’s one more piece to this one. It doesn’t need to be heard by others to be valid. I know especially when talking about selfies it’s easy to let confidence be something we derive from other people’s responses, but what I found out in that year of confidence explorations was that I stopped putting the power in the hands of other people, and returned it to my own hands.

Confidence is being the narrator of your own story and telling it your way.

 

 

3. It’s a Process.

Confidence to me feels like a process of taking brave action, getting vulnerable and then finding resilience and slowly building ourselves up to a place where we stop being our own enemy and get on our own team.

Taking self-portraits, of course, can be a tool for cultivating that resilience. One of the questions I SO commonly get is “How does one get the confidence to start taking selfies?” and the truth is, if you keep the camera at bay waiting to be ‘ready’, the day isn’t going to come. Because like any tool we use for body-acceptance, the work awaits us on the way there. Not before we begin.

Confidence through the camera isn’t something we achieve. It’s not picture perfect or a ‘perfect picture’. It’s the process of letting go of external expectations and learning about our own and learning to claim space as our weird, awesome, fabulous, quirky selves!

So, if it’s a process, then…

What does confidence look like? It looks like you, right here right now.

Finding confidence through the camera lens doesn’t look like any one kind of photo. It doesn’t even look like anyone else’s photo you’ve seen before, because it is your story unfolding.

In the learning, in the process.

Confidence looks like listening in for the new stories that are going to rewrite the old ones.

Confidence looks like you, stepping into your own power, listening in for your own voice.

There is no right or wrong way to embody confidence through the camera, nor is it a finish line you need to cross someday.

Confidence looks like you and I, in the process of learning this all. 

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I’m so honoured to be sharing this post as a part of the Confidence Blog Carnival hosted by BamPowLife. It’s only Day 2 of the event where you’ll find each of these incredible folks (I know…some of my body-positive heroes too) and for the coming 10 days you’ll get to check out a blog post on the theme of Confidence from each of them!

Sarah Vance’s post went up yesterday and you definitely want to read it…she explores how Confidence feels (rather than looks)! And be sure to check out all these other amazing bloggers and their stories throughout the rest of the month!

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cameracraftgiveaway

I’m really excited to share that I’m a part of a really amazing class starting soon!

Camera Craft is led by Galia Alena and she describes the program (which is actually a combination of two classes) as:

“Camera Craft is designed to help demystify your camera and the technical side of photography, empowering you to follow your inspiration, and make expressive and beautiful images. It is photography 101 and it is so much more. I want the participants to walk away feeling like they have enough of a grasp of the technical stuff that they can really let their creative voices sing. Between all the samples and the guest contributors you won’t be able to help but be inspired.”

I had a lot of fun creating my video contribution for this program. I explored something a bit different than what I usually focus on in my classes but at the same time…it’s something at the heart of everything I do here at Be Your Own Beloved: Exploring Selfies through a Right Brain Perspective. In this video I share a number of activities and my favourite tricks for letting go of the technical overwhelm and feeling of “I’ve got to get it right” and instead learn from an experiential and inquisitive place.

And I’m just one of the guest instructors too. It’s packed full of powerful lessons from Galia as well as the inspiring creatives you see in the above photo.

Guess what…as a mentor for the class I get to give away one spot and that is indeed happening today! To enter,  click over and check out the course here. Then come back here and leave a comment sharing what you’d be most excited to learn about in Camera Craft inspired by what you saw on the info page.

The Giveaway is closed and the winner is: Casee Marie!

Congrats to all who entered and it’s not too late to join the class! You can head on over there and register! The first class starts June 27th!

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  • Alison

    I would love to be able to master all the functions on my camera and be able to take it off auto. I don’t always like the photos it takes in auto!! I would also love to be able to take moving shots and shots in darker rooms. These are my current challenges. I learn best in a community and have always enjoyed that about your classes. It would be great to meet other photographers, too. And post-processing would be fun to explore…
    Thanks for the opportunity and giveaway, Vivienne.ReplyCancel

  • I’d love to get on a first name basis with my camera 😉ReplyCancel

  • Mary

    I would love to learn to take all these stunning images.ReplyCancel

  • Tina

    I would love to be introduced to my camera as a “crafty” tool! I would love to learn about my camera better! 😃ReplyCancel

  • Karen

    This course looks so amazing! I would love the opportunity to grow my skills as a visual artist. Often, there are moments when I wish I could capture the magic I am experiencing but my camera phone has its limitations. I have a DSLR camera that sadly sits idle because I am somewhat intimidated by it. Fingers (and toes) crossed!ReplyCancel

  • I would love to learn to capture the beauty I see in the world into an image – particularly through shooting into the light and telling a story through photography. Thanks for the chance to win a spot in the class, it looks fabulousReplyCancel

  • Oh my goodness, I just saw this giveaway and I only have about seven minutes to enter (assuming EST applies) so I’m throwing my hat in the ring just in case! This is exactly the sort of class I would absolutely love. My parents gave me a dream gift last Christmas, my first DSLR, and learning how to use it has been a hobby I’ve somehow yet to find the courage to fully embark on. I’ve alwayslived teaching myself new things, yet I’ve lacked the confidence to explore with my camera. Camera Craft sounds like it would be just the thing as it encourages applying your photography experience to your own personal journey, something that really speaks to me as a severe anxiety sufferer on a journey of overcoming fear. I could say much more, but the clock is ticking so here’s my entry and fingers crossed!ReplyCancel

  • Destiny G Kelledy

    I would love to learn the mysterious ways of bringing the visions I have into my photos. Translating what captures my eye into gorgeous images full of shadow & light – it feels a bit like magic. Getting a deeper understanding of my camera & its features would help my photos go from flat to dimensional. Moving, emotional, artistic images – yes please!ReplyCancel

  • Diane Downs

    I would be most excited to learn from such a wide variety of photographers in one course. What a treat! To have so many heart centered women teaching together is fantastic! Thanks for the chance to win a spot!ReplyCancel

  • tracy

    Ugh – I need to learn to use my dslr and love the incredible talent of women teaching this course, oh-my-lanta! If I just walked away with knowing more about exposure, this would be a huge win for me!
    Thanks!ReplyCancel

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For 8 years now I’ve been going to the same dance class almost every Tuesday led by my wonderful teacher Jana. Each time she reminds us how the hardest part if often just showing up and that she’s so glad we are there. She also reminds us that in Nia (the kind of dance class it is) we use our beginners mind. We show up each time, not thinking we need to achieve perfection or even know what the next dance step is, even if we’ve done the routine before.

We show up with our beginners mind, meeting the moment and connecting with our body open to the sensations, the emotions, the wonder of the moment.

It takes the pressure off of our shoulders to get it right. Letting go of those expectations and just letting my body move has been a pivotal part of healing how I feel in my body.

If you’ve taken a class with me before, I’m sure you know exactly how this has all influenced both the way I take photos and teach about them. Every single time I pick up the camera I try to meet it with a beginners mind.

With curiosity. With wide open expectations.

I pretty rarely plan out a photo though I may have a starting point or general idea. But what happens in the process is all spontaneity, all exploring what the potential of the moment is and well, all magic.

Even 10 years into my own photo journey that’s how it feels every time I see the world through a camera. Like magic.

And that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to know the left brain information to learn the how and why about photography, but I try and approach that with a beginners mind too, with curiosity.

I wanted to share about this because before I got into photography and especially exploring self-portraiture as a tool for self-compassion. I thought photography was intimidating and overwhelming. I thought I had to know everything about my camera in order to take a great photo. I thought that it was my technical skills that would help me see myself with kindness through the camera. But I was wrong.

It was being willing to approach it with a beginners mind.

Being willing to approach ourselves with a beginners mind.

I credit that beginners mind with the fact that I’m still so smitten with seeing the world through the camera and imagine that I will feel that way the rest of my life. I also credit it with helping me heal how I see myself. Because when we allow ourselves to set down expectations of what our photo or ourselves in a photo ‘should’ look like, that’s where we truly get to meet ourselves and the world around us with the wonder that the camera so beautifully translates.

Over these past 5 years of teaching the online photography classes it is honestly the biggest roadblock I see people put in their own way. That pressure to know exactly what our photo will look like before we take it and then achieve that photo. It’s getting so caught up in our left brain that we block out our right brain wonder or don’t even give ourselves a chance to experiment with it.

This also relates to when we’re talking about our relationship to how we see our bodies in photos, doesn’t it. We probably all have a rock solid opinion of how we see ourselves, likely based on some outtakes of ourselves we’ve seen and old stories about ourselves. But that is kind of the opposite of using our beginners mind.

What if, for ourselves too, we met ourselves with the playfulness and curiosity that we would if we were seeing ourselves for the first time?

What if we were willing to begin again and again each time we find ourselves caught up in those old stories?

What if we were open to what lies beyond our pre-concieved notion of how we look in a self-portrait and were willing to take LOTS of photos (including outtakes) in the process of learning to se ourselves with compassion.

That’s what’s at the heart of this work at Be Your Own Beloved. It always has been even though I haven’t quite put it into words to share with you in this way before. It’s especially on my mind this week as I’m teaching the Beloved Beginnings class with an amazing community of folks.

The Beloved Beginnings class is always available as a self-paced class but if you’d like to join in on a community class, the 30 day class is always taught in community so you can experience the support of both myself and your amazing peers in this class. Come join the Be Your Own Beloved starting July 1st!

Both of these classes were created with folks who aren’t necessarily comfortable in front of the camera and are wanting to make space to explore selfies as a tool for self-compassion. And they all have this energy of playfulness and using our beginners mind at heart!

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viviennepose



If you’ve been hanging out here with me for a while or join me on Instagram you’ve probably seen dozens of photos over the years where I’ve done this exact move.

When I find a quiet space to take a self-portrait it’s my go-to move, and while it’s ridiculously fun (as I’m sure you can tell by the fact I’m smiling in these shots) there’s a deeper meaning behind it for me.

When I started on my own personal self-portrait journey 10 years ago, I was just emerging from a depression. I had some realizations of the ways I was existing in my life that were keeping me small and deeply draining me. I was burning out and had to learn how to stop putting everyone else before myself.

During this low time one thing that happened was I started to notice the way people took up space. Now, by no means do I mean physically. It was about how we energetically claimed space. I felt like it became my own personal research project for quite a while, observing on the bus, in the city, gardeners at the local community garden, people at events.

Up to this point, I had tried to keep myself small energetically. To not try and annoy the people around me. But it wasn’t in my nature, just circumstance. I move my hands a lot when I talk, I can’t sit still.

I don’t know if anyone’s nature is the definition of ‘perfect’. I think we’re all trying to fit ourselves into a really small box.

But I had done it for a long time and I was exhausted.

I wanted to find out how I moved again, what my ‘nature’ was.

So I started asking myself questions inspired by what I had noticed about people claiming space. Sometimes it seemed like it was something learned or assumed, other times something reclaimed, a confidence, an empowered state of being.

I wanted to find my way to the later. Where I lived more unapologetically (rather than profusely apologetically). Where I didn’t come home after a day with people and question every word I said and have a constant vulnerability hangover. Where I didn’t question my right to space.

But I didn’t want to fit myself into another box either. For me this wasn’t about ‘perfection’. It was about connection. To be centred in myself again and in some ways for the first time.

These questions seemed like the answer and continue to be:

How would I move if for a moment, I forgot how one is ‘supposed’ to be?

What would happen if I didn’t contain my joy, myself?

What does confidence mean to me?

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Of course, my claiming space didn’t start like this, it really began with the tips of my toes and hands into the frame, claiming space with each photo. But when I started using the timer and stepping into the frame of a photo, especially when I’d find those quiet moments where it felt like no one could see me, where I could really dance like no one was watching, this is what I did.

And from the first time I did it, it felt invigorating and also like I’d found something that felt like me. That felt like the way that I’m supposed to move.

It felt expansive and at times was literally me claiming as much space as physically possible.

I’m also claiming space for joy.

For choosing how my body gets to move.

For choosing how I want to see and communicate with my body (and choosing a compassionate voice).

It is also a reclaiming. After feeling like a turtle hiding in her shell for a long time, finally finding her confidence to shed that hiding place and exist in the world without apology, I needed to remind myself of that right to claim space. So that’s why you see this pose so often, even all these years later.

It might look like a fun whimsical pose to do in a photo, but like with all of my whimsical photos, there is a deeper meaning behind it. It’s boldness is in response to feeling the opposite way. It’s playfulness is in response to how incredibly un-playful it is to try and exist for other people’s expectations.

There is another element to this claiming space too. It’s not just the photo itself but the act of taking it. Experiencing the fear or nervousness that comes and doing it anyways. That is the act of claiming space whether it’s your feet in the frame or your whole body.

That’s what changed me, that act of cultivating resilience. The more I pushed through that fear though the camera, the more I rooted back into my own personal power.

And that is what we’re digging into in the upcoming Claiming Space class. We’re going to get brave in our photos but not just to get bold images, but to cultivate that personal resilience, to get to walk away with photos that remind you of that “Wow…I did something I hadn’t believed I could” moment.

Come join me for Claiming Space. We get started oh so soon!postfooterclaimingspace

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