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I’m fat.

Sometimes I say chubby or curvy but today I’m going to say it. Fat.

There are so many assumptions that come with that word, or when people see fat bodies.

That you don’t take care of yourself.
That you don’t love yourself.
That you are ashamed.
That you are not healthy.

That fact doesn’t mean that I don’t love myself, that I don’t take care of my body or that I am not worthy.

You see, I’m slowly learning how to not be ashamed of it.

I’ve spent 15 years of my life bullying myself in the mirror and I’m done. I’m not playing that game anymore.

I sure that isn’t the only time lately that you’ve heard a big woman state that her worth as a person should not be judged by the size of her body.

It seems like this week we are not contented to stay silent.

Because it is my body, one that I feel blessed to get to adventure this world in.

And I believe that each and every one of our bodies is beautiful.

In the exact size it is at this moment.

I know it is not easy to try to walk the world feeling totally empowered in the body you are in at this moment.

Sometimes that mission gets derailed though, without intention (or sometimes with) by others’ words.

Barely a day goes by when I don’t hear or read someone make a comment about their own or someone else’s body size in a derogatory way.

“My back fat is so disgusting. No one likes back fat”
“No one should be wearing jeans that give you a muffin top”

These were two that I heard this week alone.

I wanted to write about body shaming and fat positivity this week because October is Anti-Bullying month and Fat Shaming of others and ourselves, well… it too is bullying.

But I think the worst bully is the one closest to home. The one in the mirror.
Luckily, that is also the one that we can change.

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Shall we start with Ourselves?

Truth be told, many of us would never even think of bullying someone else, but then we look in the mirror and speak incredibly negative words to ourselves.

So many of us have been trained to bully ourselves and think that it is okay.

It’s time, and it is possible to unlearn this self-bullying behavior.

Here a few more unconventional ways that have been helpful to me:

• Find beauty mentors. Now, by this I don’t mean find people who you want to become or emulate. What I do mean is to find people online or in images that share similarities with you in the ways that you want to heal. For me it might be body size, but for others it might be something quite different. Seeing someone else as beautiful who looks like you helps us mirror it back onto ourselves.

Take Photos of Yourself! This has been the biggest tool for me. Whether you get someone to take photos of you that help you see yourself with kindness. Take control of your self-image by taking charge of the camera (and if you aren’t sure how to start going about that, join me for a session of Be Your Own Beloved).  Or hire a photographer who’s work you love to help you see your unique self mirrored back at you.

• Don’t go it alone. You aren’t alone. Connect with friends and talk about body positivity.

This self-bullying can spread like wildfire too. I think often we unintentionally are spreading a web of negative reinforcement (aka fat shaming) to those around us who may be trying their darnedest to build up positive body image by speaking derogatory things about our bodies or the bodies of others. One way we can not only help ourselves, but help others is to check ourselves and the way we speak about the bodies of others.

I’m just a woman healing, like you, so I don’t have all the answers either.

But I do know if I do look back at this time and regret being the size I am, it will be minimal compared to the regret I would have if I don’t start loving myself.

Here and now.

Let’s stop bullying ourselves. Today. Now.

Let’s cultivate body love,

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Nextbyobeloved

Originally posted at Kind Over Matter.

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  • Rose

    Thank you, Thank you!! Your words resonate with me, I have struggled with my own negative talk for so long and I’m trying to change and not view myself so harshly. Your words are empowering.ReplyCancel

  • Alison M

    Thank you… Yes, I have been catching myself, stunning myself with how harshly I speak to myself lately. (Back teaching at junior high and that environment seems to foster it!) Lately, I have been talking back. Or laughing at the mean voice. And saying “You would never talk to anyone else like that, why do you talk to yourself that way?!” Sometimes out loud. Yes, we may feel that voices of judgement are coming from the people around us, but maybe sometimes we should check in and see if they are really thinking those mean thoughts. Or if it is all pressure we are putting on ourselves.
    And yes to also not making comments about others’ appearances. Especially women – on tv, in the media. I have a teenaged daughter and you know she gets it from a lot of other places. I don’t want her to hear any of that from ME!
    Thank you, Vivienne. I’m going to go sign up for BYOB today. The world needs more self-love. ;-)ReplyCancel

  • TJ

    This was incredably timely for me today. I needed to downsize my Dropbox due to a promotion ending (I will miss my free 48G)
    and I was shocked how difficult it was to see LOTS of full body pics of myself. I thought I had given up on all that negative self talk eons ago ??? Guess your never fully recovered ! Thanks for the positive reminder.ReplyCancel

  • Honestly, having a daughter was my biggest wake up call to my own negative self-talk and body shaming. I do not want to pass any of it on to her. I want her to see herself as divinely perfect and beautiful no matter what size she is.

    But it’s been a hard road and I’m still walking it.

    Be Your Own Beloved has been one of the most powerful reframing experiences on this journey.

    Thank you so much Vivienne for doing what you do in the world and for speaking up on this hugely important subject.

    Here’s to body love for us all and especially for the generations to come. May we do the work that makes it easier for them to know their beauty and value from the day they are born. Can you imagine how different the world would be?ReplyCancel

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Shouldn’t we focus more on our soul than our bodies?

Shouldn’t we be celebrating our inner beauty?

Aren’t we more than just our bodies?

Isn’t it more important to be a good person inside than to celebrate our outer body/beauty?

These are questions or comments I get every once in a while on a photo or blog post, that focusing so much on our bodies doesn’t seem right (to them) and shouldn’t we focus more on the amazing spirit inside that body?

The answer I have is Yes. And No.

Yes inner beauty and our spiritual path (as in exploring our relationship to that which is beyond ourselves) are so vital.  Yet I don’t see them as disconnected from the path of learning to love our bodies. 

The journey to finding self-love for me and to being my own beloved has been both an internal and external one. Of befriending myself, filling up my own well, sitting with my loneliness, untangling stories of self-hate.  It has indeed been about finding my own inner beauty. It has about becoming a person who is in tune with kindness as a core value both towards myself and others.

Yet these things are happening within a body. About a body.  To disconnect the self-love journey from my body is to discount a whole deep well of potential healing.

Here is the truth I see around me and with so many folks who have come to join me for Be Your Own Beloved.  They tell me that they’ve been on a self-love path for a long time but had been avoiding with dealing with that remaining piece of self-hate that hand been lurking in the shadows or in the way they saw themselves in photos.  We are looking everywhere else for peace within without thinking of the possibility that external body-love could help us.

Because it’s supposed to be egocentric or vain to want to love our external body, right?

Learning to love your body isn’t vain or egocentric, especially when so many of us are coming from the opposite of ego.

You have the right to choose to love yourself. 

Our internal and external selves are connected and if we love our personality, our drive, our mind, but still hate our bodies, we are living in hate. If we are focusing so much on our inner selves but still have hate towards our outer selves, that is yet another spiritual door awaiting us.

While the process of taking selfies is indeed about how we relate to our body in a photo, the photo is the tool for us to learn to love our bodies in our everyday lives too.  It isn’t just about getting a new Facebook photo (though that is always a plus).  It is about using the camera as a doorway to a more peaceful, compassionate relationship to ourselves and our self-image.

Which includes how we see our bodies from the outside be it a sideways glance in a store window and the reaction we have about seeing ourselves, or how we see our bodies each morning when we look in the mirror. Or, of course, how we see ourselves in a photo. Our relationship to self-image is a place where many of us have the potential to shift our relationship from a place of critique to kindness.

It often feels that using selfies as a tool for healing our body image isn’t as much about the photo we get itself as the journey we go on to get it and the way we choose to relate to the photo itself.  It has felt like a deeply spiritual journey, far more connected to purpose than vanity.  

But to me it is inherently related to our bodies.

To say we aren’t our bodies or we want to focus on our inner beauty leaves our body shame waiting for us, still hanging out waiting to be heard.

So to answer those questions of inner vs external beauty I wonder if we could reframe it:

What if our bodies and that our inner beauty can be strengthened by healing our relationship with our outer beauty.  We have this deep & rich potential place of self-learning that feels deeply spiritual, with our body as our guide.

What if re-learning to love your external body when you have lived in a place of self-critique or dare I say self-hate could be a doorway to deep love, the same kind you might be looking for in meditation or as you create your altars.

What if we do indeed focus on exploring our inner beauty but stay open to seeing it as not disconnected or more important than the potential for compassionate and unconditional love for the body you are in.

I know it’s a scary process for a lot of us to step into.  But what if selfies could be that unexpected tool that brings you to a greater place of peace with our self both internally & externally?

I know this isn’t the standard perception of what ‘selfie’ is but I know when we’ve tried everything else on our path of healing, sometimes we need to seek out tools in unexpected places.  And if you aren’t sure where to begin on that path, you might want to come join me for the November Session of Be Your Own Beloved and I’ll help you take those first steps to heal that rift between your inner relationship to self & your external perceptions of your body.

Nextbyobeloved

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  • Yes! Absolutely! Seeing ourselves with kindness and being our own beloved is a spiritual path – and not an easy one, LOL.

    I went on retreat this summer and gave a presentation about using selfies as a spiritual practice. Of course, you were my inspiration to begin to see self-portraiture this way. The talk was so well-received and I delighted in seeing so many selfies that were taken that week.

    You are doing important work, Vivienne. I am grateful.
    xo,
    SheilaReplyCancel

  • Love this response. So much of my healing and self-love journey began with changing how I saw myself when I looked in the mirror and correcting the negative thoughts with positive ones when seeing a picture of myself.

    It would be impossible to love myself fully without seeing my body as beautiful.ReplyCancel

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Earlier this month I was out in the SF Bay Area (aka one of my favourite places ever).  After doing the Photo Walk in Portland earlier this year, I thought it might be fun to put out an invite to come join me in one of my favourite places in San Francisco, the Mission. It’s so full of gorgeous murals, colour and gorgeous light and I thought it might be fun adventure for Bay Area folks to feel the permission to get touristy in their own city and take selfies!

It was SO awesome to get to meet and reconnect with all the lovely ladies there and I led the group through a few Be Your Own Beloved selfie activities.  It truly made for the perfect end to a really nourishing weekend.

Here are a few snaps of our photo adventuring (and the selfies I ended up taking during the walk)!

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Nextbyobeloved

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I put the camera down

Press the timer

And I move.

At first I had to invite myself to.  It was a way for me to shake off nervousness and get grounded in my body to take that photo.

These days it happens automatically.  I set the timer & the playfulness begins.

99% of the time when I go out on a photo walk, I don’t have a specific goal in mind. Sure I might have something in mind but truth be told, the photo walk seems to always have its own direction it wants to take me in, always embracing the unpredictable. That 1% of course is when I need a super specific photo for a class!

All of these photos you see on the website are taken as I’m living what I’m teaching here, as I’m trying out activities or just trying to shift my own energy of that day.

In so many of my photos, I’m dancing.

It’s been that way for years and I think from the outside I bet it looks playful, joyful and even like a woman who feels at home in her body.  While it wasn’t at first, it has led me there and I wanted to share a bit about why I dance in photos.

At times I have this voice in my head as I’m just about to press ‘Post’ on Instagram and share another movement photo that says “Is this really accessible for people, all these dancing photos?”  “Do you really want to post another one”.

But here’s the truth.

I don’t take or show them for any purpose of showing off.

I take & share them because this is where the deepest healing of my self-image has happened.

When I move.

Someday I’ll share my full story of the depths of where I began with my negative self-image (its spilling into my manuscript) but a big part of my journey before taking self-portraits had me feeling like I needed to contain myself.  To sit on my hands.  To stop moving.  To control how I existed in the world.  To be contained & still.

And for whatever reason it may have manifested in our lives, I have a feeling I’m not alone in having felt deeply disconnected from my own body for much of my life.  Is that familiar to you at all?

So when I realized that taking self-portraits was a place where I could relearn how to be in my own body, it was all about the movement.

It is the one sacred place where I’ve found I can reclaim that sense of autonomy of how I move in the world, where I have found a freedom that has allowed me to feel more at home in my body. It may look like fun, and indeed it is.  But it has a deeper purpose for me than one viewing the photo might think.  That can be such a powerful piece of taking selfies, the place where they can embody powerful stories of healing for us, even if the viewer sees something different.

Interestingly enough, photographs only capture that one second of the movement and package it into stillness again in a way, but somehow it doesn’t diminish the freedom that I felt in the moment. Because the experience of the freedom & healing that happens is in the lived experience of it, not just the outcome.  The photographs are an invitation to return back there.

To keep moving.

To revisit that place of healing we can create when we make space to move our own way.

So this….this is why I dance.

Have you explored moving as you take a selfie just for fun or even as a tool for healing disconnection from our bodies?

Nextbyobeloved

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From now until Friday if you sign up for Beloved Beginnings (which is already super affordable self-paced class) you can bring a friend for FREE! Yes…its a 2 for 1 sale.

Maybe there is someone you’d like to encourage to a Be Your Own Beloved class by doing it together?

Or you’d like to take it with someone in your family?

Or would like to gift the spot to a friend?

OR get an even better deal by splitting the cost!

I also wanted to do this offer right now in case you were pondering doing the November Session of Be Your Own Beloved but might be feeling a bit nervous to jump in and go for it!  This is a gentle 10 day version of the class that can be a great warm up for the November class and a way to ease yourself into seeing yourself with kindness through your camera.

Just let me know the email address of the person you’d like to join you when you sign up! Class starts right after I receive your registration.

The offer ends Friday and you can register here!

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