She is there.
Under the cat eye glasses and near constant liquid eyeliner.
Under the little bangs. Under the smile.
Under the clothes that make her feel good in her skin.
She worries sometimes that without them she’d be invisible again, to you.
But she won’t be.
That I’ll make sure of.
Because this has never just been about external perceptions.
This, from the start has been about reclaiming her inherent worthiness.
No matter what she wears or whether it meets anyone’s approval.
She is there and she is no longer invisible.
With or without her masks.
Spilled out in response to today’s prompt in the Be Your Own Beloved class (and the much loved February Session is coming back again in 2016…cause its the perfect time to invite in more self-compassion)!
I looked at the forecast for the next couple weeks this morning and it can be described in one four letter word: rain.
I live in Vancouver, Canada so really it’s not surprise. I’ve lived here for a decade now so I’ve learned what I need to best thrive in a rainy winter. I’ve learned that for me, a pivotal part of getting through the winter here without getting the blues is to not put my camera away. Even if it rains. Even if it’s grey and nothing is blooming anymore. Even then. Especially then.
You see, this whole self-portrait path the whole Be Your Own Beloved process began for me as I was coming out of a depression years ago. I needed to learn how to fill my own well again and thanks to digital photography and our phones starting to have cameras around that time, I started going on a walk around the neighbourhood with a camera and seeing what beauty I could find.
These photo walks not only lead me through that time in a way that helped me learn to fill up my own well again, but it has ever since. It wasn’t something that I did just then to find happiness again. It’s something I do weekly ever since (if not more) to keep my well filled.
This weekend I could feel the lows tapping me on the shoulder so this morning I grabbed my camera as I headed out to a cafe to get some work done and took the long way that led me through the community garden. I go to this same one all the time but what I’ve learned over the years is that even though I couldn’t imagine there would be anything new, anything different than the other day when I was there…there is always beauty of some sort awaiting me.
This time it was a flower that had fallen on the ground that caught my eye and became my muse for the next 10 minutes.
After taking a few dozen photos I left it there in hopes someone else coming to the garden for self-care would see it and feel it’s beauty.
On the walk I was also thinking of how grateful I am that Be Your Own Beloved is starting next week. I like to offer it in November even though it might not be the sunniest month for most of us (unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere of course) but its because its not the sunniest month that it becomes more important than ever to offer ourselves this kind of self-care.
Cause the class and these photo walks really isn’t just about ‘getting the shot’, or only taking selfies when it’s gorgeously happy and we’re feeling good and rockin’ a fabulous outfit. Sure, it’s a lot easier to be kind to ourselves, to be our own beloved when those things are in place. But we’re worthy of that kind of love all the time.
It’s actually more about building our resilience in showing up for ourselves when we’re not feeling that way. That’s not to say we won’t get kick-ass photos (cause oh my gosh we will) but no matter what the season, this process is really less about the photo and so much more about the ways we show up for ourselves despite what our inner critic says, despite the old stories we see in our photos and yes, despite the rain or weather.
So rain or shine, I’m excited to dig into these prompts with the class this coming month and celebrate all the incredible photos you’ll take and the vulnerability and bravery that we step into in the process.
After a lovely week with my brother in Edinburgh it was time for a bit of solo travel to Ireland. It is the one place overseas I had been before as in my early 20’s I went on a grand adventure with my 2 roommates to Ireland and toured much of the Island.
Dublin came at the very end of that trip and I honestly couldn’t remember a thing about visiting there. So when pondering where to go for some solo adventure time nearish to Scotland, Dublin was in the forefront of my thoughts. I honestly wasn’t sure why I was feeling called to go to Dublin, but trusted whatever was telling me to.
So I booked an AirBnb there to have a home base in an area I had a feeling I’d like. Honestly, I didn’t plan much as I really wanted to be present for the Edinburgh part of the trip and knew that whatever happened in Dublin would be grand.
Cause, well…life with a camera in hand…you find beauty wherever you go.
My first day in Dublin set the tone for the rest of the trip. I wandered around the Temple Bar area and around every turn I’d see murals and street art which other than selfies is pretty much my favourite thing to capture through the lens. So much so that when I’d turn another corner and see MORE art, more murals at one point I found myself feeling a little emotional. Beauty overwhelm you could say!
So each day I headed out for a different area of town to see what street art and other bits of beauty I could find and find it I did. It’s a vibrant urban city in just my favourite ways. Not only that, but as you probably know, earlier this year Ireland was the first country in the world to legalize same sex marriage by popular vote. Even these months later you could feel the energy of the YES vote and especially see it in the street art and literally on the walls of buildings. It definitely stole my heart. I live in a country where this has been law for a decade which I deeply value, but a country voting it in feels SO powerful.
I spent most of my days walking with my camera until my feet were sore. What I loved the most about each of these wanderings is that I didn’t have to plan out anything but the general area I wanted to go to. The art just found me. I’d peek down side streets and alleys or just find it there right in front of me. It’s that feeling of seeking it out and finding it that felt really wonderful too…it’s not about getting it perfect, it’s about the adventure.
Day 1 was the Temple Bar area where you’ll find the most murals and street art in the city and probably the most likely to be the same art next time I’m there for the most part.
I headed over to Gratham Street which is the fancier shopping area of town. I’m glad I checked it out and loved the small streets around that area but it was probably the most busy touristy part of Dublin and I confess I found myself more at ease as soon as I left.
I also found the St Patricks Park that I was staying near which was such a sweet place to settle into the energy of just sitting and savouring the moment. In Paris I stayed near the Luxembourg Gardens and it seems as though the ‘park around the corner’ has become a favourite part of my travels and invites in that energy of slowing down.
Day 2 I explored Camden Street which had my favourite art which I found out later were all mainly by the artist Maser. All of the murals with the big bold statements were his and what I really love about his work is the heart in it, the love and the messages of empowerment it shares. You can find his Instagram here if you’re interested.
I also was finally able to check out the Tivoli Car Park which is a big parking lot full of graffiti and murals fairly near where I was staying. It was closed the first day and I was SO eager to get in there and check it out. I think it’s the street art that probably changes the most often. It sounds like they have an event and redo it every year.
I also headed over to the St. Stephen’s Green and Iveagh Gargens (the later was SO lovely and quiet and had me swooning and feeling that aliveness and living in the moment). It was the perfect place to put my camera down and take some selfies!
Day 3 I headed over to a different area of town past the Guinness Brewery and checked out the Museum of Modern Art which I LOVED and spend a large portion of the day there. I checked out a number of art and photography galleries while I was there too but this was most definitely my favourite. Both in Ireland and Scotland the National Galleries are free (or by donation) which absolutely rocks and I checked out some of those too as well as the Modern Gallery.
Day 4 I got up SUPER early and headed out with both my big lens (the heavy one that I’d been resisting carrying around this week but also knew I wanted to capture the city in it) and my Polaroid camera. There were also a number of murals I had been wanting to get a shot of without a car in front of it.
In the afternoon I went on my 1 and only tour of the trip which was a blast. It was an electric bike tour with a wonderful company Lazy Bike Tours (awesome name, right). Getting to see a city by bike is a favourite way to travel but this city made me nervous in terms of cycling so I wanted to be sure to go with a tour (oh, plus the driving on the other side of the road thing)!
Day 5: Alas, on Day 5 I packed up and headed out, first stopping at my favourite breakfast place in Dublin called Queen of Tarts (where they had divine gluten free bread) before heading to the airport and wandering the Temple Bar mural lined streets once more before hopping on the bus to the airport and heading home across the ocean.
I came home with a full heart from this part of the trip too, feeling so grateful for all the vibrant beauty that I got to come across in Dublin. I’m glad I listened to that travel-intuition even though I had no clue what I’d find.
There truly is beauty everywhere, awaiting us to seek it out.
Both home and afar.
I went out for a photo walk in the garden I always go to, in a dress I had recently thrifted that felt like a second skin. The sun was out and I was aflutter with excitement about my upcoming trip. As well, the garden was quiet. It’s often filled with gardeners…though while strangers, I totally adore them cause they pay little notice to the woman in the polka dots taking photos amongst the flower beds.
But this day was quiet so I felt comfortable putting down my camera on the edge of a raised flower bed and stepping into one of the more open spaces in the garden.
I took tonnes of photos letting any worry about that being ‘too much’ slip away (I’ve had practice on that one). Everything felt in alignment and I felt really good about the photos as I looked at them…knowing that while it wasn’t my goal (my goal was just to celebrate feeling fabulous in that new-to-me-dress and how it felt like it let me see my body with kindness and even confidence exactly as it is right now) I would probably end up using them for my website.
And indeed I ended up using many of them as new blog and Facebook page headers and all around the site.
Then the moment came.
It was as though my eyes became tunnel vision focused in on one part of the photo.
That roll. That place where leggings end and push in a bit. You could call it a muffin top (though I don’t love that term…mostly because I hear it said with such mocking of our bodies rather than empowerment).
How could I not notice that.
Why did I post the photos?
Cool I didn’t notice it and judge it right away but what if people are out there judging me?
Now, if you’re wanting to say “I barely even noticed it” or reassure someone else of the okay-ness of their body…please do pause. That is super lovely of you but I hope you’ll keep reading before jumping to the comments to reassure me. This is the challenge of talking about the inner workings of our minds in the process of healing my body image…people want to reassure us, save us from ourselves. But don’t worry, I’ve got my own back…these are things that no matter what anyone else says, we need to let the kindness into our own hearts, for ourselves. So know that is what I thought in that moment and continue on to find out what happened next…
Do you know that feeling? That gut drop when you see a photo online and your eyes focus on one thing and only one thing?
It’s something I hear folks talk about regularly and definitely a tender thing for a lot of us.
In this moment I had that “I should take it down” feeling and that old muscle memory of taking a photo down in a panic almost began and then, thankfully, a new voice I’ve been cultivating (my inner body-love-mama-bear-protector) appeared kind of like it did in this moment I shared a while back and said.
“No….are you kidding me. How is this photo any less worthy than a moment ago when you loved it”.
And really, what was I to say to that. My inner-body-love-protector voice knows what to say to bring me back to my heart.
That voice is really new to me but its something I’ve been working really hard to develop. It had been a long long time of not knowing what words could calm my critic down before they finally developed into a voice that did speak the right words to help me return to centre. Though of course I still have those times where my critic is fiercer…its all a work in progress and always will be.
It’s also been about building resilience and not let those critical moments take over my day (cause that used to be the case…I’d take down those photos mortified at what people might have thought and then get caught up in the shame of it).
It isn’t just the moments of feeling absolutely fabulous and loving a photo that are the goal as much as learning how to hold ourselves with kindness when we don’t feel that way.
So the photos are still there and believe me I won’t take them down. Because I’m not looking to teach about body-image by being picture perfect. I want to continue to be real. And real me has rolls and folds and a belly and curves.
And I know in this body-love path, sometimes we need to see people who mirror our own selves rockin’ their self-empowerment to claim our own. My body is probably going to be quite different than yours in a myriad of way (cause we humans are so beautifully diverse) and sometimes when we see someone else’s story we have a tendency to do the “Ya, but she’s not _____ ” and compare our own bodies. If that’s the case, treat yourself to some time over at one of my favourite Tumblrs called Stop Hating Your Body which I love cause they really rock at including a really diverse range of folks on their blog. I hope you’ll see yourself reflected back by someone proudly rockin’ their own confidence.
If this whole idea of being in front of the camera and seeing photos of yourself feels well, terrifying or vulnerable to you…maybe the time is right to come and join in for the Be Your Own Beloved class that starts November 1st. This class wasn’t created for people who already rock selfies with total confidence. It was created for you, for folks who find the idea of it really really vulnerable (cause thats where I began with the process too). You don’t need fancy gear and smartphones are 100% welcome (even encouraged). Come join us and learn tools not only to take photos you feel good about but to build resilience for when you see ones that bring up old stories…like the one that happened for me today. Class starts soon!
I mean it. Stop it.
I bet you think you’re helping us, right?
Because selfies are going wild these days and everyone seems to be taking them. Tons of them.
You’ve gotta reign us in and let us know the do’s and don’ts of taking selfies.
But you aren’t helping us.
You are shaming us.
Everywhere I look online there are articles informing us of how it is acceptable to take a selfie. Some are even on websites that share great articles otherwise but not about this! Telling us how to pose, how and when to take selfies, what is too much or too little. Things like:
Reading them, all I hear is this:
You are not enough. Make yourself look like enough. Don’t show your bad side. Be ashamed of your bad side. You are not enough but don’t be too much okay? Don’t be uncool. Don’t try to get too much attention. Hide yourself. Tell the story you think other people want to see.
It’s enough to make you put down your camera and never try to take a selfie isn’t it.
Sure there are a few great tips in there, but every time I read these articles I’m just floored by the way they are written. We are being told at every turn that selfies are only okay if you _____________ (don’t share too many, don’t share bad ones, don’t try too hard, etc).
Now, how-to posts are generally great and yes indeed I write tip posts here on the blog too but they aren’t about taking flattering photos or ‘doing something right’ but are about welcoming in more love through the camera. These one’s make me mad because they aren’t trying to share technical information or help us learn about ourselves. They are straight up telling us what to do, what is acceptable. They are telling us to go outside of ourselves in order to ‘do it right’.
That is one of my biggest problems with the critique of selfies, the assumption that we are doing it for others not for ourselves. Because doing it for ourselves would be self-centred or narcissistic right (another MAJOR critique of selfies, right)! It’s like we can’t win.
While I think some of the culture of selfies these days is outside of my comfort zone, I’m floored by how we are so blatantly being controlled around how we should or shouldn’t take a selfie.
It makes me want to scream and this is why. These articles are full of shaming.
Shaming our selfie taking.
Shaming our bodies or assuming we should hate our bodies.
Shaming our photos or our reasoning behind taking selfies.
Because here is the thing that I think many people don’t realize, especially those people writing the articles: Selfies are a way for us to decide how we want to see ourselves, not the way you think we should.
By telling us these things you are taking away our voice, our expression. You are writing our narrative for how to take a selfie and disempowering us from telling our stories, our way.
When I started taking self-portraits, I found that for the first time in my life I could create a space where outside voices weren’t in charge of how I saw myself. It allowed me to quiet down all of the external voices so I could finally here my own and was deeply healing. Which is why I want other people to have the right to create that space for themselves too. Because you are worthy of having that space in your life, where you get to hear your own voice and value it.
If you haven’t taken one of my classes and just arrived at this site you might be thinking “Hey wait…don’t you teach people how to take selfies though?” and indeed my classes are about taking selfies, but that’s why this is so important to me. In the classes I don’t teach you how to take selfies like me, or how to take selfies like anyone else for that matter…you are invited to discover your story, your voice and what lights you up when you pick up the camera. We all have our own unique voice that deserves to be heard.
Part of the process of taking selfies is learning how to do just that, to tell our story. To figure out why we want to take selfies and what we want to share with the world. Even if that involves taking a LOT of selfies, ones that fit both inside and outside of the box of what you think we should be doing.
That’s why I think you need to stop telling me, and all of us, how to take our selfies.
Stop telling us how to tell our own story.
Stop telling us how to let ourselves shine the best, how to fit into a certain type of beauty.
Stop assuming that you know why we are taking selfies.
Because we are not doing this for you. We are doing this for ourselves.
Instead, why don’t we:
Love ourselves as we are right now rather than hiding our perceived flaws.
Explore different angles and see what we like, not just the angle we are told to.
Trust (yes, even trusting teens who take selfies) that we are using it as a tool for self-discovery.
Use it as a tool to see ourselves with kindness, not critique….from others or ourselves.
Now if you don’t mind…I’m going to tune out those kind of articles until they improve (and invite you too as well) and get back to the business of telling my story, my way!