Don’t feel seen by your #topnine2017? Choose your Own!

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You’re probably seeing lots of folks post their best 9 photos today as the year ends and we’re look back…and getting ready to move forward.

I’m all about tools for looking at our visual story so when I first heard about this tool a couple years ago, I was mighty excited. You can find the 2017 BestNine site here. It gathers together the nine most liked photos on your Instagram feed in the past year.

Except when I tried it a few years ago, I was surprised at what I saw. I was caught off guard at my reaction to it. It’s the one up top there on the left.

For saw that for someone who pretty much posts selfies, I was barely in my own top 9. That seemed so unexpected. There were lots of flower photos that folks liked but well, I’m not a flower photographer.

At first it actually really bothered me. Did people not want to see my selfies? Am I driving them crazy with all this talk of body acceptance and selfies when all they wanted was serene nature photos? Don’t worry, I know that’s not the case but just wanted to share my now internal dialogue at that moment (which of course is often fairly off base and reactionary).

Well, thankfully…I got over it and made my own best 9.

The lesson being of course, that we don’t have to define ourselves by other people’s likes and comments. Sure, it’s awesome when it does help us feel seen by others but we can’t define our worthy by that. We can’t only post what we think other people want to see. I actually see that happening in some ways in the body acceptance community which worry me (and honestly feel like diet culture imagery in a new form) but that’s something to rant about in another post!

All that to say that if you don’t feel seen in what other people are ‘liking’ the most…make your own.

Define your own visual story.

Create your own vision of your life, through your own lens.

Let yourself be seen by YOU first and foremost and prioritize that vision. 

When I talk about the concept of #takeyourselfieforyourself that’s what I mean. Make sure you’re clear on what YOU feel about your self and the images you share first. Share what makes YOU feel seen rather than trying to please everyone else and post what you think you ‘should’. Because when we let ourselves feel seen by ourselves first and foremost then likes and comments become a bonus rather than where we define our worth. 

And yes, the last few years of best nine photos were a good challenge for me in that case!

In a way I think it’s a good thing some years for us to have a different perception of ourselves than of what others want from us. It’s often where we wake up to our own needs, our own internal voice, our own self-definition. It can wake us up to where we feel missing in our own story and where we want to choose to narrate it differently.

My best nine this year…I LOVE and you can see it here. Mostly because it has lots of photos of my sweetheart and I as well as some other pivotal moments of the year like when I did a workshop and we all gave the camera the finger (fuck the patriarchy style) and I took that centre photo after. That one makes me smile big time!

I’m still going to make my own version too, though it will still include lots of those couple photos as that was a pretty pivotal and wonderful part of the year (yup, the be your own beloved lady is letting herself be someone else’s beloved again)!

So I want to challenge you, if you don’t dig your best nine of this or any year. Make your own. What are YOUR top nine images you shared in the past year. Which ones mean the most to you? Which ones allow you to feel seen in the way you are yearning to?

It might even be a powerful reflection practice to look at what people celebrate you sharing and whether that fits with what YOU want to share, how YOU feel seen, and what lights YOU up. And if you found that you weren’t in any photos on your top 9 because you’ve been avoiding the camera… and you’re waking up to the fact that it’s time to get back into your own visual story and let yourself be seen, come join me for the upcoming session of Be Your Own Beloved and I’ll help you re-emerge into visibility as we explore selfies as a tool for self-compassion!

If you have posted your best nine, I’d LOVE to see it whether it’s your own version or the websites version! If you’re on Instagram use the hashtag #beyourownbeloved (especially if you have selfies as a part of your mosiac this year) or share a link in the comments here so we can find you and see your look back at 2017!

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2017 Selfies in Review

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It’s been a long time tradition of mine to do a year in review of the self-portraits I took in the past year. These days we can often do that by looking back at our Instagram feed, but I find that when I do this process at the end of the year, I ditch any pressure to pick images that others might like and really choose them for myself (though I try to do this all the time with social media too).

It’s really powerful to look back at the story the images tell together. To see the images you might have struggled with in the moment but wouldn’t leave out now because of the pivotal part of the story they tell.

Wanna try it? It can even be as simple as taking 2 minutes to look back at your Instagram or  or use this as a prompt for your own blog post and ponder things like:

Which ones feel like they tell the story of your year?

Which ones embody the ways you have grown/healed/changed throughout the year?

Which photos jump out at you?

What about this year feel important to be a part of the narrative you want to tell about this year (cause remember…we get to be the narrators of our own story)?

This year looks and felt quite different to me selfie wise, I think largely because I spent the year before and this year teaching the Body Peace Program. I’m grateful for the ways it has helped and changed folks who took part and it helped and changed me too as I was putting what I practice into action in an even deeper way than before.

There were some conscious things I was doing differently in my self-portraits and I definitely see that in these photos. Alongside the ways I usually like moving or standing in my selfies I challenged myself to step further out of my comfort zone and take a lot more selfies from angles that I was more unfamiliar with in my images.

I talk about how when we expand our comfort zone, our compassion grows to meet it and I most definitely felt that this year. The perspectives and images that I took photos from might be more ‘unflattering’ to someone else but to me they felt like I REALLY let myself see my body this year and the more I did, the more I didn’t react to these photos with any sort of critique. I can’t control what everyone else might think but I sure can control what I believe about my body and this year I chose to expand my own capacity to believe in my body and how I saw it.

In particular I felt like I had been taking photos that hid my belly. I took a LOT of sideways selfies this year as that’s the part of my body I wanted to invite in even more compassion for. And while I didn’t hide it so much, I wanted to see more of my chin, more of my arms, more of the signs of hitting 40, more unexpected and unfamiliar angles. I wanted to seek out the places I still struggled with seeing myself in images and make space for body compassion to sink in even deeper.

This became a practice. I’d catch myself taking the ‘usual’ perspective and challenge myself to go further. Some days I’d be up for it, others I wouldn’t. Sometimes the photos would REALLY challenge me (like the seated beach photo) but I’m glad they did because those are the ones that really changed me this year.

I started this year at a cabin I was renting with a friend and you’ll see lots of the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia in these photos. You’ll see the story of my love for my Vancouver Neighbourhood and Garden. I also fell in love and moved this year to Victoria, BC to be with my sweetheart so you’ll see that unique landscape and the process of connecting to place there as a theme in my images.

You can also check out previous years Selfies in Review Posts here: 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012 (yes…I missed last year and I hope to go back and do it…which was why I wanted to make sure I got back to this practice this year).

And I’ve got to say this year might be my favourite year to look back on yet. Not because the pictures are fancier or ‘better’ because to a photographers eye they may not be. But that practice of getting more of our body, and SEEING our body from not just ‘flattering’ angles. Well, it works. Many of these photos are ones I didn’t post on Instagram at the time as I was doing the work of seeing them with compassion and took them for myself first and foremost (cause while it’s mighty powerful to share our images in our body acceptance process…they also don’t have to be seen and liked by others to be worthy…it’s okay to keep the process as a personal practice)!

So here is a look back at 2017 through my lens.

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February

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March

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April

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May

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June

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July
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August

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September

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October

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November

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December

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Especially if you have started taking selfies this year…what about gifting yourself with doing a post like this?  Look back on each month of the year and pick your favourites or pick your top 12 of the year as a whole?

Why not gift yourself with this time even if you just look back on your year and acknowledge what happened, what has changed and how far you’ve come with stepping into the story of your life through your camera?

Or if you’re wondering how to make 2018 a year where you get your camera out more and step into your visual story…join me for the Be Your Own Beloved E-Course, or if selfies aren’t your thing join me for the new Re-Envision class (a rare non-selfie e-course) or if the idea of expanding your compassion towards yourself sounds like something you are drawn to, join the info list for the Body Acceptance Selfie Series 2018!

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  • BrianaDecember 29, 2017 - 12:12 pm

    Brilliant work, Vivienne! I do feel inspired to reflect on my year based on my selfies. Thank you for the idea!
    Blessings to you,
    BrianaReplyCancel

  • RosarioJanuary 8, 2018 - 8:46 pm

    I wanted to make it to the bottom to say yeyyy!! your blog and pictures really, first showed me in a crude way how much do I hide from myself!!!!

    and secondly they really invited me, from the deepest of your heart to the deepest of my heart to dare to see me in all my ugly looks.Thank you so much!  As soon as I have the money I will for sure take your courses.Thank you for so much!ReplyCancel

Cultivating a Sense of Place through the Lens

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Finding a sense of place where I live is pivotal for me. I build a relationship with the pockets of nature I find in the city, the way the light falls, the way we as humans interact and nurture these spaces.

What about you? Does having a sense of place and engaging with the world around us play a part in your daily life too? Does the lens play a part in that? I know I’ve always been really engaged with the world around me visually but I do think that the lens deepens that and allows us too make it into a mindful practice, one that can deepen with time.

To me it’s always been as simple as slowing down and letting myself and the lens engage with the world in an inquisitive way.

It’s not about getting perfect photos (sometimes I don’t actually come back with any photos, it becomes more about just BEING). But the lens has a way of helping us give ourselves permission to slow down and take this time. To helping us open up our eyes. 

If you’ve seen my photos on Instagram or in my classes over the years, you’ve probably become familiar with some of the places that I take my selfies. They feel like characters in my visual story. They feel like companions on this healing path. Because they are.

The act of taking any selfie you’ve seen me share is rooted in cultivating and celebrating a relationship to place. And constantly letting it evolve. I love going on photo walks and discovering how the same place I’ve been going on photo walks for years can look anew, the way it can change.

I’ve been living in East Vancouver for the past 6 years and fell head over heels for that place. The community gardens I’d visit weekly. The way the light falls on the sidewalk by my house there. The gorgeous flowers that bloom each season. And, in the beautiful way that life takes turns, I also fell in love with someone who doesn’t live in this city. So, life is taking me to a new landscape (well, newish…I lived here over a decade ago) to the city of Victoria on Vancouver Island. Now, do know that I will be in Vancouver often for some photography work and I’m still most definitely booking photo sessions in Vancouver as well as Victoria. I’m considering myself a dual city-gal work (and friendship) wise!

But outside of work, is the daily photo & self-compassion practice that this is all rooted in. The act of going for these photo walks. And while I’ll miss the visuals, the smells, the light, the plants, the neighbourhood characters of my old neighbourhood and city, I’m excited to start that process of discovery anew.

I’m grateful to have landed in Victoria in a lovely loft home with my sweetheart mere minutes from the waters edge and a really lovely trail along the water, called the Songhees Walkway (as this part of Vancouver Island is traditional Songhees Nation Territory). Like the community garden in my old neighbourhood, the path is the place that’s drawing me in. Inviting me in with the rocky beaches, the morning light, the interactions with birds and otters, the intersection of human life and nature, the arbutus trees leaning over the path, the city perspectives in the background and the openness of the sky.

New characters in a new chapter of this continued, ever-evolving visual story.

Do you relate to this relationship to place? How does the camera play a part in finding your sense of home too? Who are the non-human characters in your visual story?

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1 comment
  • Renée LayberryNovember 6, 2017 - 9:49 am

    Your words and images resonate so deeply with me on many levels. Welcome to Victoria, and thank you for sharing your passion in this way! <3ReplyCancel

10 Days of Body Neutrality Discoveries

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It’s 10 days until the Body Neutrality class starts and I’ve had lots of great questions coming in about what Body Neutrality it is and how it plays a part in ending the way we critically relate to ourselves through the lens. And every time I talk about it with folks in person I see their eyes light up, I see the realizations clicking in their mind even before they say “This is the missing piece I’ve been looking for”.  For the last few years on my personal body acceptance journey through the lens this has been my focus. Because after years on the quest for Body Love it felt like the search was going to be never ending, not because I wasn’t worthy of it but because the standard were ever changing. I realized how much that the quest for body love is something else we’re sold and it was as much a part of diet culture as body hate. I wanted out of the game altogether. I just wanted to be. I wanted to stop constantly striving to be enough and instead just live from a place where I was already enough. Enter Body Neutrality.

Preparing for the upcoming Body Neutrality E-Course, I found myself writing 10 of the core discoveries that Body Neutrality has opened up for me. And they were all earth shaking ones for me. But at the same time ones that now have me feeling more on solid ground with my body acceptance than ever. So for the next 10 days starting tomorrow I’m going to share them with you, leading up to the start of class on October 2nd.

I’ll be sharing them here on my personal Instagram. I’ll also be sharing them as well as your responses to the post over on the @beyourownbeloved Instagram. They aren’t photo prompts (those await you in class) but if you’d like them in your inbox for the coming 10 days, hop on over to the blog post in the link in my profile to sign up and I’ll send them your way.

If you do decide to join in for the Body Neutrality E-Course I do recommend not waiting for the last minute as we’re having a live teaching call coming up (which would easily be worth the price of the class unto itself) before we dig into the activities in class, designed to help you put Body Neutrality through the lens into action. And while we’re exploring this through the lens, as with all of my classes, it’s not really about the photo. The photo is a place where we are asked to put the concepts into action. It’s because we often see ourselves critically in photos that we can use it as a place for transformation.

As a part of practicing what I’m preaching, all the photos I’ll be using for these posts are going to be ones that played a role in my own body neutrality realizations. Photos I would have seen as ‘bad’ or that I would have critiqued before these realizations but that I now feel neutral about, that don’t hold that same power over me any more.

At the end of each of the Body Neutrality core discoveries I’ll be sharing each day, I’ll have a question awaiting YOU. Because I also want to know how they relate to your journey with body acceptance too. Because we aren’t alone in this journey and a pivotal part of healing body shame is letting our stories be heard.

Join the Body Neutrality E-Course here if you know you’re already in for the whole journey! Or add your email to the list below to get these posts in your inbox for the coming 10 days. Of course, it’s also happening over on Instagram so if you’re not already following me there, come join me at @viviennemcm as well as the @beyourownbeloved Instagram too!



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Waking Up from our Shame Response

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Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how we respond to photos. Oh who am I kidding…I’m ALWAYS thinking about how we respond to photos but this time through a specific focus.

Our shame reaction.

Now, before I dig into it I want to say that I wish that we could always have a compassionate reaction to photos and I hope you’ve had lots of those moments that feel resonant. That help us feel seen. That make you feel amazing and that you have no reaction to. But throughout the years of teaching these classes I’ve found that folks often feel like they fail if they don’t get that reaction.

And they aren’t failing. Self-compassion isn’t just the ‘good’ moments or photos, it’s supporting ourselves when we aren’t having those moments too and I want to bring voice to these critical moments so we aren’t doubling our shame for well…feeling shame!

It’s one I’ve known all too well. We see a photo of ourselves and we have a response to it. But it’s not actually the response itself that is problematic. It’s what we do after that.

I can see a photo of myself and think “Oh, my belly looks big in that” but that unto itself is just an observation. It’s what comes next that is the challenge. It’s the judgement and the shame response that we attach to that.

For me it used to be:

My belly looks big in that photo…which means I’m unworthy, unlovable and ugly.

I know, that’s a big jump but that’s what these shame responses do to us. I hesitate to make a big list of them because I know that kind of thing could actually be highly triggering. Plus I think many of us are all to familiar with our shame response.

As Clinical Psychologist Marilyn Sorenson wrote in her book Breaking the Chain of Low Self-Esteem “Unlike guilt, which is the feeling of doing something wrong,” she said, “shame is the feeling of being something wrong. When a person experiences shame, they feel ‘there is something basically wrong with me.’”

We can understand this intellectually, but I find that we often experience this in photos without realizing it’s shame in action.

I find with the context of photos, we don’t question our shame response like we might in other parts of our lives. We take images as proof of our unworthiness, unlovability or ‘being wrong’ but don’t question that internalized shame reaction. We don’t call into question HOW & WHY a photo could possibly mean that we aren’t loveable, beautiful, worthy and a downright good human being.

Brene Brown talks about 4 Elements of Shame Resilience being:

  • Recognizing Shame and understanding our Triggers
  • Practicing Critical Awareness
  • Reaching out and Telling Our Story
  • Speaking Shame (Differentiating it from other emotions and breaking the silence of shame)

And I realized how the practice I’ve being doing and teaching these past few years is actually rooted in these core tools without realizing it until now, especially in the context of what we do in my classes.

Taking a photo.

Recognizing our reaction to a photo.

Questioning why we’re thinking that and where it comes from (cause we aren’t born thinking this way about our bodies).

Using the camera as a tool for telling our story, to have a visual image that reminds of that realization. 

And speaking it aloud.

It’s what I get to witness throughout the process of teaching these classes, especially Be Your Own Beloved as our Flickr Group becomes this place of creative expression and yes, shame resilience and photo resilience.

We take the power back through the act of witnessing our reactions, acknowledging them, questioning them (or at least noticing, “this isn’t mine”), sharing the photo anyways and alongside it telling the story of what happened in the process of taking that photo.

I know it’s easy to think that taking selfies is really just about getting ‘good photos’ to share on social media with the hashtag #bodypositive and while there’s nothing wrong with that, we go way deeper.

People think of selfies as something we are doing for the external world to see us, a source of validation but I like to approach it in a very different way. I see selfies as a place for this kind of resilient conversation, a door into our internal process rather than a product we are creating for others.

And yes, some days we have an easeful experience with a prompt and get photos that make us smile big and feel seen. And other days we get outtakes that bring up this kind of shame response. Both our a part of our experience. Both are important and both are our teachers in this process.

We learn to witness a new way to see ourselves.

And catch ourselves when we see ourselves in old, patterned, shame-based ways.

And I talk often in this work about what’s on the other side of that critical old shame-based reaction. I think we see even that through a perfectionist lens. We think someday we’ll only have good thoughts about ourselves. That someday we’ll cross the finish line of body love and can claim success. But that’s not what actually awaits us.

I used to constantly react to the world around me and especially photos, in a shame based way. But the more I followed this process of noticing, practicing critical awareness, telling my story and speaking about shame (even when it’s uncomfortable which is almost always is) it got easier to be resilient as Brene Brown says. Til shame wasn’t my go to response. Sure, it still happens, but the more we practice that critical awareness and wake up to the judgements we have about our body, the easier it is to recognize that reaction and support ourselves through it.

The process of building that shame resilience back up filled up that well of shame with compassion. I no longer equate a photo where my body looks a certain way with my inherent worth.

Now, our inner perfectionist might be taking hold about now as you’re reading this post and be telling you that you should have this all figured out and not react in a shame-based way but that’s not how it goes.

I needed to do this in an extended period of time, through a practice of meeting myself in the lens, no matter what the reaction or outcome is. To simply show up and use selfies as a way to self-connect and self-reflect.

It’s not something we can just think ourselves out of. The camera has been a place to put body acceptance into action through this process of shame resilience. And yes, that’s vulnerable. And that’s what makes it work.

I know that the lens isn’t going to be everyone’s tool for shame resilience but I deeply believe in it’s potential to help us build shame resilience. The process of taking selfies with compassion provided that outcome for me and in the past 6 years of teaching these kinds of classes, have witnessed this shame resilience through the lens in folks I’ve guided through this process too. It’s something we naturally do in the process of the Be Your Own Beloved class and I’m really excited to be guiding folks through this process in a session of the 30 day class starting Friday September 1st.

Because it’s a vulnerable process I really do make this class gentle as we begin and ease us into the process of taking our photos, noticing our responses and telling our stories. By showing up in front of the lens over 30 days of doing this, change happens and things shift. We dig much deeper into the process of questioning the reasons for our shame in my more in-depth classes but it’s important to me that we start gently and deeply root ourselves into the process of witnessing ourselves and telling ours stories (and falling in love with the creative process of taking selfies in the process).

If you’d like to put your shame resilience into practice through the lens (in a gentle, beginner friendly way) come join me for Be Your Own Beloved. Class starts soon!

Whether or not you do this work with me or on your own, I hope that next time you see a photo be it a selfie or one someone else took of you, you take that first step and notice your reaction.

Even just calling it out and saying to yourself “I think I’m having a shame reaction” helps us reclaim our resilience and power back in that moment. It allows for that recognition that you are having a response rather than that you are inherently those things that your inner critic is telling you in the form of shame.

Practice the act of noticing your reaction and the rest will unfold. The more we notice it, the more we can recognize why (and often it’s a result of internalized messages from oppressive systems like fatphobia, racism, sexism, ageism, ableism) and be able to step into telling our story and stepping out of the isolation of shame and realizing we aren’t alone and break the shame spell.

To wake up to the way shame reactions are defining your relationship to your body in images and beginning the process of using it instead as a tool for photo and shame resilience.

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