I’m so excited to bring you this new interview series here on the blog where each month I’ll be inviting a selfie & self-compassion explorer to join me here to share their story with you. I knew that the first person I wanted to invite to be a part of this series was the wonderful Kyeli Smith. I’ve been witnessing Kyeli’s powerful selfie journey for a few years now and adore her engaging arm’s length selfies, her magical way of getting creative with her photos and commitment to showing up and telling her story through her images, even when it’s hard.

I can’t wait to share this interview with you though I should forewarn you that in the last question you just might need to have tissue’s handy as her response brought me to tears!


Kyeli, thanks so much for chatting about your selfie journey with me! Tell us…doo you have a go-to favourite selfie style that you do daily or regularly as a practice?

I am a huge fan of the arm’s length selfie. It’s easy, quick, I don’t need a tool, and I’ve done it a gazillion times so I can whip one out in seconds and get a shot that I love about 98% of the time.

You’ve taken Be Your Own Beloved a number of times now. But thinking back to that very first time, what was the experience like for you?

Very challenging. I felt excited and nervous every day. The prompts were so gentle and the community was so supportive, I felt encouraged to be brave and step into the work. It was a truly transformative experience for me.


Do you have a favourite Be Your Own Beloved Prompt? Was this prompt outside your comfort zone at first?

Ooh, that would be “The Story of You”. I always use this one as a challenge to really step outside my comfort zone and find a part of myself that needs the most love and light, so it’s always especially difficult – but always especially worth it.

Have selfies become a regular self-care and self-love practice for you now?

Absolutely yes. It’s pivotal for me to stay in touch with myself through my camera. It helps me see where I’m at, where I’m heading, what’s real and true for me in the moment. Looking at myself through my selfies keeps me deeply connected to myself.


Was there a turning point for you in your selfie journey as a whole? A photo that really felt like it changed the way you saw yourself? Or was it a gradual process of moving towards kindness?

A little of both, actually. The biggest turning point was when I stepped away from the arm’s length shot and took whole-body selfies for the first time. It was like, holy shit – look, I’m just a person who looks… like a person! I took selfies on the beach, standing in the surf at sunset, and when I looked at them I burst into tears. I just filled up with love and kindness for myself – from the roots of my hair to my tippy toes – all at once.

It comes and goes, of course. It’s a process, like you said. But yeah, there are photos that give the process quite the boost from time to time. (;

What favourite gear or apps do you use regularly for your selfies?

I am a low-maintenance kind of gal, so I don’t use much gear (though I admit to a kind of secret lust for a selfie-stick). I use Camera+ and Pixlromatic+ for all kinds of fun filters and effects, Diana for double-exposures, Fuzel for colleges, and Flipagram for creating short videos from still shots. That’s pretty much my entire arsenal.


In the last year you’ve shared through your amazing Instagram feed how the changes in your mobility have been a challenge you’ve worked through in terms of your selfie & self-love practice. Your recent photos on the beach in your chair took my breath away. Would you mind sharing a bit about how your selfie and self-love journey has shifted through this time?

I had found a solid place in my self-love journey after years of selfies and self-work, but then in January of 2014, I got hit by a car and pretty much lost the use of my legs. This threw me into a depression that lasted over a year, and in that time, I’d stopped taking selfies regularly. I took them here and there, sure, but not as my regular practice. I ended up falling away from self-love and stopped seeing myself with kindness or compassion – and struggling with massive dissonance between who I wanted to be and who I actually am.

Getting back into the practice of selfies saved my life. I started over, taking arm’s length face selfies until I found my comfort again, then challenging myself to take shots of my feet – which had changed, because now they’re on wheelchair footpads. Then I’d challenge myself to take leg shots, where you can see the edges of the chair. Then, shots of the chair without me in it. Slowly working myself up to the full-body me-in-the-chair shots. The photos on the beach were a gift to myself, a sort of reaffirming that I am still worthy of love and compassion and kindness. And when I look at them, I have that same reaction as before – a shot of self-love and joy that fills me all the way up.

Returning to the practice of selfies was returning home to myself.

Thinking back to your pre-selfie journey Kyeli…what would you tell her now as she’s about to try turning the camera on herself. Or any advice for folks just beginning this journey?

Oh honey, how hard this will be. How you will hate every shot for the first million, how you will cry about your face and your hair and your body and your life. Every trigger you have will be triggered. Every nasty thing you’ve ever been told will be repeated. Every fiber of your being will tell you to stop, put the camera down, and never look back.

But, my love, this will be the best thing you will ever do for yourself. It will change you to your core. It will open you to levels of self-love you don’t even know are possible. It will soften your heart. It will ripple in ways you can’t imagine; it’s not just you who will change.

Take a deep breath, sweetheart. Take a deep breath, and take that step. Take that first shot – and when you hate it, take another. And another and another and another and don’t ever stop, because somewhere in there, you will find yourself. And it will be magnificent.


Thanks so much Kyeli for sharing your experience with us! Here’s a bit more about Kyeli in her own words plus more about where you can find her!

I’m Kyeli, a wild mystic mermaid. I’m disabled and adventurous, always up to shenanigans. I write stuff (sometimes) and take pictures (often). And I’m obsessed with selfies, in case you didn’t already know. Come find me on Instagram (@Kyeli), and give my podcasts a listen at <3

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  • What a beautiful and important new series. Thank you, Vivienne! And thank you, Kyeli, for showing up with pure authenticity, even/especially in the hard moments. You show us it’s possible to love ourselves through heartache and transformation. Love to you both. xoReplyCancel


This week I have a bit of a different selfie tip for you, as I’m writing to you from a cafe in Edinburgh, Scotland…far from my home in Vancouver, Canada.

Of course, travel is on my mind and packing camera gear for travel is an important decision I ponder with every adventure and also a question I often get. I had someone recently ask “I’m heading out on a trip and am not sure if I should bring my big camera or just my phone. What cameras do you travel with?”

So I thought today was the perfect day to share my answer with you and share the things I ponder when faced with the questions: What camera should I bring? What is too much? What is not enough?

Of course, the answer is individual, but here are some things to consider to find the right answer for you:


What do you most love to shoot with?

This is the biggest question I have for you in deciding what to bring on a trip. What is your everyday gear that makes you happy to get out and take photos with. Is it your phone? Then it might make sense to not take your DSLR if it is usually not something you shoot with.

This may ebb and flow too as some times or seasons we may be more into one type of camera, so it’s a question I like to ask myself regularly with each trip as the answer may be different.

As well, what camera is your selfie-taking happy place? Because especially when travelling, it’s easy to get caught up with being behind the camera but it feels important to be in the visual story of our trip too, right? You may want to make certain camera decisions based on general photo needs, but ponder your needs around what you’re most likely to take a selfie with too?


What’s happening on the trip?

After pondering which gear you are most likely to use, this is another factor to think of before deciding. What is happening on the trip that might feel like you don’t want to be without a camera? Are you visiting someone special? Is it an event? Is it somewhere special?

Recently I went on a trip to Latvia, where my mom’s side of the family is from originally. To me, it was the most special trip of my lifetime so this question was clear. I knew that in response to the first question here, I would 100% bring my DSLR and favourite lenses and my iPhone. But I also love taking photos with my Polaroid SX-70 and decided to bring it, along with some film to use. I wouldn’t normally bring it on a trip, but in this case I didn’t regret it at all.

If I knew the trip was likely to be busy with little time for photo or selfie taking, I’d probably just travel with my iPhone.

What’s going on in your next trip and will you want to have your camera in hand?


How are you travelling?

Another vital piece might be how much of the trip will you be carrying your gear?

As a transit rider and car-free person, packing light is pivotal both for everyday especially for travel. My travelling to different places often includes riding transit (or at least from the airport) into the city so my gear is on my back a lot.  If you’re going on a trip in a car or are flying and won’t have to carry your bags around during your trip, it may be an option to bring heavier or more gear than you might if it was going to be on your shoulders the whole time.

On this recent trip, I knew I’d have a few big days of travelling but mainly I’d have a home base in each city I was in. Had I been doing a lot more carrying of my bags and travelling from place to place that might have changed things!


Can you go on a photo walk?

When I travel, if I can make space (even 5 minutes) for going on a photo walk and capturing the landscape, the light, the geography of where I’m staying, it feels worthwhile to bring my DSLR no matter how many other photos I may take.  If you can commit to taking your camera out on one day of your adventure and bring it with you, I’m sure you won’t regret bringing it!

Even if you don’t normally go on photo walks at home, it is such a divine tool for capturing the story of your trip and truly doesn’t take long at all. I define a photo walk as going out with no other intention than to see what delights you and to capture it through your lens…yourself included!


Pick a Lens!

So if you’ve decided you do want to bring a big DSLR with you, the next question might be…what lens should I bring (if you have multiple lenses). I find that with travel it makes the most sense to bring a wider angle lens as we’re more likely to want to get the big picture of the landscape, cityscape, of group photos or of a self-portrait in a larger context. A more portrait focused lens like a 50mm lens is one of my favourites and is much lighter to travel with but may not have the same big picture perspective as a zoom lens. I find that the most versatile lens (like a zoom lens) is the most ideal for travel.

Picking 1 lens that most suits your needs is a great way to bring your DSLR but not ALL your gear. Unless you know you’ll be doing something that needs specific gear it’s probably ideal to leave stuff at home like an external flash, a tripod, even extra camera cleaning tools or filters. That can help a lot in making a camera bag lighter.


What about a Tripod? Or a Selfie Stick or Monopod?

This is another thing for us to ponder! Do we need to bring a tripod or monopod? Or a selfie stick? I’ve shared about selfie sticks (and the pros & cons of them including travelling with them) in this post but I wanted to mention them here as it’s something to consider.

How light is your tripod or monopod? While I take self-portraits nearly everywhere I go, I rarely use a tripod even at home. I can always find a bench or a fence or use my purse to prop my camera on. So while you might think I’d be the type to travel with a tripod, I’m not. I’d only bring a tripod personally if I was planning to shoot a lot of video and have yet to bring a tripod on an overseas trip.

That might not be the case for you though. Tripods can help us keep our photos stable if our hands are shaky. A monopod is a way to add stability but is smaller and lighter.

A selfie stick might be a good choice for you too if you’ve decided your phone is your primary camera for your adventures. Selfie sticks allow us to get a wider range of view around us (you know for things like getting the Eiffel Tower in the frame with us)! It might be a good choice for you.

In these recent travels to Europe I didn’t bring a tripod but did bring my selfie stick as I wanted to try it in Paris. Honestly, they were everywhere there so it wasn’t out of the norm to use it. That said, I didn’t once use it in Latvia. Even taking selfies was far less common and overt there, and I didn’t feel comfortable using it there. I did still take selfies, of course, finding places to prop my camera.

So a tripod or selfie stick might be a good addition for you, but are added weight in our bags for a lot of us. Something to ponder though!


Get a Comfy Camera Bag

If you crave to bring your camera gear on more trips, a comfy bag is really worth investing in.  I’m a fan of camera bags that don’t look like they would have a camera in them which luckily are much more common these days.  For travel, it’s vital that the bag have a cross body strap option for me as when I’ve got my backpack on, perching a purse on my shoulder just doesn’t work (nor would another camera backpack).

Having my camera bag look more subtle and have room for things like my wallet, water bottle and journal are important too.

Here are a few of the kinds of camera bags that I would recommend for travel:

  • The Jo Totes Bellbrook Backpack looks like a dreamy backpack for travel. I tend to travel with my luggage in backpack form, so it might be more ideal for those who travel with a rolling suitcase and would make a great carry on bag as it can hold your computer too.
  • The Epiphanie Chelsea Bag looks like a dreamy small bag for travel. I’ve owned a few styles of bags from them (like the one in the photo above that they no longer make) and loved them.
  • I’ve never owned a Kelly Moore bag but swoon over them…especially the Collins Bag which looks nothing like any camera bag I’ve ever seen. I love that the camera pockets are inserts that you can remove if you want to use it like a regular bag!


What if you decide to just bring a phone?

I think my back would thank me if I made that choice and yours might too! If you’re using your phone the most to shoot it might be the best choice for you and especially as our phones take such high quality photos these days.

Here are a few extra suggestions for you if your phone is your main camera for travel:

  • Clear out your camera roll before you go just like you would clear out a memory card on a DSLR before you head out.
  • Make sure it’s the highest quality size of photo you’re taking (for example use the basic camera in the phone rather than Instagram)
  • Use the front facing lens which is a higher quality to take your photos.
  • Get a timer app like Gorillacam to help you be able to get in the photo along with the beautiful place you’ve travelled to!


What do I bring?

When travelling, I almost always bring my DSLR and my favourite lens the Canon 24-70 2.8. The drawback being that it is actually very heavy to carry around. This is my favourite self-taking lens too especially when I want to get the big picture of the place I’m in too. For me it’s worth it for the photos it takes, but for others it might be too heavy to be ideal (it definitely leaves me with achy shoulders after a day of wandering).

I also bring my Canon 50mm 1.4 lens which I find I use on days when I’m craving a lighter lens and don’t expect to be taking landscape photos. It’s small and light so it’s easy to bring as an extra lens but don’t use as much as the other lens (so I could see myself leaving it behind if I had to travel with less).

I also chose to bring along my Polaroid SX-70 this trip. I don’t tend to bring it on every trip but I mean, there’s castles and gorgeous old buildings and beautiful landscapes. I couldn’t resist and will make sure to use it.

And my iPhone of course. With lots of space to take photos with it.

I also bring 2 batteries and 1 battery charger, 2 memory cards but leave all other camera accessories at home including a tripod or flash.

So do I pack light for travel? Not so much, but from experience of other trips, I know I’ll use what I do bring. It only takes overpacking camera gear once to really wake us up to what we do actually use, so another suggestion I have is to write yourself a note of what worked and what didn’t so you’ll have it to refer to next time!


So what should you bring? I hope these suggestions are helpful in figuring that out.

Alas, I can’t really answer that question for you, but I hope these will help you decide to either take the pressure of yourself to bring a camera other than a phone or to get inspired to!

I’m happy to provide suggestions for your situation in the comments if you’re still torn as to what you want to bring along on your next trip!

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One thing I often about selfie taking is that folks don’t have the time in their day. And hearing about some of the busy lives folks have, I can see why. But time passes quickly when we’re busy and there is something mighty powerful about pausing even for a quick second in a busy day to get grounded and check in with yourself. So for today’s selfie tip I wanted to encourage you to make it quick. Your selfie doesn’t need to be grand or taken with that DSLR you have at home…what about that phone you probably have in your pocket or purse right now.

I shared in this post why I think it can be powerful to keep our selfies simple sometimes (especially if our expectation of what our selfie ‘should’ be or what would be good enough is stopping us from even taking them). But time is also a factor that can keep us from being a part of our visual story. But truly this can just take a second of your day within your day, not necessarily taking time away from everything else you’re doing.

I thought I’d share a few quick selfie ideas with you today…and I dare you to make one happen today and share it with me using the #beyourownbeloved hashtag on Instagram!

  • While you wait. Are you waiting for an appointment? Or waiting in the car to pick the kids up from school? Or waiting for dinner to be ready? Next time you’re in a waiting moment in your day, why not make it a selfie taking moment. Remember selfies aren’t just arm’s length selfies and something like a foot photo or hand photo can be a lot more subtle if you’re in public (but no less a selfie)!
  • Right here, right now. You’ll see lots of people doing the #stopdropandselfie game on Instagram and that’s all about sharing this moment. You don’t need to go anywhere or do anything!
  • The washroom. Yup, I said it and I mean it…washroom selfies aren’t a bad thing. Maybe the washroom you’re going to will have a great mirror or be a private 1 stall washroom with great wallpaper and lighting. Plus, it’s a valid time to take a moment for yourself, right?
  • While you work. What is keeping you busy in your day? Why not tell the story of the day. Whether you’re busy taking care of the kids…what about taking a quick selfie with them! Or if you’re working at a desk, put that phone a few feet away from your hands, set the timer and capture your work without really taking time away from it! I bet the part of your day that is busy could also be a part of your visual story!
  • While you walk/roll. Where are those moments in between your busy moments where you are strolling somewhere. Perhaps to your car from work or walking the dog? Those in between moments can be a great moment to sneak in a quick selfie and also moments where just for a moment you could slow your steps, feel the ground beneath you and have a mini mindful self-care moment along with your selfie! Keep an eye out on your stroll for your shadow or reflection  that could make for a fun a quick selfie.
  • Take it now, process it later. Taking quick and low-pressure selfies throughout the day is a great way to be a part of your visual story. Often if we keep a bit of time separate from the moment we take them we’ll see the photo with more kindness too. Taking time to get creative with your photo and play around with photo apps later in the day can be a great way to relax too, right?
  • Take a 1 block walk. I’ll often do this on rainy days or when I don’t feel like I have the time but know that I will feel more grounded, more ready for the rest of the day if I can do this mini self-care photo offering to myself. Go down 1 block and back and see what you can find that could be a place to pause and take a selfie of your feet or a backdrop for an arm’s length selfie!

I hope these ideas help make it feel more possible to add a little part of your day into your visual story. I know especially when things are wildly busy these little moments feel more like self-care than ever!

If you do take a quick selfie today and share it, I’ll be on the lookout for it via the #beyourownbeloved hashtag! Or if the idea of taking selfie at all is outside your comfort zone and you’d like a supportive experience exploring seeing yourself with kindness though your camera , come join in for the November Session of Be Your Own Beloved (and get early access to inspiring videos to support your journey as soon as you register)!

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Sometimes, in a sideways glance in a store window it reappears…that critical voice with oh so much to tell me about what it thinks.

It feels like my weak spot, the way my inner critic knows it can pounce on me. The place I have yet to really dig into self-compassion work.

For a while I figured if I avoid looking in the window it might not attack but then again, by not engaging with it I’m not necessarily healing what I need and wanted to. But it didn’t release me from the critic. Instead it felt like I was just choosing fear.

But I’m finding that those places where our critics knows it has a way in can become the way in to change that relationship too. Getting angry at our critic or avoiding it doesn’t help us change. But creating a dialogue with it (and one I can use the next time it happens) does help.

So I’ve been looking sideways in the mirror or the store window, ready with kinder words than I’m used to finding there. Ready to tell my inner critic that I hear it, but I’m writing a new story of how I see myself…sideways.

Slowly but surely it feels like the critic is becoming aware that I’m sending beams of love sideways and it might not be the blind spot it used to be.

For one of this weeks activities in the Be Your Own Beloved class we’re claiming space. It’s one that most definitely pushes folks outside of their comfort zone as so many of us, consciously or unconsciously make ourselves small.

In a session of Be Your Own Beloved earlier this year (I like to participate alongside the folks in the class) I was also focused in on my belly as the part of me I wanted to make peace with and shared this image where I invited my belly into the frame rather than cropping it out.

This time, I knew I wanted to take a selfie from the one perspective I rarely do, the one that feels most vulnerable. The body profile shot.

The belly in particular is one of my most vulnerable parts to notice in a photograph (and yup, where my critic arises in that context too). But the sideways love I’d been working on needed to happen through the camera for me.

So I went for it, vulnerability and all. I got a number of them and as I decided which one to share I had to pause and notice how much I wanted to share the ones that made me look a bit smaller (as a slight turn or movement can make us look quite different in a photo despite it being taken at the same time). This time I didn’t want to choose that comfort zone so I shared the one above on Instagram.

Making peace with my belly is still a work in progress (as self-compassion is anyways, it’s not somewhere we succeed and get to never to struggle again…it’s ebb and flow) but by inviting myself into the frame and sending myself love…sideways…the change is happening.

I know this is what changes those critical moments, that the more I create a new compassionate visual dialogue between myself and my body, that voice gets stronger & sings louder than the critical voice.

For those of you who have been wanting to step into using the tool of photography as a doorway to self-compassion, the November Session of Be Your Own Beloved is open for registration. No photo experience or comfort level with taking selfies necessary…in fact I created it for those folks who don’t feel comfortable in front of the camera yet.  The class will help you make that change! 


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  • Alanna Jane

    Thank you. Just thank you.

    Or more like THANK YOU SO MUCH for this post! You being able to share your authentic moments of both struggle and also of winning, and even winning-through-struggle, lets us know just how not-alone we all are in our own struggles.

    Gah! And how vulnerable is the side-profile-accidentally-caught-out-of-the-corner-of-my-eye-in-a-store’s-window for me? I either try to ignore the voice, or desperately want to instantly beam home in shame. That’s the moment where much of my growth, self-love, and transformation through non-judgement and “unconditional acceptance”, all go on holiday together without warning me first!

    I have come a long way from believing all the stories that were fed to me in my childhood, youth and beyond. And yet, despite my actual worthiness no longer being subject to my jean’s size, the side profile is still something that I struggle with.

    But as I posted on facebook, this particular post did inspire me to go out and take some incredible full-body selfies. And they are SO great!

    So here’s to us celebrating our curves more and more, and in more vulnerable ways, until we are no longer undone by full-body selfies from any angle! Sending you huge love from “across the pond”! xoxoxReplyCancel


Often when we take a selfie, we have a final image in mind.

Sometimes it’ll be easy to make it happen, but honestly a lot of the time, it won’t. Myself included. But is a selfie a ‘failure’ if it’s not what we envisioned?

Only if we are stuck on seeing it that way.

What I’ve found in my own personal selfie journey and what I often hear from participants in Be Your Own Beloved is that we let go of the plan, we open up to a story we didn’t expect to find.

Having a plan for your selfie and not letting yourself off the hook if it changes…only includes what you already know.

It doesn’t make room for the stories that are still unfolding, that haven’t even been put into words yet, that you may simply get a glimpse of in the photo. That you are opening up to seeing.

A tip I got early in my photo adventures was in a studio lighting class at the college here. The teacher said “Just bring some place to begin the photo shoot. It’ll rarely end up actually being what you expected and that’s okay”. And it’s true. There’s a creative flow that happens in a photo shoot and ideas appear in the moment, inspired by what is happening and couldn’t have been planned. It made me think about all the photography in ads out there. That while they may have started with a plan, somewhere along the way things probably changed and that amazing image could have been a happy accident that they captured. It makes it all feel a bit more accessible, doesn’t it…to imagine that photo you love in a magazine or from a photographer might not have been what they initially planned either.

Same with selfies, perhaps even moreso as we are both the subject and the photographer. We don’t have to have a ‘perfect’ plan. We don’t have to know what image we want to take before we take it.  We don’t need to do our hair first or change our bodies.

We just need to show up and try.

Honestly, probably only about 10% of my image you’ll see on this site were pre-planned. There is a magic in letting go that we don’t get to experience if we hold on too tightly to a plan.

Another form a plan can take is comparing our photos to other people’s images. Having their photos in mind as what we think ours should look like too. But they haven’t lived our story, they don’t see the world through our eyes. 

Being open to experimenting and not knowing how the photo will work out and if we will even like it…can feel vulnerable, but it really is the key to taking photos that we feel the most seen (from ourselves) and to opening the door to photos that really feel like they tell our story, that they have a YOU that you recognize as a friend.

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