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Each time I run Be Your Own Beloved I’m in awe of the things that come up, that challenge me to create new prompts, that I discover about ones that I’ve used so many times in this class but a participant experiences it in a new way, and by the depth, bravery & honesty of the participants.

Last session one participant mentioned that they found that when they did a prompt where they could set aside over planning the activity or let go of creative expectations, the healing awaited them.

This put to words something I’ve been feeling in my own self-portrait journey for a long time but have been fearful to talk about in my work as the wildly creative self-portraits are selfies people take are AWESOME and I don’t want to put words to their experience of taking selfies and say it isn’t as ‘healing’ as another.

I can only share my truth with you.

The more I try and plan out a shot, the less I feel like I leave room for the new stories that could arise for me. And when I do leave that space, they flow in each and every time.

The healing happens when I stop trying to plan out a shot.  When I keep it as simple as possible.  When I just make space to look at the woman in the lens and say “What’s your truth today my friend”.

I’ve shared this here before, that sometimes I see people’s wildly creative selfies and wish for a second that it could be my path. Yet I know that my path is all about finding my way home to my body, of taking photos that invoke freedom and the reclamation of my own voice defining how I see myself.  I know I’ll go deeper into elements of this as time passes, but they may never be the kind of photos you’d see up in a gallery, and that is 100% good with me. Because I’m not taking these photos to get anyone else’s approval or to have anyone else say they are enough. I’m taking them so I can see myself clearly and tell the woman in the image that she is enough, that she is beautiful and that I am proud of her.

I’ve learned that the more clearly I want to connect with this as healing journey, the more I need to take the pressure of myself for it to be anything other than a conversation between myself and the camera and let creative magic happen through light and playfulness.

So I wanted to share this with you today in case you’re feeling the pressure from yourself to get a technically creative or ‘new’ type of self-portrait for yourself, but really crave to return to the simple conversation that selfies can be.

Or if you are taking everyday selfies and putting pressure or judgement on yourself that they aren’t artistically composed enough.

You get to define how this journey goes for you.

And it’s not a ‘who can take the best selfie’ competition.

It’s you, showing up for the person in the lens and in the mirror and saying “I’m listening”.

So follow whatever path your intuition tells you when you pick up that camera to share your truth, but know that sometimes when we let go of the pressure to get a perfect or a creatively unique shot. When we take the pressure off of ourselves to get the right shutter speed or aperture. When we keep it simple, sometimes thats where the deeper story we need to tell begins…

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  • I’ve found this to be true. It seems when I have a brilliant idea for a self-portrait and try to set up something special, I tighten up and become self-conscious — and if I’m outside, inevitably an “audience” shows up. When I let go of my expectations and just go with the flow, I enjoy the experience so much more and usually like the results better, too.ReplyCancel

What would happen if we let ourselves-2

We’ve probably all learned about creative play in one medium or another right? Playing with paints or letting words spill onto a blank page. We know we need that freedom, that learning and the process of making mistakes, right?

Yet when we pick up that camera and take a selfie, so often we forget that knowledge we have of creative play and judge ourselves harshly by our first outtakes, without allowing that room to mess around and make mistakes.

What would happen if next time you pick up your camera to take a selfie you welcomed in that creative play and the process of learning rather than judge ourselves, our bodies and our value on our outtakes?

So I made you this visual story in case you need the reminder that creative play can be (and needs to be) a part of our explorations of selfies too?

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P.S. If you’re thinking, “Well if only Vivienne had a class on how to let ourselves find that creative play and freedom”…I do. Well, actually to be honest it’s a part of ALL the classes, that permission to play. In terms of selfies it is a BIG part of both Be Your Own Beloved and the self-paced Beloved Beginnings.

In terms of photography in general…The Rebel’s Guide to Falling in Love with Photography is all about finding that creative freedom through the camera!

But you don’t need a class to give it a try…just remember the ways that you get into your creative zone in other mediums and give them a try with your camera turned on your self. Blast your favourite music. Dance a round a little first. Go out and get some inspiration.

Let yourself play!

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Yesterday I headed out on a photo walk, with that day’s Be Your Own Beloved Prompt in mind.

The activity is all about the act of going out and taking our photos is just as valuable as the end result. It’s so easy to judge our photo adventures by whether or not we get a ‘good’ photo when the actual act of taking them is such a big part of the healing process of seeing ourselves with kindness through our cameras. As cheesy as the quote is, it’s true: Life is a journey, not a destination. So I say…self-love is a journey, not a destination.

So I headed out towards my favourite photo area where there is a mix of urban and nature, train tracks and flowers, a wide open park and gardens. I’m often more drawn to the natural spaces but this time I headed to the graffiti alley in the middle of an art studio building.

And there it was, a gorgeous chair.

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I almost wasn’t surprised. Because you never really know what’s around any corner. Plus, I’ve found some pretty cool things in this space before (as in a deconstructed piano that became part of a photo shoot I was doing there)! I’m assuming someone brought at chair there for a photo session anyways though I’m not sure why they left it there.

Turns out it was on of the most fun selfie photo shoots I’ve ever done. I hoped the photos were working out, but more than anything I was just having fun getting a little sassy sitting in that  fabulous chair. Sitting is not really my usual selfie taking style as I find so much freedom in moving in a  photo, so it felt fun to try to move and self-express while sitting.

A few gremlins tried to get at me. Why didn’t I bring my tripod? How was shooting from the ground going to look, not the best angle, eh? Why didn’t I bring lipstick and wear nicer shoes.

Well, for all of the above the answer was this…that the moment didn’t need to be perfect. In fact if I had of gone home to try and remedy any of those things it’s quite possible the chair would no longer be there.

That’s one of the things I love about a selfie photo shoot….we just have to go for it. Yes, someone might come by (and people did). Yes things might not be ‘perfect’ but I don’t know if perfection would have made there be such a big smile on my face in so many of these.

Yes, I ended up getting some shots I love out of this photo adventure, but that doesn’t always happen and these photos will remind me of that day I stumbled across a pink and white chair surrounded by graffiti under blue skies and how it helped me create a moment where even if it wasn’t perfect, the joy of taking the photos was truly visible in my eyes.

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And I know looking at these you might be wondering…were there outtakes? Were there ones that weren’t flattering? Heck yes. Cause I’m a plus size woman taking photos in a chair, with the camera aimed from below. But that’s what’s important to remember…that there are other things we can change other than our bodies. We can stand up beside the chair (like the one above), we can find somewhere to prop our camera higher, or we can let go of the pressure to get a ‘perfect image’ and open up to seeing the joy in our eyes rather than just noticing the things that we would critique.

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If I were in a different place with how I saw myself, I could have deleted the whole bunch of them but this is what I want…to be able to see photos with love even when I’m sitting down, even when I can see myself in my body fullness.

I don’t want to love just the photos of myself, I want to keep learning to love the woman in them too.  And this photo adventure did just that…helped me feel fabulous taking them and that energy ended up getting woven into the way that I see the photos too.

With love.

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So next time you head out on a photo walk and have a wonderful time, remember that feeling of joy and make sure that if one photo from the adventure brings up old stories…that you don’t let it negate your joy!

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lightws

We were sitting out on the fire escape high above the street with glasses full of red wine. She was a crone with long black hair and looked like the picturesque witchy woman, which she was. We were talking about the city we lived in and the way it has a strange energy to it.

“Don’t ever let them put a blanket over your light” she said.

I’ve thought about those words so many times over the years. Mostly once I left that city. Because, you know what, I had a blanket over my light.

She was so right. I don’t think it was anyone else who put it over me, or the city, I most definitely put it over myself. It was cozy and safe under there.

That blanket has stayed there for a long time. It was heavy, dark and definitely my safety zone. I walked the world with this blanket of fear, afraid to show my light, afraid that they’d tell me:

“Who are you to try to shine like that?”

“Who do you think you are?”

“Don’t try and show off.  Just accept things as they are.”

“You aren’t good enough.”

I listened to those voices for a long time.

A LONG time.

Mediocrity was a comfortable place for me. Not letting my light shine was safe and not scary. I was protecting myself.

After a while it didn’t work anymore. Mediocrity is not enough. It was suffocating, sad and stagnant.  I wanted more than that.

So I started to believe in myself again, believe that I had something to offer. I didn’t know what it was, especially since I had been hiding my light for so long.

For a long time I had 4 pages ripped out of a magazine taped to my apartment wall which contained these words:

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

-Anais Nin

I would read that quote every day. I knew some day it would be worth the risk to blossom. Then the time came and I was wracked with fear.

I gathered up my courage and peeked out from underneath that blanket covering my light.

Hello?  

Hello, hello, hello the world echoed.

Just in case that was just a coincidence, I tried again.

Hello?

Hello, hello, hello the world echoed back at me again.

Okay. It seemed pretty safe out there. Safe enough to stick my head out and see. It wasn’t as scary as I’d feared. I walked around with my head emerged, still having the blanket around me taking special care to keep my heart protected.

Slowly I let the blanket drift lower and let more of myself emerge. Eventually my heart was left exposed. It beat loudly, adrenaline pumping.

“Cover yourself…this is too much”.

“Are you crazy, I’m wildly exposed here” it said.

So my heart and I had a little conversation.

Dear Heart

Having a blanket over your light, suffocating your dreams, is not the love I want to give you. You are worth a better kind of self-love.  

Just because I am letting my dreams emerge, it doesn’t mean that I won’t protect you.

Trust me.

Love,

Vivienne

It calmed to a regular heartbeat. Regulating and surprised itself by actually enjoying the sun shining down on it rather than being hidden in fear.

The blanket fell further until it wasn’t needed anymore.

I didn’t leave it behind though. Sometimes things are so scary to let emerge that they need blankets, they need to ease into existence rather than jump in full force.

Some days I still need to hide under it. To keep in touch with that part of me that is scared. Fear is an important part of the creative process. There have been times when I hide back under there for a while until it is time to emerge with a new idea or new dream.

It feels so intriguing to me that when I really think about it, my work now teaching self-portraiture e-courses is just this. It is about taking a medium that some people perceive as ‘vain’ and turning that on its head. My work is about helping people pull that blanket of fear off of themselves and giving them tools to allow themselves to shine. It is about creating a community that echos back at you ‘you are so wonderful’ loudly and clearly so you know you are not alone.

As well, sometimes people may try and put a blanket over you and so many of us are experts at putting blankets over our own light.

Just promise me that if you are indeed hiding your light like I have been…that some day when you are ready, you will lift up the corner of it and shout out “hello”.  I will promise you that the world will echo back at you. 

Copy of Nextbyobeloved-2

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  • Oh, Viv, YES! Your approach just helped me laugh and struggle my way through a selfie shoot . . . where, at first, I felt embarrassed by weight regain and pimples and the cat knocking into my feet and the awkward faces and . . . oh my. I just had to laugh. I had to play. And so I did, and once that laughter came, I remembered: selfies are SELFies . . . who I truly am, underneath all the mess, in spite of the mess, BECAUSE of the mess. You are such an inspiration to me, dear one. xoxoReplyCancel

  • lindy

    Truth. ♡ReplyCancel

  • I love every single word of this post. <3ReplyCancel

  • Oh wow – this. Thank you.ReplyCancel