It had been a few weeks since I had seen my running coach.

The last time I saw him he said he was really impressed with running these days and that he was proud of me.

I’ve been what I call a ‘slow and steady’ runner for all those years, but lately, thanks to our coach Ken, I’m starting to believe that I can push myself to run faster & be a stronger runner than I may have thought I could.

So to hear his praise of how hard I was working to create a new relationship to running had me feeling really seen.

The day after that I left for a few trips (including Nashville) and the heat and busyness of travel had me very behind in my running.

Now, I’m not running for weight loss or even to change my body in any way.  I’ve been running for about 8 years now and I love the way it helps me feel emotionally balanced, mentally healthy, physically strong and of course that it gets me outside. Plus I’ve been making some amazing friendships through it!

Then three weeks later, I felt like…yet again, I had self-sabatoged and messed up.

As usual at our track night, he asked what I’d be running tonight and what I ran last time.

“I think you are going to be disappointed in me” I said.

“I only ran 4 x 800′s last week”.

“Are you kidding me Vivienne?” He said “How could I possibly be disappointed in you?  I’ve seen how far you’ve come from the beginning.  You could never disappoint me”.

I started running that nights track laps with those words on my mind.

It got me thinking about how in all sorts of areas of our lives, it is so easy to look at the recent past and think about who we have ‘messed up’ and might be disappointed in ourselves.  Yet if we look at how far we’ve come, we might be able to see it differently.

It makes me think of our path of self-love and self-compassion and how easy it is to get in a bad mind-space one day and feel like we are back to the beginning.  But we aren’t.

Or how we might not be able to make peace with one part of our body (like our belly) but if we reflect on our body-love journey as a whole, we have so much to cheer ourselves on about.

And it reminds me of those moments when I run Be Your Own Beloved folks will miss a day of class and get really down on themselves and I want to say “Don’t you see how far you’ve come already this month?”

Much like in the case of running…I wasn’t necessarily going to see that myself as I had my self-critique blinders on.   Sometimes really listening to other people’s kind perceptions of us and our path can invite in big breakthroughs or help us see ourselves kindly through their eyes.

Is there someone in your life that you could entrust to ask the question “Will you help me reflect on how far I’ve come” in an aspect of your life that you may be down on yourself about?  Maybe how far you’ve come on finding forgiveness about a certain issue?  Or about your relationship to seeing yourself with kindness?

Or perhaps there are folks around us who are already offering those kinds of thoughts to us, and we can invite ourselves to take off our self-critique blinders and really listen to their insights about our path.

For those of you who take selfies & self-portraits too, it can be pretty powerful to look back on our journey in the photos we take and revisit some very early selfies to look at the woman we were then and observe some of the ways we’ve come so far!

Want to join me in taking the space today to ask a friend or partner’s insight on this idea?  Or to reflect on it through photos or even through looking at old journals?

Let’s pause to be proud of ourselves.

Let’s take a moment to put aside being hard on ourselves and to bring voice to the ways we’ve come so far already in our journeys?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, so don’t hesitate to chime in via the comments!


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All my life there have been lyrics that proceeded me.

By that I mean I’d hear them and they’d hit me and take hold, but I didn’t yet know why.  I hadn’t lived it yet.

Do you know what I mean?

Its happened so many times, as though they were foreseeing my life path and wanted to seep into my bones for when I needed those lyrics.

These were one of them.  That felt like I needed them before I knew why.


“When the voice that is talking is never your own.  Then who’s going to tell you that you’ve finally come home”.


From the song Never Your Own, that you can listen to here.


Those two sentences latched onto me.  Telling me “Your voice isn’t your own Viv and you’ve got to find a way to that place”.

And it was right. My voice, even my identity was infused with other peoples voices of things real and perceived.

I didn’t believe in myself and in my own worth.

I wasn’t home in myself and I knew it.

But the idea of finding your way home to yourself sounds a lot romantic than the reality I was feeling was.

It was terrifying.


But I knew that the song lyric was so right.

That I was going to keep trying on different aspects of myself, none of them ever feeling quite like a fit.

That I wasn’t going to feel like I fit in or that things were truly a right-fit for me


I needed to find a place to land, somewhere to begin.

Finding home in myself wasn’t going to happen instantaneously.

I needed to cultivate my voice again until it found its own resonance.

Until I could recognize it as my own.

Coming home to yourself isn’t always that pretty, or it wasn’t for me.

It was grief and feeling lost.


I didn’t plan out that photography and taking self-portraits would be my guides.

In fact that was the last place I would have expected to.

And it wasn’t in photographing other people (though that sure is fun).

I started to see glimpse of the resonance of my own voice, of a place that is home in my

As I would put down the camera, set the timer and let go.


That is where I found it, my own voice.

It was in the quiet.

In those moments after the timer stops and the shutter clicks.

Where all the other voices fall away and there is some sort of quiet that is mine alone.

I didn’t expect to be there, in fact I expected a lions roar of self-critic, of those old voices that were never mine

Telling me how to move my body, to stop moving, to be quiet, to be different.

But they weren’t there.  There weren’t allowed there.

There it was, my voice, awaiting me in the quiet.

My own resonance.


I could have missed it. Walked by it.  Assumed that it wasn’t there.

Especially with so much shouting in its way.

But it was there, past the inner critic.  Past the self-doubt.  Past the hurt.  It was there.

The voice that was my own.


I wanted to share this with you in case you feel like you are still searching.  In case you can’t see past the hurt.

In case it feels like you are living listening to other people’s voices everyday.

Its hard to put to words even now, finding my own voice.


I would have thought that finding home would be louder, would be more dramatic.

But it wasn’t, it isn’t.  It was beautifully simple to finally arrive home.

There was no map.

There is no box I can put that resonance of home in.

There is no true guidebook to finding your voice.

There was just trusting the unknown and going out to seek it.

I can’t tell you what it looks like, what it sounds like.

But I can tell you this.

It does indeed someday say.  You’ve finally come home.



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  • Beautifully written.

    Such a deep desire of mine, to come home to myself. Thank you for sharing your story.


  • Lovely post, Vivienne. Thank you to share your story of self discovery !ReplyCancel


I’ve been wanting to tell you what happens behind the scenes when I go out on these photo walks.  To share every single photo with you with out censoring any of them.

I know when we see one selfie or self-portrait it is so easy to think that the person just went out and captured that one photo, effortlessly.  Which really isn’t the case for most of us!

Of course, as we all know in the land of Instagram, our visual story is highly curated.  We pick the one photo to share with others, and while there is nothing wrong with that at all…it makes it so easy to “compare others outsides to our insides”.

So the other day I headed out to the forest near my folks house (where I’m presently visiting) for a short photo walk.  I had been in this forest years ago with my camera and I remembered the forest looking especially magical.  It turned out that I didn’t see a single person as I was taking these photos which made me SO happy.  You see, something happens when we can put down the camera and create a safe space for ourselves to move, dance, play and simply create a relationship of openness between ourselves and the camera.

Often those moments are interrupted by people walking by our chosen photo spot and that is bound to happen.  Truly, 90% of the time I take selfies or self-portraits there are people very nearby.  I try to at least block myself out of their view (which is why I love taking photos at the local community garden…so many spaces in that lush garden to find a little space for one’s self) but sometimes you truly just need to go for it and take the photo, whether people see you or not.  If we wait for the ‘perfect’ moment, it will be hard to come by!

That said, there is a reservedness that I find in myself when people are nearby and on this photo walk it felt truly lovely to get to just wildly play & move, each time returning to my camera to press the shutter again.  This is truly where the healing happens for me.

So here is my entire photo adventure, from start to finish (except that top photo was taken later in the photo walk).  There are no photos deleted from this photo shoot and it is in the order I took them (left to right from this first image down).  Nothing is photoshopped of course (as I don’t normally) but I do slightly play around with photos in terms of colour and exposure as I shoot in RAW so I do need to save each of these images to a JPG in order to share them with you.

I wanted to share this ALL with you so the next time you head out with your camera or iPhone to take self-portraits you might remember that it takes EVERYONE lots of photos to get that one they love…and give yourself permission to take more than you might normally (and I hope to help you get a little extra playful too)!


I didn’t have my tripod with me so I just took my camera out and put in on top of a log I happened to come across.  At times I would put my purse or iPhone under the camera and prop it more upwards so I could get my whole body in the frame.   I didn’t have my remote with me either so I was going back and forth between the camera and where I planned to stand, pressing the shutter each time (which is fun, but indeed…a remote does help the process go faster).  I had brought a lens I love (the Canon 50mm 1.4 for you folks who love gear) that I know makes the forest look pretty magical.

How did I get myself in focus without a remote?  I have my tricks and the one I use here is all about calculating the distance I’m going to be standing away from the camera and setting that manually on my lens (its actually a lot easier than it sounds and is a trick I share in depth in the Beloved Camera E-Book).

Sometimes this means I miscalculate, but honestly, it often ends up being the slightly blurry ones I end up liking the most!


I had no intention of sharing this entire photo shoot with you and I’m glad I didn’t plan it out that way as I’d worry that I’d unintentionally ‘curate’ the experience and not have felt quite as free in the moment as this one ended up being!

Normally I would look through all the photos of the day and pick my favourites or often I know which one I really want to focus on and just jump past the rest.  Lots of these I wouldn’t have shared with you. Some I definitely see as outtakes, some I like but love another one a bit more and many are just playful and fun…and I can see them as part of the process of getting to one that I really love.


For me, it truly isn’t just about the final image.  When I think of what makes a photo walk so healing & nourishing or what makes me feel like selfies have such beautiful potential to be healing for not just me, but for all of us…it is the process of getting those photos where we can see ourselves with love that make the difference, more than the photo itself.  I feel like when I finally do get one of those photos that I really can see the woman I am becoming, it feels like every one of those circles of bokeh around her are stories of where she has been and how she got to that moment.

selfishoot3at800It is neat for me to look at them in order too as I see how the first couple dozen were really about playing and then something happens in these last half dozen that allow me to see that zen I tend to feel by the end of a photo walk, where I return yet again to my body and I can really see a woman who has learned how to fill up her own well in these photos!

That first one in the post is the one I would have chosen out of all of these to share.  It feels interesting too, as I love it because it doesn’t hide some of the parts of my body that I’m still in the process of learning to love.  My arms & my back.  They may not fit into a standard of what is ‘supposed to be beautiful’ (as lots of people fat-shame about back fat) but thats not what I see in her.  They are just the way I’m shaped, especially when I arch my back.

I’m learning to see the woman in the photo more through a lens of love rather than shame with each photo walk.  It has been years on this journey, but I tell you…change happens when we step in front of the camera and invite ourselves to be witnessed by ourselves with compassion.

We don’t dig into the technical side of taking self-portraits in Be Your Own Beloved (it feels important to me that it can be done with any camera including an iPhone and with no need for any photography or selfie-taking experience) though during the class I am always available to answer your technical questions.  And class starts September 1st!!  But if you are looking for more technical info on getting playful with your camera when taking selfies or self-portraits, the Beloved Camera E-Book is indeed packed with all my tricks for getting photos you love with your DSLR!

So next time you head out on a photo walk and ponder putting the camera down and stepping into the frame, I hope you remember that it takes a whole lot of photos for ALL of us to get to that one we love and give yourself the permission to keep snapping photos, opening the door wider to the potential for self-compassion with each click of the shutter.


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  • Amy

    This is a stunning collection, I see a woman so deeply at home in her skin that her beauty radiates. Thanks for sharing the whole package.ReplyCancel

  • I can feel you, right from the monitor. And you. are. beautiful!


Recently I had the pleasure of attending a Creative Mornings talk by Kim Werker, Author of the about to be released book Make It Mighty Ugly: Exercises & Advice for Getting Creative Even When It Ain’t Pretty.

If you haven’t heard of Creative Mornings before, I highly recommend checking that out.  It just might be taking place in a city near you.  It is a monthly event, each month with the same subject being talked about by speakers from cities around the globe.  If you don’t have one near you, you can also check out all of the speakers videos online each month.

What a great topic…failure.  It is something we hear more and more about these days as a part of many peoples road to success involves a whole lot of failure and resilience.  Often it is our failures that end up turning us towards the directions we are most meant to take in life.

The approach Kim took was different and I’m so glad she did.  Kim’s talk went outside of the usual dialogue about failure and focused on the stories we tell ourselves about our failure.  She used the example of one of the stories she had about failure being that she thought that she was the kind of girl who couldn’t make thinks look like what she thought they would in her mind and led us through how that story really influenced the trajectory of her life.

Oh how I relate to that one.  As a member of a family with some seriously amazing painting talent (my grandfather is an amazing painter) I have a story that I can’t draw/paint realistic things.  Have I really truly ever given myself the chance to explore working with oil paints and painting something realistic? Actually, no.   I have a story that I can’t do it, without even really giving myself the chance to.  These are the kinds of stories that Kim was getting us to explore.

Where have we decided we were a failure at something without even really giving ourselves a chance to be proven wrong about that?

I highly recommend pressing play and checking out the video of her talk.

It got me thinking about the experience people have in the Be Your Own Beloved class and how almost everyone who joins in for the class has (or has had at some point in their lives) some sort of story that they are failing at taking being ‘photographable’ or being able to see a photo of themselves and like what they see.

Because we think:

We aren’t photogenic

We don’t take a good picture.

We aren’t beautiful.

The camera doesn’t like us.


So many of us have these stories that are deep set about how we have failed at being the kind of person who looks beautiful in a photograph.

And no wonder we think that.  Especially if we don’t see bodies like our own represented in the imagery of pop culture & media or in perceived perceptions of what is ‘beautiful’.

It got me thinking about how it affects our experience of being in photos when we have this story of failure in our mind to begin with?

What would it be like if that story was no longer there?

While most people don’t join the class expecting to change that, it does happen.  Often very quickly into the class, it is one story that they break open.  They soon see they aren’t failing at taking a photo of themselves they like.  They aren’t failing at being photogenic.  They aren’t failing at taking selfies.  They just need to step out of the story of being a failure at it in order to make room for that new story.

So I wanted to not only share Kim’s talk with you but to ask you this:

What would happen if you picked up your camera today, turned it on yourself and stepped out of the story of being someone who is not photogenic?  

If you feel inspired to take a selfie today inspired by this idea, please don’t hesitate to use the hashtag #beyourownbeloved (and you are truly welcome to use it on any selfie…it is a way I can find you and cheer you on as you explore seeing yourself with kindness through your camera)!

Or if that feels like a BIG challenge, it is indeed something we work through in Be Your Own Beloved and I’d love to support you on your path to step out of that story of failure!

I’d love to hear what other take aways you get from watching Kim’s talk! What are some of the stories you have told yourself about failure in your life?


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  • Janet Kemper

    Thanks so much for sharing this video. I loved it! It spoke to me on many levels and about many things. I think I will listen again, and let more of it sink in. I have often told myself I am not photogenic, that I don’t take good photos. I’ve been working on that and taking more photos of myself. I try and see the beauty that is there, instead of criticizing. Your recent post on making peace with your belly has inspired me to make peace with my belly. I am learning to appreciate all the wonderful and strong tings my body does for me. Thanks Again!ReplyCancel

  • […] The stories that we tell ourselves about failure and being in photos. […]ReplyCancel

How to Cure a Grumpy Mood

Recently I was looking back at my old website and found this post from 2009 and thought it was too fun to keep in the archives….and I thought I’d share it again, you know…in case there is a day you need it!

Okay, here we go!

The Surefire Cure for Grumpiness 

Step One:

Grab a digital camera.  Go to somewhere quiet and take pictures of anything.  Then turn the camera on yourself. Don’t fake a smile.  Photograph your grumpiness.

Copyright (c) Vivienne McMaster 2008Copyright (c) Vivienne McMaster 2008

Step Two:

Keep taking pictures until something shifts, even if it takes a while.  Maybe its the sunshine, or that you feel beautiful or are wearing the most gigantic earrings.  Or maybe its just that your grumpiness wanted to be witnessed.  Smile, for reals.


Step Three:

Be silly. Laugh at your ridiculous bed-head or a trying to be cool-face that didn’t fly.  Don’t anyalze it.  Just play.

Copyright (c) Vivienne McMaster 2008

Step Four:

Keep taking pictures. Keep playing.  Smile (or don’t).  Go home feeling like a different person.


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  • Alison

    I actually did this today! I joined Susannah Conway’s #augustbreak2014 (because YOU are one of the guests) and for orange, found dd’s compact (girl with orange hair), which meant lipstick, which meant very silly faces, which meant other props and angles, intense close-ups, pucker-ups and then a walk outside to look for more orange. It works!!ReplyCancel