Dear 36

Everytime I sit down to write these letters reflecting on the past year, I always feel like I have nothing to say at first and have  a “Really…did anything happen this year of note?” moment. Here is our letter from last year: Dear 35

Of course, once I start writing, I remember (which is really all the more reason to keep writing these letters).


So, 36

It seems as though each year you seem to have a few ‘big dreams’ you wish for each time. Falling in Love & Getting a Book Deal.

Then each year around this time you find yourself feeling the weight of what you didn’t achieve, that pressure you put on yourself.

This year as your birthday neared, you couldn’t help but notice that weight was missing.

Did those 2 things happen this year? No.

But maybe it is finally soaking into my bones that it isn’t about the final achievement

But rather the beauty & bravery in the work it takes to get there.

And that indeed you did do this year.


Soon after 36 started you found an agent, finished a book proposal and had an exciting meeting with a big publisher, all within the first half of the year.

While it didn’t lead to a YES, I am proud that you went for it none the less.

More than that, in fact, what I’m most proud of about this year is that you didn’t stop there.

You wrote and wrote.  36000+ words in fact (and growing quickly).

You aren’t waiting for someone to say YES to us, you are writing the book no matter what the outcome.


36 was good for the most part, even though at times it was pretty rough. It wouldn’t be a truthful letter to you without this part of the story of 36.

Midway through 36th you lost someone you have loved & been loved by all of those years. Grammy.

You been well acquainted with grief for a long time now, but this one was one of the roughest.

Some days all you could do to get through it was to walk, for hours. You lived in your grief for a bit rather than pushing it away.

You did your best and while I wondered if it might make this year so rough that I might not even want to write this letter, you did okay.

Your grief was woven with such gratitude because 36 years on the planet with a Grammy you adored is still a pretty lucky thing.


You travelled to places like Texas & Nashville & Portland & San Francisco. Sometimes you taught and sometimes you were a participant and both were amazing (a really really divine year of trips). You swam in a river in Texas. You jumped and danced on Muir Beach. You giggled so much with your nephew in Portland. You fell head over heels with Nashville & now have gorgeous red boots that remind you of that journey.

You still have that sweet meowing cat at home and as we well know, she won’t be with you forever (she has a chronic illness) so she too has been big lesson in gratitude in this lifetime. Plus she’s ridiculously cute and so sweet to come home to.


You probably read more this year than you have in a long long time.

About Body image, Self-love, Healthy at Every Size, Intuitive Eating.

You’ve been in full-on self-education mode and it feels really beautiful.

You got even clearer on what Be Your Own Beloved is about and where you want this work to go.

That this is your life mission, to help women heal their body image & stop waring with themselves.


You always kind of knew that life would get better with age. In fact it was something that gave you hope in your teens.

You had a sense that as you aged, despite the self-hate you felt at the time, you would grow into yourself.

And it is true. With each year I love you even more

And you live more of a life free of self-hate and shame with every orbit around the sun.


I guess that here at 37, that is one of the things I’m most proud of you for.

Even if things don’t feel like they come easy, you are going for them anyways.

Really learning to love yourself and see yourself as beautiful, healing a whole lot of self-hate, even without finding your beauty only through someone else’s eyes.

And, Dear Vivienne, it is as clear as day that this time when things haven’t come easy has made you who you are. Made you able to give the world what you are meant to. To feel happy, truly happy…even without a publisher or a partner.

You are making your life worthwhile outside of those things.

And indeed it is.

For 37, I hope for you to have completion and transformation. I hope for you to really open your heart more, to new friends, to love, to life. To dream even bigger both for yourself and for Be Your Own Beloved.

I also hope you ask for help more, a lot more. You don’t have to go it alone all the damn time Vivienne!

Mostly I hope for you keep on this path that has been unfolding. Trust it.

Keep writing please. Finish the book and get it out into the world, publisher or not.

Be open, wide open to love.

From yourself and from others.

Mostly, I want you to just keep doing what you are doing.

Keep going on photo walks.

Keep devouring as many body image memoirs and books on self-love as you can.

Listen to Geneen Roths audiobooks over and over again and find your way even more fully into the path of intuitive eating.

Keep running with your awesome running community and moving in ways that bring you joy.

Keep following the clarity you feel.

Keep making peace with your belly.

I’m proud of you.





Have you ever written a letter to yourself on your birthday. I can’t recommend this activity enough. Be it on a blog or in a journal. Whether you share it or not. Even if it feels a bit self-centred. Even if it is hard to write. It always makes me feel more ready to step into the year ahead by honouring & giving voice to the one that just passed.

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  • Blake McMaster

    Love your writing, love your message, love your photos….love you Blake/DadReplyCancel

  • Beautiful. Happy Birthday :) ReplyCancel

  • You are a superstar. I am honoured to know you and watch your beautiful journey unfold. Thank-you for sharing you heart with us all. Happy 37th Birthday Ms. Vivienne McMaster. Love d xoxReplyCancel


A few weeks ago I took a super quick trip to Portland for the Body Respect (Healthy at Every Size) Workshop.  It was hosted by the wonderful gals at Be Nourished and led by Linda Bacon & Lucy Aphramor, two prominent thought leaders in the Healthy at Every Size movement.

It was AMAZING.  I went for reasons both personal & professional.  While I’m not a health practitioner, the Healthy at Every Size approach feels so in tune with the approach I take here with Be Your Own Belovedlearning to love & treat our bodies with kindness here and now.

Then there is the personal side.  I’m on a lifelong path, like so many of us are, to untangle stories of self-hate and shift them into self-compassion.

Ever since the workshop, there has been an unexpected body love shift that is asking to be acknowledged.

One that I have known was still a big struggle for me.

But wasn’t ready to deal with yet, until now.

My Belly.


My belly & I have a long history of body shame.

It is the place in my body that shifts and changes the most, where I first remember starting to see myself from a place of critique.

It still feels like a place where the most body shame resides in me.

These days I feel like I can see my body as a whole with so much more kindness than I ever could before, largely due to using self-portraits as a tool to rewrite stories of negative self-image and to learn to see myself with love. 

While I have made peace with so much of my body and how I see it (check out this post about making peace with my thighs) by focusing on reducing body shame rather than size and learning to love myself right now.  Yet my belly has been the uncharted territory.

I have a long history of food allergies, with the most visible symptoms being belly bloating.

Whether or not we have food allergies, our bodies ebb and flow.  They shift and change through so many factors (getting enough sleep, water, hormones and on and on)  that are just natural.  So why is it so common to see slight changes in our bodies as something to be critiqued and to see ourselves as ‘failing’ at.

It’s not that I send hate glares to my belly when it is bloated, but I have had this remaining dialogue within myself that sees my bloated days as bad days  and the days when it is not bloated as good body days.

This is the diet mentality still running through me.

Of jumping from a place of self-compassion to self-hate depending on the size of my belly that day.

It is an old story of enough and not enough.

Of praise and shame.

And while it might not feel like it, as it has been our dialogue for so long, my belly & I.

I have learned that it doesn’t have to be that way.


My body will continue to ebb and flow like this, right from the belly, because….well, as a human, I eat!

And I want to practice what I preach more fully.

If I want to help you love your body more right here and right now, I need to keep deepening my own journey of doing that myself. Even the parts, like my Belly, that have felt like they might hold shame forever.

So it seems as though the choice is our own. Do I want to keep riding this roller coaster or do I want to get off of it?

It makes me think of how it felt to have a scale (before I broke it). How I don’t miss it. How it felt like I was constantly seeing if I was ‘good enough’.

Living without a scale showed me that there is a place of peacefulness & ease awaiting me as I make that choice not to engage in those praise/shame behaviours anymore.

So while it might seem at first like living without that bad/good relationship with my belly is impossible.  

I don’t believe that any more.  

I think that just like the way we see ourselves in photos, we have a choice.

And I’m choosing to end the war with my belly

I am committed to learning to see it with love in all its ebb and flow.

Thats not to say it won’t be easy, or like anything else on the self-love path…there will be days when I forget I chose peace and will step back into it.

But it is time to choose love.


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  • Aleli

    I feel truly inspired by how you show us to fall back in love with ourselves.ReplyCancel

  • Just found your site. Thank you for this. From my belly to yours, here’s to learning to love.=)ReplyCancel

  • This is so lovely! I am a professional coach and certified in The Daring Way ™ methodology developed by Dr. Brene Brown which helps cultivate shame resiliency. I work with clients who explore many of the same thoughts and feelings, and I love seeing the message you are spreading!ReplyCancel

  • Oh lady. This was beautiful! My belly and I have some making up to do. xoReplyCancel

  • Thank you so much! <3 you are inspiring, amazing and beautiful!!!!ReplyCancel

  • I’m one of those people with stick thin legs and arms. Nobody believes I have body shame issues, but my belly is my battle. It’s where I carry all my weight and I deal with lots of bloating issues, too, and the cause often varies.

    I, too, hold that story of loving my body when I’m not bloated, and feeling gross and unlovable when I am bloated.

    Your words are a shift. Thank you.

  • Yes. I tagged this post to read later – avoiding it a bit because of my own tense relationship with my belly. But today I am bloated from an accidental gluten encounter and decided to read.

    Thank you. It’s time for me to make peace as well.ReplyCancel

  • […] Making peace with my belly. […]ReplyCancel


Last week I headed to Portland for WDS and I had put up an open invitation to join me for a Be Your Own Beloved photo walk.  Oh my…it was such an honour to have all these incredible women show up for the walk!

We strolled slowly in the beautiful shade of the Park blocks of downtown Portland (vital, as it was super hot out) and I shared the first activity in the Summer of Selfie Love class (by the way…its not too late to join in for the class) and it made me so happy to see us all unabashedly taking selfies and seeing all of their favourites as the afternoon progresses.

Getting to meet folks in person who have taken Be Your Own Beloved and have been affected by this work is truly an honour and makes it feel even more important than ever to keep putting these posts, these classes, this work out there.

It truly was a highlight of the weekend for me.

One thing that felt extra cool was that the ladies who are a part of my mastermind group were there for the walk and while they are my primary support system for the behind the scenes aspects of Be Your Own Beloved, a few of them shared after the walk that they realized that they had never actually seen me teach/talk live and it filled my heart right up to get their support in that moment.  To let people say “Hey…I see you doing what you love the most and I’m proud of you”.  So grateful.

I confess at events in the past (especially locally) my sensitive heart ends up focusing on who doesn’t come to events even though I ask for their support but it made me SO happy at this photo walk that I didn’t let those old stories into my heart.  I felt so present with everyone who chose to come and so grateful that they wanted to dig into taking selfies with love on that sunny day!

Here are a few snapshots of the day!

I hope to do some more Be Your Own Beloved photo walks in both Vancouver & Victoria so if you live there and would be interested in joining me in either of these cities…please do leave a comment and let me know!



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  • It was such a joy to meet you and be a part of this lovely, wonder-filled gathering! I am so very grateful for your bright light in the world, and in my WDS experience!! <3ReplyCancel


Oh my gosh.

A whole new world of selfie & self-love fun has just opened up.

I was out for a short little photo walk today as I’m trying to make space for even a little one as part of the experience of the #summerofselfielove class (not too late to join in on the fun by the way).

I was about to head home when I realized I had downloaded a new App yesterday called Party Party, created by the amazing gals from the A Beautiful Mess blog and had yet to open it up and try it.


Instant love. 

I opened it up and there it was, ready to go. Simple to use…it let me chose if I wanted to do 1, 4, 9 or 16 photos for the stop motion.  I picked 9 (which I think will remain my favourite combo) and pressed go.  A 3 second countdown had me bolting for my spot and I just went for it, but then enough photos to get me into the groove of my happy selfie moves that help me feel at home in my body.

There is a great click to the photos (so you know when it is being taken) and you can also change the amount of time in between photos too.

Then they let you choose a filter (or not) and save it as a video or a GIF file.  The GIF files are what you are seeing here.  They are essentially collection of image files put together that is easier to share than a video file.  The App automatically saves the video file and you can just click YES to save the GIF too. Amazing. Really…what more do we need?

I tried the 4 and 16 but the 9 feels just right to me…having enough time to get into the groove.


One tip I have for you when using this App for selfies is to have your phone (and whatever you are propping it up against) ready to go.    I propped it up against my bag and ran for my spot as soon as the 3 second countdown began.  At first I literally ran for it, but realized after a few that if I just backed into the spot it looked much more casual as the first shot is mighty likely going to be you…getting into place!

I was so entranced by how fun that was that I didn’t even realize that there were more options to the App until just now.  You can also make photo booth images with this App too.  It is only 99 cents right now and worth every single penny (and more). It looks like it will only be available for iPhones for now (Android folks…read their post as they explain why).

If you give it a try…please do share links to your videos in the comments or connect with me on social media.  I’d love to see your Stop Motion Selfies!!!



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The other day I found myself posting an iPhone version of this image on Instagram after having such a fun time getting playful by this graffiti wall as I took it.

One minute later I checked if anyone had liked or commented.

Then a minute later.

Then a minute later.

And yes, a minute (or even a few seconds) later.

Each time I checked I could feel myself stepping further and further away from myself and feeling drained.

Why did I care so much if people liked that photo?

What did I really want out of the sharing of it?  A certain number of likes?  Or was I craving to get comments?

What kind of comment did I really yearn for?  Who did I crave to get comments from?  What in the world did I really want in this moment?

That whirlwind of questions left me even more drained.


But really, why was it that in this moment I craved outside support more than my own?

That is the question that I really needed to ask myself.

While I love comments and likes, I have a practice that I use that helps me not have these experiences of self-doubt be the norm and I wanted to share that with you today.

It is pretty simple, but whenever I remember to do it, it feels so different than without it.


And it is this:

Ground yourself in how you feel about your own photo first, before sharing it.

What I mean by this is to connect with what you value about the photo, why you like it and what you see with kindness in yourself in it first.  Before ever letting anyone see it.

Connect with yourself first.

Say it out loud.

Write it down.  

Feel it. 

Tell it to the woman in the photo. 

Why? Because then no matter what happens if we choose to share it via social media or not, we know how we feel about it.


So, back to the photo that brought up this self-doubt for me, the kind in which I forgot to ground myself in how I felt first.  It was a dancing photo, one that I’ve needed to replenish valuing my own perception of lately.

I take them (and lots of them) because truthfully they are the ones that heal me the most, that are the ongoing source of healing my relationship to my self image.  They help me daily and weekly to feel connected to my body.  BUT…if I tell you the truth, there is a part of me that worries that they are seen as showing off or that they are received as ‘Not another dancing viv photo’ even though no one has ever said that to me (not even remotely).

Oh the stories we tell ourselves!

That first part I shared with you…that they are the kind of photo that most helps me feel at home in my body, in which I move in a way that feels so free to me and that I’m actually probably going to keep taking that photo for the rest of my life because in it I see a woman who has gone from a place of feeling like a turtle in its shell to dancing freely.

Why am I not valuing that over my totally perceived (and not based in reality) story that people are tired of seeing that kind of photo from me?

Why do we value some made up story of how we think people see us (or that one person has expressed to us that we take as the perception of the whole) and write it into reality in our bones?  


Of course, feeling supported ROCKS and community can be deeply healing, but when we don’t ground ourselves in how we see ourselves, in our own value it it is so easy to feel lost when that support is absent, and take it personally.  What if, in reality, our support system might be having tough days of their own, or their phone might be broken or they might be engaging in self-care by being offline….yet its so easy to take a lack of support personally, even if it really isn’t about us.  By grounding ourself in self-compassion, support becomes a bonus, not the complete definition of our value.

We get to define how we see ourselves and we get to choose where we place that value: in our own hands or in the hands of the number of ‘likes’ and comments we get on social media.


When we put it that way, its easy to choose LOVE but I also know how easy it is to slip into moments of forgetting this new truth.

So these questions arise for me regularly, especially over on Instagram where we can write stories of our value into how many likes or comments we get.

The clearer we get on why and how we are putting each image out there, the more value we are placing in the way we see ourselves, not just focusing our worthiness on how other people are seeing us.

We get to choose ourselves first, with each photo we share.

And guess what, the world often responds to that energy & helps us feel more seen in that way too.


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  • […] Feeling Empowered in Sharing our Own Photos – Vivienne McMaster. I do this not just with photos but with posts and just about every aspect of my life. It is enough that I put it out there – I do it first for me. Anyone else who gets a benefit out of it is a bonus. And I need to remember that. […]ReplyCancel