Category Archives: Body Acceptance

14 Days of Self-Compassion Photo Challenge

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I’m so excited to bring you something this February leading up to the start of the Be Your Own Beloved class on Valentine’s Day…a photo challenge!

Each day from February 1st-15th we’re going to take a selfie (or a photo in general if you’re easing towards taking selfies) inspired by the theme of the day.

You can see all the prompt below and join in each day taking a selfie of your choice. I encourage you not necessarily to try and plan it out, but instead to invite in the energy of the day’s focus and see what arises during your day as a moment you could tell your visual story and invite yourself into it in some way.

Or, come on over to my Instagram account at @viviennemcm each day where I’ll be sharing my response to each day’s prompt and giving some ideas and insight on how you might explore it!

As well, I’ll aslo be sharing the daily prompt over at the Be Your Own Beloved Instagram as well as featuring images of folks who are joining in!

If you’d like more inspiration to get you started on this journey, join the Photo Challenge mailing list (you’ll also receive my Be Your Own Beloved newsletters by signing up) and I’ll send you over a welcome post with more information about the 14 Days of Self-Compassion Photo Challenge as well as a free E-Book 30 Tips for Exploring Selfies (with Love) which contains 30 helpful tips to support you on your selfie path.

Join the 14 Days of Self-Compassion Photo Challenge Mailing List here to get your Free E-Book!

If you’re new to selfies but want to give it a try, you might want to get the Selfie Starter Guide where I answer all sorts of common questions that folks have when sparking the journey to see themselves with compassion through their camera!

Now without further ado, here are our themes for the 14 Days of Self-Compassion Photo Challenge! Keep watch on Instagram for some tips to get you started with our first theme on February 1st and be sure to use the hashtag #beyourownbeloved to share your response to the daily prompt!

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As well, be sure to check out the #beyourownbeloved hashtag on Instagram to get inspired by one another as we explore these prompts together throughout the first two weeks of February.

And this 14 Days of Self-Compassion is going to be a great warm up and way to dip our toes into selfies as a tool for self-compassion before the Be Your Own Beloved E-Course that begins on February 14th where we’ll dig even more into the process of using the camera as a tool to change how we see ourselves and I’ll guide you through the variety of kinds of selfies we can explore, tips for taking them and how the lens can help us reclaim how we see ourselves back from our inner critic. Come join in for Be Your Own Beloved as well as the free photo challenge!

I’ll see you over on Instagram where we’ll dig into the first challenge Feb 1st! Everyone is welcome by the way! Even if you’re not comfortable sharing your selfies publically yet (there’s no pressure to) you might invite a trusted friend to join you and text one another your daily selfies! Tag someone in the post that you’d like to invite to join you for the free challenge!

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Standing with the Questions

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I remember the moment when I first got brave and put down my camera on my bag in the ravine near my home at the time. I set the timer and stepped into the frame.

And a rush of fear appeared along with a constant flow of questions:

“But what do I do now?”

“How should I move?”

“What should I do with my hands?

“How do I do this?”

The questions overwhelmed me and made me want to grab the camera and walk away.

But this time, I didn’t.

Because somehow, on this day, I really HEARD the questions. Heard what they were actually asking me.

How do YOU want to move?

How do YOU want to feel about your body?

How do YOU want this experience to go?

How do YOU want to treat yourself in this moment?

I remember it so acutely because it felt like for the first time, I was asking myself to be in charge of how I say, felt about and experienced my own body. I mean, it might sound like something we should all inherently be in touch with but for so many of us, we don’t feel in a place of personal power around our body.

We don’t feel like the narrator of our own story. We don’t feel like our bodies are inherently worthy. We don’t feel in charge of our own self-perception.

In that moment I felt, for the first time that I could narrate my own story. I felt the whisper of my own inherent worthiness and I felt like somehow (in what felt quite miraculous) that I had created a safe space…a bubble between the camera and I where I was in charge of my self-perception.

The fear shifted in that moment and it was the first time I remember hearing that other voice, the powerful one, the protective one that my inner critic had been shouting over for years. And it said this:

“Guess what…this space is yours to answer that question each and every time. For you to forget how you’ve been told to move, to stay still, to make yourself small. This is a space where you get to reclaim how you move, to find that feeling of embodiment that you lost all those years ago.”

I talk lots these days about starting a compassionate conversation with ourselves and in that moment, hearing that new empowered inner voice…the conversation changed.

But here’s the thing. It isn’t a scripted conversation. It may not go as we predict. And at first we might not be used to speaking up for ourselves in this way (I wasn’t) and it might take a bit to find our voice.

It’s now been years since that moment but the conversation continues. The more I step into the frame, the more the voice of compassion and I get to hang out. The more space I give it to be heard. The more time I give it to gently emerge from it’s hiding place. The louder it becomes.

Is the inner critic still there? Of course. But I now have a grounded inner voice to return to rather than having my inner critic as my only point of reference in how I saw myself.

And the questions still accompany the conversation. I still, each time, get to ask that question…how do I want to feel today? What is the story I want to embody? How do I want to move today? How can I stand in my power in this photo, in this moment?

It’s the questions that, for me, gave way to the answers.

I know the questions that come up when we take photos of ourselves are terrifying and vulnerable. I know they might want to make us grab the camera and not take any. But the act of taking our selfies become the medium for the questions to be heard through.

And the photos become the reminder of the answers we found that day.

The reminders of the story we are stepping into.

The voice we are cultivating (especially outside of our inner critics).

The body we are choosing to embody.

The story of our lives we get to choose to tell.

**If you’re interested in becoming the narrator of your own story, join me for the Embody E-Course this November where we explore inviting our whole body into the frame. Or if that’s feeling like too BIG of a stretch beyond your self-comfort zone. Join me for the 10 day Beloved Beginnings class (self-paced, available any time) or the February Session of the 30 day Be Your Own Beloved E-Course (community based online class)! **

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Into the Wild Unknown

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We sat on the beach for a while, chatting, with the thought of going in the ocean on our minds.

I assumed it would be incredibly cold, being mid-September and all. Painfully so. I imagined how hard it would be to get in the water, how I wouldn’t want to be in there, and how cold I’d be afterwards. I was assuming the worst.

But I was going to try, maybe even just wade in, if my friend wanted to.

The sun set further and the air temperature got colder, I felt further away from the possibility of getting in the water. The idea had passed in my mind and I’d convinced myself not to.

Until Danielle said “Let’s go for it”.

I still doubted the possibility that I would actually get in. But I was willing to go on the adventure and support her.

And really, what if it was okay? What if it might even feel nourishing?

We took only a few steps into the ocean when the first big wave hit. And then followed up by 2 more.

I literally howled with laughter. Doubled over with when not jumping gleefully over the next gigantic wave approaching. And they kept coming. Within 10 seconds I was soaking head to toe (forget wading in) and in a full on laughing fit.

It felt amazing. Not just the water (which wasn’t nearly as cold as I’d feared) but the waves and the laughter. I laughed because the idea I’d had of slowly wading in, at my own pace was well…really just being lovingly mocked by the ocean in these gigantic waves in the most beautiful way.

It felt utterly divine. Jumping in the waves like I did as a kid, howling with laughter with not a care in the world what anyone on shore (and yes, there were lots of sunset watching folks) might think.

You see, when I’m laughing I feel most inherently me, closest to my true self.

So this moment that I’d been fearing, theorizing how it would go, placing outcomes on.

Was completely out of my control. And magical. And beautiful. 

And invited me home to myself. 

 

Before we left, I put the camera on my bag and snapped a few selfies, arms wide to the sky.

The usual thoughts that would come with this moment arrived and were swiftly dealt with. Thoughts like “I wonder what people might be thinking about me right now” or  “Maybe this will look better if I put my hair down” or “I wish I had of worn my cooler bathing suit” came and left quickly because the ocean had just swooned me with it’s wildness and these things didn’t seem as important as that.

And I wanted to remember this.

Because the camera helps me cultivate this conversation with myself. It reminds me of what brings me home to myself. It invites me back into that moment, again and again. This one moment in the ongoing visual story of my own life.

Since that moment yesterday I’ve been thinking about the fear, the expectation, the choice to go into the water and the wonder of getting caught up in the joy of it all, realizing how it was so different than I expected and that the hardest part really was that first step in the water. It made me think of folks before they join me for Be Your Own Beloved.

It made me think specifically of folks who email right after they have signed up for the class sharing how utterly terrified they are (and by the way that is exactly who I create this work for…not for folks already comfortable with themselves in photos). Those emails I’m getting these days as the next Be Your own Beloved class gets started in October.

I know this work can feel scary.

I know the idea of cultivating a compassionate conversation with ourselves is hella vulnerable.

I know that often we come to it with whole list of expectations of ourselves and how it’s going to go, often defined by our past experiences with photos.

And then it’s almost always those same people who feel that fear but do it anyways, who write me after often just a few prompts or the first week and it’s though they are standing in that big wave with me, shocked at how playfully they are jumping in the waves, prepared for the white caps where you kind of need to brace yourself for the vulnerability and standing in that energy that I experienced in the laughter last night…knowing that it was far different than what they’d feared and far more nourishing (and fun) than they could have imagined. 

Feeling closer to their true selves than they have in ages.

Sometimes it’s the ocean that brings us home. Sometimes it’s the camera.

And it’s always worth taking that first step into the wild unknown.

*

If you are interested in joining in for Be Your Own Beloved you can find out all the details here but also don’t hesitate to use the contact form to connect with me and ask any questions that are coming up. I’d love to hear from you.

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  • LeonSeptember 13, 2016 - 9:28 am

    This is such a beautiful, joy-filled story, Vivienne. And that photo is stunning. You already know how much I loved Be Your Own Beloved. I highly recommend it to anyone who feels drawn to it but is hesitating. Do it…you won’t be sorry. Love and hugs!ReplyCancel

Finding Confidence through the Camera

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What does confidence look like through the camera lens?   

We know what we’re told confidence it’s ‘supposed’ to look like. We’re told it’s our goal, told what it looks like, what it wears, what it’s proportions are.

Or at least that’s what I thought. That’s what a lot of us think, even as we’re in the process of unlearning the expectations of what our body is ‘supposed to look like’. It felt like one of the remaining big expectations I had put on myself in my own body acceptance journey.

As though finding ‘confidence’ and taking photos that embody it was going to prove I crossed some body-love finish line.

And I believed that, until I tried to make it happen.

Until I chose ‘confidence’ as my word of the year a couple years ago. I don’t know if you do this practice, of choosing a word of the year and inviting it to permeate and inspire your year. I like to choose juicy words of the year. Ones that are going to shake up my world a bit and leave me thriving even more. Confidence was clearly going to be one of those. A success I’d reach in learning to love myself. A goal.

So I went out that year to discover my own confidence. What would it feel like? What would it look like? How would it change me? 

There were so many realizations that happened when I started to explore inviting in confidence through the camera and into my life as a whole and I’d love to share some of them with you today. I quickly realized that I was starting to equate ‘confidence’ with ‘perfection’ or feel like I was getting it right. It felt like one of those sticking points in my own body acceptance. To let go of ‘perfection’ as the goal and really learn to confidently walk the world in the skin I’m in.

But, much like any journey, it never quite goes as planned does it, and we find ourselves learning something completely different than we expected.

So there are 3 things I learned about what confidence looks like through the camera:

 

1.It looks different for everyone. 

There is no one way ‘confidence’ looks. I know it’s easy to think that’s not the case. Especially in the visual culture surrounding us ALL the time, including a lot of selfie culture. Confidence is supposed to look carefree, empowered, something we aspire to.

If I’m really honest with you, I sometimes find myself comparing myself to folks in the body positive world who rock bikini selfies or amazing shots in their bra and undies that make me stand up and give them an ovation. I get caught up in that whirlwind a lot, until I listen in to my way of finding confidence through the camera and remember that it doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.

And because there is a different kind of confidence awaiting me if I listen in for it. I thought maybe someday it would be but now that I’m starting to see what confidence looks like to me, through my own self-portraits, I’ve let go of any specific type of photo as what I hold up as embodied confidence.

I see it in the incredible people I get to work with too. Confidence is putting your toes into the frame of your very first selfie. Or sometimes not wiping the tears away and looking directly into the lens. For some it’s showing a part of ourselves that we’ve been hiding from the camera for a very long time. It might be not retouching our photo or even using creativity as a tool to see our photos with more love.

Confidence doesn’t look one way. There is no one kind of selfie you need to take to embody confidence. There is just you, showing up for yourself with resilience and an openness to see yourself in a new way. That’s what confidence through the camera looks like to me.

 

2. It’s from within. It’s the feeling translated through your photo.  And it doesn’t have to be seen by others to exist.

Confidence comes from listening to your own inner voice and letting it be heard. Not just the external expectations. It’s empowered self-awareness. Yet, saying that, it can feel like something that we need to achieve doesn’t it.

Or maybe I should say, it’s about giving less of shit about what other people think and caring more about what you think outside of those external voices! This is definitely a practice where the camera can be so helpful. My experience in that year and every since was that confidence looked like ME looking back at me in the photo and the strengthening of that inner voice than counteracted my inner critic, even if at first it was only a whisper.

What I love about this is that we can translate that inner self-awareness externally. Through our clothes or style. Through our expressions and creative explorations through the camera. And like I mentioned in #1…it doesn’t look any certain way. It’s you, listening in for your story and letting it be heard. 

Oh, and there’s one more piece to this one. It doesn’t need to be heard by others to be valid. I know especially when talking about selfies it’s easy to let confidence be something we derive from other people’s responses, but what I found out in that year of confidence explorations was that I stopped putting the power in the hands of other people, and returned it to my own hands.

Confidence is being the narrator of your own story and telling it your way.

 

 

3. It’s a Process.

Confidence to me feels like a process of taking brave action, getting vulnerable and then finding resilience and slowly building ourselves up to a place where we stop being our own enemy and get on our own team.

Taking self-portraits, of course, can be a tool for cultivating that resilience. One of the questions I SO commonly get is “How does one get the confidence to start taking selfies?” and the truth is, if you keep the camera at bay waiting to be ‘ready’, the day isn’t going to come. Because like any tool we use for body-acceptance, the work awaits us on the way there. Not before we begin.

Confidence through the camera isn’t something we achieve. It’s not picture perfect or a ‘perfect picture’. It’s the process of letting go of external expectations and learning about our own and learning to claim space as our weird, awesome, fabulous, quirky selves!

So, if it’s a process, then…

What does confidence look like? It looks like you, right here right now.

Finding confidence through the camera lens doesn’t look like any one kind of photo. It doesn’t even look like anyone else’s photo you’ve seen before, because it is your story unfolding.

In the learning, in the process.

Confidence looks like listening in for the new stories that are going to rewrite the old ones.

Confidence looks like you, stepping into your own power, listening in for your own voice.

There is no right or wrong way to embody confidence through the camera, nor is it a finish line you need to cross someday.

Confidence looks like you and I, in the process of learning this all. 

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I’m so honoured to be sharing this post as a part of the Confidence Blog Carnival hosted by BamPowLife. It’s only Day 2 of the event where you’ll find each of these incredible folks (I know…some of my body-positive heroes too) and for the coming 10 days you’ll get to check out a blog post on the theme of Confidence from each of them!

Sarah Vance’s post went up yesterday and you definitely want to read it…she explores how Confidence feels (rather than looks)! And be sure to check out all these other amazing bloggers and their stories throughout the rest of the month!

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Inviting in our Beginners Mind

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For 8 years now I’ve been going to the same dance class almost every Tuesday led by my wonderful teacher Jana. Each time she reminds us how the hardest part if often just showing up and that she’s so glad we are there. She also reminds us that in Nia (the kind of dance class it is) we use our beginners mind. We show up each time, not thinking we need to achieve perfection or even know what the next dance step is, even if we’ve done the routine before.

We show up with our beginners mind, meeting the moment and connecting with our body open to the sensations, the emotions, the wonder of the moment.

It takes the pressure off of our shoulders to get it right. Letting go of those expectations and just letting my body move has been a pivotal part of healing how I feel in my body.

If you’ve taken a class with me before, I’m sure you know exactly how this has all influenced both the way I take photos and teach about them. Every single time I pick up the camera I try to meet it with a beginners mind.

With curiosity. With wide open expectations.

I pretty rarely plan out a photo though I may have a starting point or general idea. But what happens in the process is all spontaneity, all exploring what the potential of the moment is and well, all magic.

Even 10 years into my own photo journey that’s how it feels every time I see the world through a camera. Like magic.

And that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to know the left brain information to learn the how and why about photography, but I try and approach that with a beginners mind too, with curiosity.

I wanted to share about this because before I got into photography and especially exploring self-portraiture as a tool for self-compassion. I thought photography was intimidating and overwhelming. I thought I had to know everything about my camera in order to take a great photo. I thought that it was my technical skills that would help me see myself with kindness through the camera. But I was wrong.

It was being willing to approach it with a beginners mind.

Being willing to approach ourselves with a beginners mind.

I credit that beginners mind with the fact that I’m still so smitten with seeing the world through the camera and imagine that I will feel that way the rest of my life. I also credit it with helping me heal how I see myself. Because when we allow ourselves to set down expectations of what our photo or ourselves in a photo ‘should’ look like, that’s where we truly get to meet ourselves and the world around us with the wonder that the camera so beautifully translates.

Over these past 5 years of teaching the online photography classes it is honestly the biggest roadblock I see people put in their own way. That pressure to know exactly what our photo will look like before we take it and then achieve that photo. It’s getting so caught up in our left brain that we block out our right brain wonder or don’t even give ourselves a chance to experiment with it.

This also relates to when we’re talking about our relationship to how we see our bodies in photos, doesn’t it. We probably all have a rock solid opinion of how we see ourselves, likely based on some outtakes of ourselves we’ve seen and old stories about ourselves. But that is kind of the opposite of using our beginners mind.

What if, for ourselves too, we met ourselves with the playfulness and curiosity that we would if we were seeing ourselves for the first time?

What if we were willing to begin again and again each time we find ourselves caught up in those old stories?

What if we were open to what lies beyond our pre-concieved notion of how we look in a self-portrait and were willing to take LOTS of photos (including outtakes) in the process of learning to se ourselves with compassion.

That’s what’s at the heart of this work at Be Your Own Beloved. It always has been even though I haven’t quite put it into words to share with you in this way before. It’s especially on my mind this week as I’m teaching the Beloved Beginnings class with an amazing community of folks.

The Beloved Beginnings class is always available as a self-paced class but if you’d like to join in on a community class, the 30 day class is always taught in community so you can experience the support of both myself and your amazing peers in this class. Come join the Be Your Own Beloved starting July 1st!

Both of these classes were created with folks who aren’t necessarily comfortable in front of the camera and are wanting to make space to explore selfies as a tool for self-compassion. And they all have this energy of playfulness and using our beginners mind at heart!

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