Yesterday afternoon and evening my lovely friend Sylvia and I headed to her favourite beach outside of the city, one I’d been excited to check out ever since I heard of it. The tide was high so we sat in beautiful (and surprisingly warm) waist deep ocean water blissed out at the fact that we can do this in April in Vancouver!
After a swim we chilled on the beach in the fading sun and like I do pretty much everyday, I pulled out my camera to take some self-portraits in this wildly inspiring setting.
Just like any other day except this time…I was in my swim suit!
And not just any swim suit, a 2 piece…the kind I had a story around, that I’d never been able to adorn my body with. I’ve worn a 2 piece once before but to a quiet lake…and that time I invited myself into the frame too and had a really vulnerable experience with it, as photos indeed can bring up those old body stories that might be trying to follow us around, defining our worth.
You can check out that post here: Making Peace with My Body…In a Bikini
On that day, I could feel that experience of shame rising up but instead, got resilient and chose to seek out the photo that felt like it really captured the energy of the joy of the day, rather than get lost in the shame spiral I could feel myself nearing. It takes practice to pull ourselves out of those moments of self-critique, but it is indeed possible.
Because our outtakes get to be our teachers.
The healing doesn’t just happen in the ‘good’ photos.
It happens in the ones that we struggle with too.
For a long time now, my personal goal (and what we’re exploring in the Body Peace Program too) has been to find body neutrality. To be able to take photos and see my body not as bad, or good…but just me. Just my body without those value judgements.
So…at the beach yesterday, I took some photos while we chilled after the swim and the beach was fairly quiet.
And there she was, me…in the lens. And I looked at these photos without judgement.
Maybe it was the light which was SO dreamy.
Maybe it was because I love this bathing suit and it’s SO comfy and fits well (something that we plus size folks don’t always have in our clothing).
Maybe it was the nourishing energy of sitting in the ocean for an hour that swept away worry of how the suit looked on me.
Or maybe it was that the work I’ve been putting so much thought and practice into was paying off.
Because for the first time ever in a bikini in photos, I didn’t go into a shame spiral.
If someone else had taken the photo at the same moment…I quite possibly would have. If I had tried to take a ‘fashion-blogger’ style photo…I probably would have (cause that’s just not me).
But that’s the power of taking a self-portrait.
We are in charge. We are in control…of how it is taken and how we react to it. How we move in it, when we take it and yes…we are in charge of how we feel about it too.
It’s about standing our own power.
So, I dared myself to go even further outside my comfort zone and then this next photo happened:
Because if I could see my front body with neutrality on this day (it’s not like it’s forever thing that we achieve…it’s something to savour when we experience and build emotional memory around it…increasing our chances of having it happen again)!
Now, my back body (my back and butt in particular) are parts of me I’m most definitely not at peace with yet, but we’re working on it. And by ‘at peace’ I mean this sense of neutrality. I don’t need to LOVE that part of myself but I’m sure as heck tired of hating it.
The sun wasn’t quite as glowing by this time.
But still…when I see these photos, that second one. I just see my body, not as something good or bad, yes, even those parts (like rolls) that we are told are ‘bad’ by societal standards. They don’t trigger me here.
Both photos are totally unedited and unretouched.
I share this not to try to show off, by any means or try to prove how much I LOVE my body…because that’s not what it’s about. But I did want to share it because I don’t think we talk enough about body neutrality as a possibility. We may think that the goal of body-accpetance is to LOVE our bodies and then shame ourselves on our tough days if we don’t always feel that way.
But body neutrality is settling into that non-judgemental place, where we are neither good or bad, neither hated nor wildly loved. Really, where we just get to…be.
And that’s what these photos taught me, and I hope that you’ll get photos someday where you can see yourself in that way too, as though we just cleared off an old lens and now I can see clearly again.
Now, there’s another piece…that YOU will see the photo if I share it.
That’s another element to this puzzle of accepting our bodies. How will we deal with how other people view us. But here’s the thing. The more work we do on making peace with our own body and finding our voice outside of our inner critics, the more we realize that other people’s opinions of our body are…theirs. Not ours.
If you see these photos with judgement, I can’t help that. Nor should it define how I feel about them.
You might see my body as something disgusting or beautiful.
It doesn’t matter.
What matters is how we define our own worth.
And the more non-judgemental my own voice has become, the more I don’t even think about how others might be judging me.
And it’s not something we achieve, even days like this when we get these peaceful moments.
It’s a practice of claiming space, defining and redefining how we see ourselves, and inviting in resiliency on the tough days.
I starting my own body-image healing journey using photography over 8 years ago now, not sure where it would lead and am so grateful it has led to helping other people help themselves in this way. I’m not here to heal you…I’m here to help you heal yourself.
In terms of my own body image healing, I’m not sure where it will lead from here, but I’m in for the journey.
Cause the more we can let go of worrying how other people see us, the more room there is for us to just enjoy days like this with the sun shining and the ocean warm enough to swim in…in April.
Because there is life to be lived and more time to live it when we’re not focusing our energy on critiquing our body!
If you’d like to join me in a journey to claim space and exploring standing in your own power in your photos, join me for the Claiming Space class starting May 1st! And if you’re seeing this April 19th or 20th, I’m giving away 2 spots to the class over here on Instagram.
Find out more about the Claiming Space class here!
The original Be Your Own Beloved class is also open for registration if you’d like to start your journey to see yourself with compassion through your camera, this class will be a game-changer for you!
Find out more about the Be Your Own Beloved class here!