Category Archives: Self Love

The Words Underneath the Photo


When you arrive at the garden just as it starts to rain but something draws you in.

Your feet lead you right to that flowering Camellia and you pick up a fallen blossom and take a photo. Knowing that you took nearly the same photo last year on an April Day, towards that same path, with rain falling in the background of that photo too.

And you take it all the same because these photos are like pinpoints in the visual map of your life. The kind that loops and cycles and brings you to the same points again to reflect on what has changed.

While you’re standing in the same place. In the same conditions, with a flower in your hand.

You are not the same and at the same time you are. You have answers you didn’t have then. Puzzle pieces now found and many left to find.

You think of how different (and also the same) things could be next year.

And you look forward to this future date with yourself. In the pouring rain, camera in one hand, camellia in the other.

I’ll meet you there.


Sometimes the photos are the catalysts for the words to spill out too…if a photo you take today feels like it has more to say and you let the words spill out too…tag me in it or use the #beyourownbeloved hashtag and I’ll be on the lookout for it. I’d love to hear what #thewordsunderneaththephoto are for you today too.



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14 Days of Self-Compassion Photo Challenge


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!


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


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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Shrinking and Expanding


If you’ve been hanging out here with me for a while or join me on Instagram you’ve probably seen dozens of photos over the years where I’ve done this exact move.

When I find a quiet space to take a self-portrait it’s my go-to move, and while it’s ridiculously fun (as I’m sure you can tell by the fact I’m smiling in these shots) there’s a deeper meaning behind it for me.

When I started on my own personal self-portrait journey 10 years ago, I was just emerging from a depression. I had some realizations of the ways I was existing in my life that were keeping me small and deeply draining me. I was burning out and had to learn how to stop putting everyone else before myself.

During this low time one thing that happened was I started to notice the way people took up space. Now, by no means do I mean physically. It was about how we energetically claimed space. I felt like it became my own personal research project for quite a while, observing on the bus, in the city, gardeners at the local community garden, people at events.

Up to this point, I had tried to keep myself small energetically. To not try and annoy the people around me. But it wasn’t in my nature, just circumstance. I move my hands a lot when I talk, I can’t sit still.

I don’t know if anyone’s nature is the definition of ‘perfect’. I think we’re all trying to fit ourselves into a really small box.

But I had done it for a long time and I was exhausted.

I wanted to find out how I moved again, what my ‘nature’ was.

So I started asking myself questions inspired by what I had noticed about people claiming space. Sometimes it seemed like it was something learned or assumed, other times something reclaimed, a confidence, an empowered state of being.

I wanted to find my way to the later. Where I lived more unapologetically (rather than profusely apologetically). Where I didn’t come home after a day with people and question every word I said and have a constant vulnerability hangover. Where I didn’t question my right to space.

But I didn’t want to fit myself into another box either. For me this wasn’t about ‘perfection’. It was about connection. To be centred in myself again and in some ways for the first time.

These questions seemed like the answer and continue to be:

How would I move if for a moment, I forgot how one is ‘supposed’ to be?

What would happen if I didn’t contain my joy, myself?

What does confidence mean to me?


Of course, my claiming space didn’t start like this, it really began with the tips of my toes and hands into the frame, claiming space with each photo. But when I started using the timer and stepping into the frame of a photo, especially when I’d find those quiet moments where it felt like no one could see me, where I could really dance like no one was watching, this is what I did.

And from the first time I did it, it felt invigorating and also like I’d found something that felt like me. That felt like the way that I’m supposed to move.

It felt expansive and at times was literally me claiming as much space as physically possible.

I’m also claiming space for joy.

For choosing how my body gets to move.

For choosing how I want to see and communicate with my body (and choosing a compassionate voice).

It is also a reclaiming. After feeling like a turtle hiding in her shell for a long time, finally finding her confidence to shed that hiding place and exist in the world without apology, I needed to remind myself of that right to claim space. So that’s why you see this pose so often, even all these years later.

It might look like a fun whimsical pose to do in a photo, but like with all of my whimsical photos, there is a deeper meaning behind it. It’s boldness is in response to feeling the opposite way. It’s playfulness is in response to how incredibly un-playful it is to try and exist for other people’s expectations.

There is another element to this claiming space too. It’s not just the photo itself but the act of taking it. Experiencing the fear or nervousness that comes and doing it anyways. That is the act of claiming space whether it’s your feet in the frame or your whole body.

That’s what changed me, that act of cultivating resilience. The more I pushed through that fear though the camera, the more I rooted back into my own personal power.

And that is what we’re digging into in the upcoming Claiming Space class. We’re going to get brave in our photos but not just to get bold images, but to cultivate that personal resilience, to get to walk away with photos that remind you of that “Wow…I did something I hadn’t believed I could” moment.

Come join me for Claiming Space. We get started oh so soon!postfooterclaimingspace

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Claiming Space at the Beach

claimingspacebeachcoverYesterday 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.

front800If 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.

Claiming space.

So, I dared myself to go even further outside my comfort zone and then this next photo happened:

back800Because 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!

claimingspace300If 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!

Beloved400The 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!

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