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We return again and again.

To the practices that nourish us. Last week I was chatting in a mentoring session with one of the lovelies in the Body Peace Program about the practice of taking photos and how we think we fail or are doing it wrong if we lose the practice if we get off track.

But it’s the returning, the resilience that is the practice itself isn’t it. 

My photo practice has always ebb and flowed. Winter makes it even harder. But the returning keeps happening. When the light comes. When I feel that urge to grab the camera. When I realize how long it’s been since I’ve gone on a photo walk.

The returning is the practice.

And it’s felt good this past week to see flowers blooming and in the breaks when the rain holds off for a bit, the camera and I have been going out for walks. Not waiting until the sun is out to go out and seek the beauty that awaits.

I also just got a message from a lovely reader saying that she missed seeing these kinds of photo posts on the blog. And I do too! But I confess in the world of Instagram, especially coming from the early days of blogging, it’s easy to feel like no one reads blogs anymore.

But  I didn’t begin blogging all those years ago because other people were going to read it. I started it because I wanted to cultivate a writing practice (and the love of photography and self-portraits ended up happening in the process).

So thanks to her suggestion I feel like I’m going to give myself permission to come back here and share more self-portraits on the regular. More photo walks. More stories.

Because everytime I take photos it’s a part of the practice.

The returning, again and again.

Last weekend I was out on Vancouver Island in Victoria and took a photo walk, like I usually do, without any big expectation on where it would take me. I have a soft spot for the Garry Oak Meadows of the Island so when I saw those curvy trees and rocky ground I was drawn right there. Here’s what the camera found:

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  • Isabelle BeaudreauApril 11, 2017 - 9:46 am

    Thanks to have listen to me. 🙂  It’s great so see new pictures from you. 🙂ReplyCancel

LOVE YOUR Author photo-4

You’ve finished your book, or article, or are ready to launch your blog and there’s one thing missing. Your photo. Why? Because you’ve been too busy writing to think about even taking one. But your publisher is asking for one, or you just know it’s time to stop hiding behind your avatar and put a photo of yourself on your work.

But what should you do? The idea of a professional shoot might be overwhelming. But is a selfie enough? Well, it definitely can be.

Over the past 7 years I’ve had the honour to take so many folks author photos in portrait sessions, which came about primarly because I seem to have some incredibly talented poet and writer friends who’ve had their books published and I’d get the “Vivienne, I need an author photo…can you help me make it happen” email!  Through that, I’ve learned lots along the way specific to taking portraits for the purposes of using it in book or print format as well as helping you shine online.

One of my author photo clients over the years was the lovely Rachel Thompson who’s the creator of Litwriters. We had such a great portrait session years ago (which the photo of her above is from) and recently reconnected and were talking about what I do with Be Your Own Beloved could be helpful for her litwriters!

So we decided to do something super special, a FREE 1 hour workshop to help you learn more about taking (and loving your own author photo). I’ll be sharing lots of tips for how to take your own author photo and make it look professional, powerful and authentic. I’ll also be sharing some great tips for how to feel empowered (and know what to ask for) from a photographer if you choose to go that route. Of course, we’ll also dig into how to not let your inner-critic derail you!

Sign up for the LOVE YOUR AUTHOR PHOTO webinar here!

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summerblog

This fall I had the total pleasure of doing a photo shoot with Body Image Coach Summer Innanen.

We had such a blast. Body compassion is such a pivotal part of ALL the work I do both in my classes and photo sessions and most often my photo sessions focus on creating safe space for you to feel supported and empowered in front of the lens. To help you feel like you are standing in your power in your body right here right now, and have that reflected back at you in images that let you shine.

It was such a treat to get to do a photo shoot with someone else who also lives and breaths body acceptance and who really practices what she preaches. She radiated the same kind of compassionate body confidence that she helps other people find in themselves. It was such a delight to get to capture Summer through my lens.

She’s as kick-ass, empowering and authentic in person as she is through her work!

Summer had also brought along a scale to smash for her photos and it was seriously exhilarating to photograph the sledgehammer breaking a scale. I had broken my scale accidentally years ago (and took it as a sign to never get one again and step full force into my own ditching-diet culture path) but hadn’t had the chance to smash one and so I said “Heck YES” when Summer passed the sledgehammer my way too!

I wanted to share the photos with you now, as Summer just launched her brand new website and all of the images used on the site are from our shoot. It’s SO amazing to see the images used in this way and to see her empowering photographs all over her site.

I also wanted to share them today in particular because right now on Summer’s site she is giving away the audio version of her best-selling book, Body Image Remix, for FREE. It takes you step-by-step how to feel more comfortable in your body and stop caring so much about what other people think Get your free audiobook and check out Summer’s new site here!

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toyoublog

Picture yourself this time next year. You are the same but so different. Because something you never thought possible has happened. Those critical thoughts that have followed you through your life have shifted.

They are not fully gone (they never do) but now, you hear a different voice, your own voice of compassion that believes in you. And you see your body differently, especially in photos. Rather than seeing someone where with elements that are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ (depending on the day) you see well…yourself.

You put those ideas you had about body acceptance into action and here you are. You feel it.

You realize you finally just get to be yourself, not someone who is failing or succeeding at fitting any certain standard of beauty or worthiness. And you put your hand on your heart and take the deepest breath of your life.

Because you didn’t believe this was even possible. You couldn’t have pictured this a year ago. But it is here.

And it wasn’t always easy. You showed up in the prompts that kept arriving in your inbox. Some days you really didn’t want to pick up that camera and show up for yourself. And some days you didn’t. But you built resilience. You kept showing up. And slowly but surely it felt more peaceful to see your body in photos.

It was as though someone came and cleared the lens you were seeing yourself through, and they did…you did. And what you now see is yourself, awaiting you there saying “You were always enough. I’m so glad you see that now”.

And you do. You see it. You see yourself without the layers of expectation of what your body ‘should’ look like. A metaphorical weight has been lifted off your back.

This act of resiliency, of reclaiming your power back has created a ripple effect beyond the camera too. You are more visible in your own life. You are more present in your own body. You are showing up for yourself and your life in ways you couldn’t have imagined.

You feel this tingle of excitement because now that you know that what you thought was impossible, that you could see and treat your body with compassion, you wonder what else you believe that isn’t true. You wonder what other possibilities await. Because you always knew that you weren’t put on this planet to spend your life hating your body and you know now that all that time you spent focusing on your body hate now gets to be put towards something else. And you can’t wait to see what unfolds.

You have left a trail of old stories that no longer serve you behind you and your feel the excitement of possibility.

So you pick up your camera on this day, a year from now and look into the lens with love, step in front of the camera with ease. With gratitude. With deep pride in all the photos you took but not just cause they look amazing (which they do) but because they tell the story of the past you becoming the present you and they remind you that nothing is impossible.

That you truly are resilient and powerful and worthy.

And if you ever forget again, you have these images. To bring you back home to yourself. Again and again and again. To come home.

*

Today I’m standing between this past year and the one coming ahead. I’ve had the absolute honor of spending the past year guiding an incredible collection of folks through the Body Peace Program, which is a year-long program made up of a series of classes (with breaks/rest time in between) inviting you to explore and cultivate body acceptance through your camera. Oh, and take photos you’re deeply proud of too. That’s a fabulous side-effect of doing this work.

But here I stand this journey to a close and I’ve been thinking of the folks who joined this time last year and wanted to write them a love letter to remind them of how far they’ve come. And to write a love letter to the folks joining in right now for the 2017 session of Body Peace who are probably deeply nervous yet are feeling drawn to this program. To stand on the other end of 2017 with a trail of old stories left behind them. To stand on the other side of 2017 and look back just like the folks this year are, and realize you did what you thought was impossible. And in a way it’s a love letter to a part of myself too, the part of me that deeply believed for most of my life that these stories would be with me forever and while they had been left behind me before this year, I’ve been changed by this work too and feel a body neutrality I never thought possible.

So this is for you, a love letter for this time next year.

When you’ve rewritten your old stories into a new love letter to yourself, visible in the images you see before you. The story of you, re-written.

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attheheart

Last week I spend a few days gathering with 4 dear university friends almost 20 years after we all lived together.

And I confess that leading up to the gathering, I was nervous. Not at first, but then the conversation of us all bringing our old photos from that time came up and I found myself really bothered by the idea of looking at them.

And the closer it came, the more my nerves rose about it.

Now, it wasn’t that I was worried about reacting to how my body looked in it. That would have been the case even just 10 years ago but is at the heart of the work I’ve been doing around body image and photos so I’ve become well practiced in supporting myself (and others) around that.

But I was nervous about seeing her. The one in the photos.

The 20-year-old Vivienne who I know would be waiting for me there.

It’s not that I don’t think about her. I do think of her often, that year of my life, and then I try to get it out of my mind. You see, that year these friends and I lived together, in particular, was a really really tough year in a variety of ways.

I didn’t want to look in her eyes and know what she was feeling. It was becoming clear that I had been avoiding her for a long time.

I’ve been doing a lot of work around photo resilience lately and so it was on my mind, knowing that what was coming up for me…this resistance, was a part of that journey for me. Photo resilience, to me, doesn’t mean that we ONLY feel good about our photos. It’s about how we respond and work through the tender emotions and responses that come up around photos.

It’s about showing up in a conversation with ourselves and staying when the conversation gets tough. And this was most definitely a place where I had 100% been resistant to my own photo resilience, where I hadn’t even let myself engage in the conversation with myself about this era of photos.

So as we all gathered and opened up the piles of photo books and envelopes of printed photos. Stories flowed out and some of the photos made me crack up, but there was that underlying element I had been nervous about. Because there she was awaiting me just like I remembered. I looked her in the eye, the 20 year old Vivienne  I had been avoiding. And I knew what I needed to do. I let myself feel it. I looked her in the eyes. I didn’t run away from her this time.

Because to me, that is photo resilience. Feeling it all. Before, during and after seeing the photos and giving ourselves tools for support along the way.

To not try to force myself into feeling positive, but instead, to let the natural emotional progression I’d been trying to repress be free to be felt.

I sat with my resistance, the vulnerability of looking at myself in these photos. What became clear to me though is that I’m not her anymore. I knew that of course, which is why I was trying to distance myself from my 20 year old self.

But I realized that what was at the heart of what I was resisting was also where I could access my resource of compassion for her.

So offered her the compassion that my 39 year old self does have for her. I sent her love. I showed up for her the best I could because ignoring her wasn’t doing me any good, just building up anxiety.

Sometimes looking back isn’t easy. But that’s how we heal those parts of ourselves that feel tender about old photos, the ones that stand out as the pivotal moments. 

And by looking ourselves in the eye and welcoming in that conversation we can help neutralize the charge around it, to ground the energy. Of course, this is not something we need to force or demand of ourselves. To me, that resistance and nervousness was actually a sign that the work was asking to be done (and of course, for some of us, we might also need the support of a therapist to do this work of looking back). But photos truly don’t have to be a place of anxiety or sadness. They can be a place of neutrality and exploration if we let them.

What happened after surprised me even more. One of my friends brought out a bunch of old letters I had written to her and other momentos from that time and our connection. Oh my, had I known this was coming too, I would have been equally as nervous as I was about the photos. Looking back is hard work. But there it was, this stack of letters in my familiar script.

I opened the first letter  I just started to weep. Sitting with the photos had cracked something open in me and these letters were taking me deeper in.

The words and the photos brought me back to a self I was just learning to love. I think that is what a lot of the anxiety was about too. I didn’t love myself then and even though I’ve done such big work on learning to love myself now, I hadn’t gone back to how it felt to be in the midst of that process at this really pivotal time.

I had to go back and learn to love her too.

And while I didn’t put that expectation on myself in this process of looking at old photos and opening up these old letters I had written, that is what happened. The words and the photos held this incredibly open-hearted 20-year-old (and yes, as vulnerable and messy as being so open-hearted brings).

I saw her incredible capacity to love others that would later become her capacity to love herself too.

I saw her visions for herself for the future.

I saw her learning to be loved and learning about heartbreak.

I saw her in the midst of perhaps an awkward stage of figuring out who she was.

I saw her awakening to her self-critique and how with support, she was starting to try to shed it but was still very much in the depths of it.

I’ve spent so long trying to not see her, knowing that she FELT SO MUCH and not wanting to go back to all that emotion.

I walked away from a few days that I had been incredibly nervous about, feeling like I found something unexpected in these photos, letters, and conversations. I had found a part of myself again, amongst those friends and our dynamics.

And yes, amongst the photos that told that story, even if it was a hard one to see. 

I left this gathering feeling seen in a way I didn’t expect. From others, but maybe most importantly, from myself.

I had been trying so hard not to see her, for years but it was time to start that conversation with myself again, with my history.

I’m grateful for 20 year old Vivienne patiently awaiting me in those photos and in the memories that surround them.

It was time to see her again.

To look at the young woman in the photos eye to eye nearly 20 years later. So I put my camera on the patio ledge and let myself be seen now too. I let myself just see what needed to be heard, which is one of my resilience practices. I may look sad in that photo but that’s not what I see.

I see a woman stepping up to her old stories, to her photo resilience and letting herself feel it all again.

So, in case you’re reading it and know that feeling all too well and are having some old stories come up, here’s a few jumping off points to explore:

  • What do you want to say to the person looking back at yourself in the lens? Write them a lil’ note and see what flows out.
  • What is the context of your life in this time? What was going on that could help you see YOU in these photos more clearly rather than just notice the body stories coming up now?

As well remember that this was one photo taken in one quick moment, probably in an era where we were using disposable cameras and didn’t take as many photos as we do now so it really is a snapshot of one moment in your life! Invite in compassion for the person awaiting you in that photo and remember that they are as worthy of your love looking back as you are of your own love here in the present.

photoresiliencenew300This is the kind of work we’re doing in the upcoming Photo Resilience class running August 7th-18th.  I’m sharing the tools that I used during this time of healing how I saw myself (and continue to use to remain resilient).

Get more details about the Photo Resilience class here. Or if you haven’t experienced the Be Your Own Beloved class or are looking for an even more gentle emergence into seeing yourself with compassion through your camera, there is a session of that program running this September!

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