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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.

bodypeaceblog

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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.

photoresiliencenew300This is the kind of work we’re doing in the upcoming Photo Resilience class running September 1-15th.  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, there is a session of that program running this October!

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resilientpost

I hear these stories all the time, the kind that go something like:”I had an amazing time but then someone posted a photo on facebook and now I feel like all that joy is gone and all I feel is shame about the photo”.

Or that folks have tried taking self-portraits but “took one and hated what I saw and have avoided the camera ever since”.

And I so relate to them. I’ve been in each of those moments and I think a lot of us have.

I hear these stories almost every week. I get tagged in posts in body positive facebook groups I’m in when folks share these stories (and thanks so those of you who share Be Your Own Beloved as a resource when folks are struggling with how they see themselves in photos).  Almost every Body Positive memoir I’ve read (and I’ve read plenty of them) or body image experience I hear on my favorite Podcasts has a moment like this in the story of their body image journey where they saw a photo that sent them down too and it comes up in conversations regularly.

We see ourselves in critique in a photo and it feels like it stops us in our tracks as we feel shame for what we see.

But the challenge is, we stop there.

We hold that moment as a truth, as ‘proof’ of what our body looks like or how we feel about it. And, like in those books or experiences folks share on the podcasts I listen to, for many of us, it becomes a part of the story of how we see ourselves.

As though it was written in stone.

But here’s the thing. What is missing from this way of being with photos and in my opinion, is the missing piece in body image healing especially in relationship to photos is this: resilience.

It’s what has been at the heart of my own journey to heal how I see myself in photos too.

I had a story of what my body looked like too, written in stone, confirmed in my heart and mind as proof. In fact, the photo felt like proof of what my inner critic had been saying all along.

And in a way, it took hitting rock bottom with my self-worth that it changed. It took a point where it felt like there was no other choice but to try something other than self-hatred.

It took the tiniest whisper in me saying “Um…pardon me, but I don’t believe that your time on this earth was meant to be spent thinking your body is something you’re meant to hate and fight against. Could we at least try something different?”

And because I was at rock bottom, because I had listened to my inner critic for so long as though it was my guru, that voice felt like something I could at least try.

It felt like what Angela Davis said “Sometimes we have to do the work even though we don’t yet see a glimmer on the horizon that it’s actually going to be possible.”

I feel like that’s where resiliency resides in us. Not in the places where we can see that there is going to be anything different, where we actually have that photo that we can see ourselves differently in. Or that moment when we shift past the self-critique in relationship to that photo we just got tagged in on Facebook.

Instead it’s in the moment where we stand before self-critique and self-compassion and choose a direction. Even if we don’t believe it yet. Even if we don’t think it’s possible.

This is how I became photo resilient. 

I started a conversation with the woman looking back at me in the photo, through the lens. 

And listened deeply for a story that wasn’t rooted in self-critique.

Even though it didn’t feel possible yet. 

And perhaps most importantly, continued the conversation even when it got tough. 

That’s the pivotal part. That’s where we become photo resilient.

Not by getting it perfect the first time and never having a hard day with our self-image.

But by showing up again and again.

photoresiliencenew300This is the work we’re doing in the upcoming Photo Resilience class running September 1-15th.  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, there is a session of that program running this October!

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  • Amanda FallAugust 23, 2016 - 12:25 pm

    Oh Vivienne, thank you. Your honesty and willingness to share your REAL journey always bring me such comfort and hope. I’m not totally resilient (I feel much better about pictures I take of myself, rather than ones other people take), but this helps. xoReplyCancel

  • […] 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% being resistant to my own photo resilience, […]ReplyCancel

creativemorningsimage

Earlier this month I had the honour of doing a talk at Creative Mornings here in Vancouver. If you’re not familiar with Creative Mornings, it is a speaker series that goes on in 149 cities around the world each and every month. There is a global theme each month and a speaker is invited to speak to that theme through their talk.

This months theme was…LOVE…a theme that was of course something I could speak to especially in relationship to seeing ourselves through a lens of love using our camera as our guide. And the best way I find to do that, is to share a bit about my story and how I learned to see myself with compassion and neutrality through the camera.

The day of the event was a great experience. I’ve been a longtime attendee of this event so it was pretty wild to be the one on stage this time. And while speaking is still outside of my comfort zone in a lot of ways, it’s something that feels important to do as a part of this Be Your Own Beloved work not for self-promotion but rather for connection…in hopes that sharing my story of shifting from self-critique to self-compassion just might make the difference in someone else feeling empowered to make that choice for themselves too.

If you’re interested in checking out more talks, a few of my local faves are Sam Bradd’s talk on Visual Language, Danielle Krysa (aka the Jealous Curator) and her talk on Humility, Kim Werker’s talk on Crafting to Fail and Rachael Ashe’s talk on Making by Hand. And if you haven’t been to a Creative Mornings event before you might want to see if there is one happening in your city or one near you!

So here it is (and you can also check it out here on the Creative Mornings site)!

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cameracraftgiveaway

I’m really excited to share that I’m a part of a really amazing class starting soon!

Camera Craft is led by Galia Alena and she describes the program (which is actually a combination of two classes) as:

“Camera Craft is designed to help demystify your camera and the technical side of photography, empowering you to follow your inspiration, and make expressive and beautiful images. It is photography 101 and it is so much more. I want the participants to walk away feeling like they have enough of a grasp of the technical stuff that they can really let their creative voices sing. Between all the samples and the guest contributors you won’t be able to help but be inspired.”

I had a lot of fun creating my video contribution for this program. I explored something a bit different than what I usually focus on in my classes but at the same time…it’s something at the heart of everything I do here at Be Your Own Beloved: Exploring Selfies through a Right Brain Perspective. In this video I share a number of activities and my favourite tricks for letting go of the technical overwhelm and feeling of “I’ve got to get it right” and instead learn from an experiential and inquisitive place.

And I’m just one of the guest instructors too. It’s packed full of powerful lessons from Galia as well as the inspiring creatives you see in the above photo.

Guess what…as a mentor for the class I get to give away one spot and that is indeed happening today! To enter,  click over and check out the course here. Then come back here and leave a comment sharing what you’d be most excited to learn about in Camera Craft inspired by what you saw on the info page.

The Giveaway is closed and the winner is: Casee Marie!

Congrats to all who entered and it’s not too late to join the class! You can head on over there and register! The first class starts June 27th!

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  • AlisonJune 23, 2016 - 12:43 am

    I would love to be able to master all the functions on my camera and be able to take it off auto. I don’t always like the photos it takes in auto!! I would also love to be able to take moving shots and shots in darker rooms. These are my current challenges. I learn best in a community and have always enjoyed that about your classes. It would be great to meet other photographers, too. And post-processing would be fun to explore…
    Thanks for the opportunity and giveaway, Vivienne.ReplyCancel

  • kortney garrisonJune 23, 2016 - 5:00 am

    I’d love to get on a first name basis with my camera 😉ReplyCancel

  • MaryJune 23, 2016 - 10:09 am

    I would love to learn to take all these stunning images.ReplyCancel

  • TinaJune 23, 2016 - 11:48 am

    I would love to be introduced to my camera as a “crafty” tool! I would love to learn about my camera better! 😃ReplyCancel

  • KarenJune 23, 2016 - 4:15 pm

    This course looks so amazing! I would love the opportunity to grow my skills as a visual artist. Often, there are moments when I wish I could capture the magic I am experiencing but my camera phone has its limitations. I have a DSLR camera that sadly sits idle because I am somewhat intimidated by it. Fingers (and toes) crossed!ReplyCancel

  • WendyJune 23, 2016 - 5:19 pm

    I would love to learn to capture the beauty I see in the world into an image – particularly through shooting into the light and telling a story through photography. Thanks for the chance to win a spot in the class, it looks fabulousReplyCancel

  • Casee MarieJune 23, 2016 - 8:59 pm

    Oh my goodness, I just saw this giveaway and I only have about seven minutes to enter (assuming EST applies) so I’m throwing my hat in the ring just in case! This is exactly the sort of class I would absolutely love. My parents gave me a dream gift last Christmas, my first DSLR, and learning how to use it has been a hobby I’ve somehow yet to find the courage to fully embark on. I’ve alwayslived teaching myself new things, yet I’ve lacked the confidence to explore with my camera. Camera Craft sounds like it would be just the thing as it encourages applying your photography experience to your own personal journey, something that really speaks to me as a severe anxiety sufferer on a journey of overcoming fear. I could say much more, but the clock is ticking so here’s my entry and fingers crossed!ReplyCancel

  • Destiny G KelledyJune 23, 2016 - 9:44 pm

    I would love to learn the mysterious ways of bringing the visions I have into my photos. Translating what captures my eye into gorgeous images full of shadow & light – it feels a bit like magic. Getting a deeper understanding of my camera & its features would help my photos go from flat to dimensional. Moving, emotional, artistic images – yes please!ReplyCancel

  • Diane DownsJune 24, 2016 - 8:41 am

    I would be most excited to learn from such a wide variety of photographers in one course. What a treat! To have so many heart centered women teaching together is fantastic! Thanks for the chance to win a spot!ReplyCancel

  • tracyJune 24, 2016 - 11:13 pm

    Ugh – I need to learn to use my dslr and love the incredible talent of women teaching this course, oh-my-lanta! If I just walked away with knowing more about exposure, this would be a huge win for me!
    Thanks!ReplyCancel

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