I want to write today on the importance of Self-Love & Empowerment.
I know some of you probably roll your eyes at that word, I know because I used to. I feel like we hear that word a lot in this community but what does it really mean? I’m going to answer that today.
See I’m a portrait and boudoir photographer and I created my business around the idea that we need to love ourselves as much as we love other people in our lives. On my website I talk about being “Flawsome” which is a woman who knows that she has flaws yet still thinks she’s awesome. You know what makes a woman beautiful and sexy? All dating coaches, therapists and gurus say the same thing: It’s her confidence.
Yet I talk to women everyday who tell me:
“Oh, No. I don’t like any photos of myself”
“Well good luck, I hate the way I look”
“I’ll do the shoot when I lose 10lbs.”
“Can you make me look thinner?”
“But can you Photoshop my muffin top?”
Yes. I can. But that’s not the point. Why is it so hard for us to look at a photo of ourselves and smile? Why when we see an image of ourselves do we only see our flaws and not our beauty? It’s so easy to see our friends as beautiful but why have we become blinded to our own beauty? It’s become quite a normality these days for women to complain about their looks. And I had to ask myself, why is that?
We’ve been taught to think differently – by our parents, teachers, partners, and society. They may have good intentions, but they were wrong about a lot of things.
They’ve taught us to believe that Worrying = Love. So now we live in fear.
They’ve taught us to believe that embracing our sexuality and showing our bodies is wrong. So we shame ourselves or others for doing so.
They’ve taught us to believe that you can only be sexy if you were thin. And now they teach us to embrace our curves because thin people must be unhealthy and anorexic.
Do you see how incredibly damaging this upbringing can be? It’s honestly no surprise we have issues with loving ourselves. I started my photography business based on the idea of empowering women through portraits. The idea that we need to exist in photographs. But it’s bigger than that. There is something fundamentally wrong with the way we see ourselves. We need to be responsible in changing that. We need to set the example for our children, our friends, our own mothers, and our students. We need to set the example for the rest of the world!
I truly believe that each and every human being on this earth is a beautiful soul. I believe we spend a lot of our adult life un-learning what our parents and society taught us to believe. I don’t want any more of you beautiful powerful women (or men for that matter) to waste your precious lives and thought space on molding yourself to fit into what society wants you to be.
We spend more time focusing on our negative qualities than we do our positive ones. And why? Our ego. Our ego has to keep us in check, we can’t see ourselves as perfect because no one is perfect and we have so many flaws we need to correct so we can be LOVED. Which is the biggest lie of all. Unconditional love doesn’t exist from others it can only exist in ourselves.
Does this sound familiar?
“I will always love you.” – Mom
“WHAT?! You want to drop out of school to be an artist?! That is not who I raised you to be!” – Also Mom
In this scenario Mom is withdrawing her love to her child because she is scared. Scared that her child will not be successful as an artist. but mostly scared that would make her a bad mother. Mom withdraws her love to teach you to listen to her advice so that everything can go her way. Therefore Mom only gives you love when you’re pleasing her and living up to the perfect expectations she has for you.
Mom is not a bad person, nor a bad mother. It’s not her fault. It’s how she was raised by her own parents and so to parent you the same way is the only way she knows best.
If you want to argue that unconditional love can come from others, just remember that we are all imperfect human beings who have our own fears and issues and as much as we try not to, it is just impossible not to project them onto the people in our lives. And that’s okay. All we can really do is try our best. That is why we can only rely on getting love from our very own selves to heal. So how can we do that anyway? It’s easy to say but harder in practice. But I have an exercise you can try.
Self Love Exercise #1 – Changing Core Beliefs:
1.) Take notice through your day how often you find yourself thinking self-deprecating thoughts. Take notice how often you find yourself making self-deprecating comments out loud. Can you think of a few of these right now? Write the thoughts and comments down. Pay special attention because they might not even seem like self-harm and more like a joke. A self-deprecating joke. Write those down too
- Example: For me I struggled with Acne and the fact that I unconsciously felt weak and powerless.
- Whenever I received a compliment on how my skin was improving I often made remarks like “Heh, well yeah that’s because I’m wearing makeup today.”
- Or when someone offered to help me with a heavy bag “Yes please, I’m such a weakling”
2.) Take a special notice of recurring and common self insults. Now once you’ve spotted them, stop what you’re doing and rationalize. Are these thoughts true?
- Example: “Well I am definitely not as strong as other women I know, it seems like they could handle their bags better than I can. And I’ve always been told that I’m just skin and bones….But I’m not. I have muscle, I mean hell I can hold a handstand in yoga so why wouldn’t I be strong?”
- From that moment forward I found ways to validate my strength not only physically but mentally. “I can’t believe I was able to lift that suitcase on the overhead bin all by myself, I’m so damn strong” “You know what Audrey, going after your dreams and starting a business is scary. Most people wouldn’t go for it let alone stick with it. You are so strong.”
- Even when you hear it creep back up “you are weak-NO. NOPE I AM STRONG”
3.) Go back to that journal and address every negative belief that you have about yourself. Now write the opposite next to it.
- If you wrote “I hate my hair” Now you write “I love my hair!” And then think about ways to find love for your hair and write those down too! “Well I guess I do like the color of my hair, and how long it is….and even though I wish it had more volume and held curls, my friends are always jealous because my hair is so straight and shiny. I guess I should be grateful that I even have hair, some people don’t. I love my hair.”
4.) Next step is to set daily mantras. I do these in the car on the way home from yoga.
- “I am strong. I am beautiful. I am intelligent. I am successful. I am peaceful.”
This is how we begin to reverse our negative beliefs about ourselves, and even situations in life. Not only do I use this on myself but I now use it anytime something seemingly bad happens. Turns out things aren’t ever as bad as they seem anymore and I live a much happier and peaceful life because of it.
And if you do this exercise and it still doesn’t work. I have something else to share with you…
Dr. Emoto played different frequencies of music to water and examined the water under a microscope. He found that when the frequency of the music changed, the water pattern also changed. He took this same idea to cooked rice. He split the rice between two jars and kept them a few feet apart. Each day he gave one jar positive affirmations while the other one he spoke negatively to. Over just a week he found that the “I hate you” jar had molded rapidly while the “I love you” jar remained pure. I tried this same experiment at home with an apple, I don’t know what happened to the photo I took but I’m happy to Promote Danielle’s:
If our bodies are 80% water, then what does that mean for us?
Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me? Yeah that’s a lie too.
It means that the words we tell each other and ourselves and even the thoughts we think are impacting us on a physical level. We are literally making ourselves sick. Ridiculous isn’t it?
If you are having deep resistance to self-love and the processes I’ve given you. There is something I’d like you to then try. If looking at yourself into the mirror and convincing yourself that you are beautiful feels like you’re lying to yourself then take a glass of water (preferably purified water) and put your hands around that glass. Focus on something that you do actually love (your children? Your Mom? Your best friend? Your dog?) Focus ALL of your love on that person or thing, holding your hands around the glass of water for as long as it feels right. Then drink it. You will be filling yourself up with your own love. <3
This is my mission in life, to inspire and empower others to realize their fullest potential and to see the beauty in yourself that I see in each and every one of your lovely souls.
Did you try this exercise? Let me know how it went! Share this with a friend who needs to hear it. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
Chicago Boudoir & Portrait Photographer