The beauty of you: self-portraiture

you are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
and whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

~ Max Ehrman

This week I began a new class… on self-portraiture.  Aaarhgh.  Coindidentally, Chapter 5 of Inner Excavation (“I look closer”) is also about self-portraits and “a personal journey of discovering new ways to see yourself.”

The new class, NOW YOU, is 6 weeks of lessons with Kristin Zecchinelli and Meredith Winn (Shutter Sisters and all around awesome women and photographers).  Each week we will be exploring a different way of seeing ourselves through our viewfinders.  Their “ultimate hope is that you gather tools along the way that will have you loving YOU right NOW.”

I highly recommend reading this post by Liz about how powerful the gift of letting yourself deeply see yourself can be.  She says, “This is the practice of finding and using creative self-care every day so that when the hard stuff stacks up, you can lean into those tools and feel supported.”  How we think of our bodies is powerful stuff… check out this post from Sunni Chapman on Roots of She.

I am curves and contours, 
soft curls and sunspots.
I am a head tilt and a smile
with that one side dimple.
I am freckles and creases, 
proof of youthful summers spent outside.
I am curious, musical, creative,
a lover of words.
I am a seeker of a quiet corner.
I want to be known, nurtured, and loved.

OK so the poetry aspect in Inner Excavation is getting easier, thank goodness! That one only took a few minutes. 🙂

Self-portraiture, at least on day 1, feels selfish and full of self-judgement.  I am far from the self-aware point that Kristin and Meredith (and Liz) describe to be self-care: “a form of therapy, an artistic expression, a long deep look at what makes us who we are.”  The promise of all these things is keeping me going.  I also guess that some day I will want to remember the smoothness of my hands without wrinkles or the brown of my hair without the grey.  I want to appreciate and love my body for what it is now.

I deleted so many pictures in this mirror session except for this one; a face of frustration and doubt.

Lessons learned:

  • Quiet your inner critic as much as you can.  When you look at the photos, let go of how you feel about them and try not to make any judgements about yourself.  (I know…)
  • Crop out any distractions in the photos, like a red cup on the table behind you, so that the eye is drawn to you and the background disappears.
  • Try other fun ways to capture yourself besides looking directly at yourself… perhaps your shadow or reflection, part of your face, your hands, or your closed eyes.
  • Keep in mind that while you may not like how you look today, you may be glad to have these pictures 10 years from now.  It may be a privilege to look back at your younger self.

26 thoughts on “The beauty of you: self-portraiture

  1. This is an interesting exercise Naomi. I can already see myself feeling uncomfortable, which makes me think it’s a good idea 🙂 I’m seeing growth! I love the photo of you in the mirror.

    • I highly recommend it, Stacie. They are running another one because the first one was so popular and well-received. If they do it again, definitely sign up. The people who took it the first time can’t say enough good things about it.

  2. Yes, very interesting!
    I feel somewhat uncomfortable just to read about the course….. I really should need it……
    You are very brave Naomi! I also love the picture of you in the mirror, it is wonderful!
    I’m thinking of last week in our class, our assignment to train to show our vulnerability, this is just soooo good excercise of that.
    I’m in awe! =)
    Have a wonderful day

    • Well, I’m speechless, Marie. Remember we were e-mailing about making time for ourselves and how important that is with little ones underfoot? This is my attempt, I suppose. 🙂 I also find that whenever I tap into my sense of vulnerability, good things come back at me tenfold, like the encouraging comments here on this post and in meeting friends like you.

  3. I like the first photo the best, but they are all good, and you look differently in each of them. I tried to take a photo of myself last year for my blog & facebook profile and hated everyone that I took. The one that I thought was the best I added a vignette. Within a minute or two of posting it on FB, my son sent a link and said I looked like it. The link? A picture to a saint with a halo. Before I stopped chuckling, I took the picture down. My son’s penance for making fun of me? He had to take my picture a few days later! :- ) Self-portraits are hard.

    I also got an idea from your photos. I think I want to shoot a pic of my hands with my mom’s.

    • Yes you are, Janet! Decluttering is a huge act of self-care, at least for me. You are actively making decisions to let go of items that are intimately tied to your past, your memories, and your old selves. You are shaping the present for yourself based on what you envision for your life. That’s big stuff!

    • You know, I really hadn’t thought of it that way, Viv. That implies there is a dangerous aspect to this. Hmm. I am not about to let myself get hurt through this project. The ladies in the classes are so softly encouraging of each other that I feel safe. 🙂

  4. Naomi, what a powerful post…I love your self-portraits so far! The thought of taking pictures of myself is so incredibly difficult; every time I try, I delete almost all of them. This is an area where I need work. Right now I keep avoiding it…you inspire me! Your poem is BEAUTIFUL. And your blog is lovely!

    • I deleted almost all mine too on this first attempt. Kim and Xanthe suggested we leave the images on our cameras for awhile before even looking at them in the hope that coming to them fresh and in a different frame of mind may let us see something different/beautiful we hadn’t noticed before. So I’m going to try that! I think maybe B&W conversion may help too.
      Thanks for the compliments!

  5. I laughed when you said you want to capture your true hair color – I’m too late for that pic! I like the hand pictures and will try that today.

    • I’m happy to inspire you in any way, Robyn. I was actually telling my husband last night that I may be the only person to want to add some streaks of grey to my hair because I look way younger than my 37 years. I feel I’m not taken seriously because I look like a teenager. He only laughed and said it was all in my perception of myself, so I suppose that’s another area to work on. 🙂

  6. Naomi,
    I’m so glad you decided to keep the photo of you in front of the mirror. I see a very positive side of the face you see (frustration and doubt).

    Congrats for being brave, taking time for yourself, and sharing your authenticity.

    Hugs until the 24th.

  7. Pingback: A little poetry | Poetic Aperture

  8. Lovely, brave post! I love your mirror selfie as behind the quizzical look is a sparkle in your eyes that speaks volumes as to who you are in this moment on your path. Self portraiture is so powerful – I wish you much love and discovery as you begin this very rich process.
    xo Lis (waving to you above the rubble of my dig site!)

  9. Pingback: Inner Excavate-along: finding community | Poetic Aperture

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