<em>Ladies Who Launch</em>: Forget Perfect

I fear the never-ending crusade for perfection and the general self-improvement mania of our times is getting in the way of us celebrating ourselves - as we are now.
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What do you think the genesis of the New Years Resolution is? Is it a manufactured holiday sponsored by some mysterious entity that stands to profit from A) our self-loathing, which in turn creates, B) consumer-driven action to fix said "loathed" state? Wouldn't it be great to face January 1st with a sense of "gosh, it's great to be me! Whatever I do over the next 364 days will be just perfect." Or is that just too sane for our hard-driving, self-improvement-serious ethics?

Incubator member Lone Schneider reveals her own battles with perfection, which I'm guessing are pretty universal. Her piece made me feel almost okay about going to Fiji with no hint of spray tan, two months shy of a bikini wax and three-year old bathing suits from Target. Thanks, Lone!

Amy Swift, Editor-in-Chief, Ladies Who Launch

A New Year's Celebration

by Lone Mørch Schneider

Lolo's Boudoir

Come Christmas, come New Year resolutions. With an ominous sense of obligation to reflect on the year that passed, and inject the coming with meaningful intentions and to-dos, I've not always taken the task lightly. The New Year was a promise of possibility. The perfect chance to improve -- me, my life, my relationships, my body -- and although New Year's Eve seldom was as spectacular as expected, I would still have high hopes for something profound, something magical to happen. But hugs, kisses and champagne bubbles aside, it never really did. Instead of simply celebrating myself, I'd be eager to discard outdated habits, implement a better diet, get more exercise, take that class, have stronger focus in my business, avoid distractions, have more fun, find more meaning, create better relationships, in short, be a "better" me.

January 1st everything is back to normal. I'm the same person. With an extended to-do list. And checking the internet, I see I'm not alone: A mighty army of evangelists (life coaches, therapists, bloggers, etc.) offer innumerable amounts of advice on how to do the "to-dos", how to follow through on them and how not to get disappointed when you don't. And I wonder, do we really need another to-do list?

I fear the never-ending crusade for perfection and the general self-improvement mania of our times is getting in the way of us celebrating ourselves - as we are now - and our ability to enjoy life with all its drama, detours and imperfections.

I for one have fallen short on that. How to celebrate when life isn't exactly 'there' yet? When I'm not that fabulous person yet? Or the people around me aren't the perfect friends either?

Like most women, I want to be and look fabulous. And have it all. My success standards are high and demanding in regard to career, finance, relationship, family and friends, sex, health, spirituality, travels, fun, and more. Meanwhile, I have a strenuous relationship with my ever-changing body. It never seems to feel or look just perfect. At 40, I realize I soon have to deal with aging, pending menopause and their subsequent effects. It never stops, does it? Perfection seems a futile undertaking.

What is perfection anyway?

A wise woman once told me, perfect people are boring. Ironically, this is the same message I'm now learning again through my work with women's self-image and sensuality. Through personalized photo sessions, I capture women's spirits, bodies and expressions on film, making them into a work of art, which in turn, helps them embrace their bodies and embody their sensuality in a new, liberating way.

My business has taken off, it seems, because I'd hit the nerve of an important need among women: they want to celebrate themselves. They, too, are fatigued by the pursuit of perfection. They yearn to feel at ease with their bodies, they want to play, let loose, let go of limiting ideas about who they are. They want to defy the ideals of our times and define beauty on their own terms. Ultimately, they want to love themselves as they are.

After five years of looking at women through the camera lens, reflecting their personality and beauty back to them in a series of portraits, I've finally learned that perfection is boring, and it doesn't exist. No body, no face, is symmetrically perfect. In fact, it's the imperfection that gives the physical image personality and expressiveness. Imagine for a moment "fixing" Meryl Streep's nose? She would loose her charm and trademark beauty immediately. True beauty is to be found in our imperfections, in our daring to be real.

I am learning that beauty has to do with a feeling. I don't always look beautiful, but there are moments where I feel beautiful. Mostly, when I've taken time to tend to my inner and outer self and savor the world around me with all of my senses. Simply said, you may look fantastic in your newest dress, but if you don't feel beautiful inside, it won't matter. As cliché' as it may sound, the truth is that beauty comes from within from self-appreciation, love and acceptance. We are all worthy of celebration.

This of course doesn't mean that you can't strive for a new version of yourself, but it sure is easier to change habits and negative self-images, if you come from a celebratory, self-accepting place. That doesn't mean feeling like a diva everyday, but instead asks us to be aware of the positive effects that self-acceptance and appreciation have on the rest of our lives.

So this New Year, I'm not going to make another to-do list. I'm not going to imbue 2008 with profound intentions of galactic blossom or infinite abundance. I'm simply going to celebrate myself, my life, as a work of art (in progress), imperfectly, artistically beautiful. Do you care to join me?

Lone Mørch Schneider left Denmark at the age of 16 to explore her interest in culture, the human condition and storytelling. Her journey has taken her all over the world and given her the opportunity to manage a wide-spanning range of projects, including a pivotal role in rural development in Nepal.

Lone has combined her extensive global travel and love for the art of photography to create Lolo's Boudoir, a professional photography studio that focuses primarily on women. It is a place where women can safely express and explore their sensuality and beauty. She finds it striking how her experience working with women's empowerment in rural Nepal has carried over into her current photography - revolving around women's empowerment. Examples of her work can be seen here.