My hangup about visibility came up for me before I was even having the photographs taken. What did it mean to be seen? You're talking to a woman who didn't even get University graduation photos taken. I have lots of energy circulating around being seen, success and recognition.
My sh*t, my gremlins asking me, "Who do you think you are?" come to the surface: nobody wants to see this body, you're not a model, you want to these photos to show whom?
The floodgates of shame and worthlessness opened wide and the deluge was messy.
It was my mess, contained behind years of codependency, emotional abuse, emotional eating, low self-worth and wanting to be accomplished yet simultaneously invisible. My thermometer for success was set on low.
All this surfaced before the lens cap came off.
I had crafted an entire story about how bad the experience would be before we even began, about how I was a huge inconvenience to the photographer by being a burden on her time, resources, insulting her craft with my enormous thighs and belly folds.
My lovely, feminine, Goddess photographer April arrived at my doorstep and I started sweating blood. We exchanged pleasantries about the nice dresses I had picked out, knowing quite well they would not be used for the entire shoot.
"What do you want to come out in the photos?" she asked. "What do you want to convey?"
"I want to feel nourished, abundant, clarity, freedom, expansive. Can you do that?"
"Yes. It's in you. I can help you capture it."
At that moment I mentally created a box to put my fears, insecurities and unworthiness into and gave myself three hours to ignore it.
Just three hours.
We picked a sunny secluded location with a great mixture of light and shade, trees and grass. Being outdoors felt very freeing.
She took some stock business photos for me to use as a warm up, and then the time came.
The time to take off my clothes.
By this time I felt like dry heaving and wanted to go reclaim my fears and unworthiness from the box -- but I didn't.
Instead I dug deep, found my courage and stared down the lens of her camera with my soul, my bare breasts and my stretch marks exposed. I kept breathing and with each breath, drew in more of what I wanted to feel: clarity and abundance, expansiveness and freedom.
This was freedom. I had finally tasted it.
What did I learn from this experience?
1. That I was apologizing for taking up space in this world with my body, my opinions and my right to a happy life.
2. That my vulnerability was (and always has been) the catalyst for profound shifts in conscious thought, moving away from fear and towards bravery and resilience.
3. That I was attempting to determine the outcome of the photos before the lens cap was removed. I was attempting to control the outcome by setting up conflicting expectations about how this venture was going to be successful, the only way.
These are all variations a on a theme: Shame.
Brene Brown says: "Shame is the unattainable and conflicting/competing expectations about how we are supposed to be."
Shame is all about disconnecting from our bodies, our true selves, ultimately ignoring our intuition which is attached to the bodies from which we are disconnected.
The solution? Get back into our bodies. Stop living in the expectations in our heads. Begin to re-familiarize ourselves with the sensations of fear, love, joy and shame when they arise. Decide what stays and what needs to pass through and out the other side. Not stopping shame on its journey through the body creates more space for love, pleasure and true intimacy to reside. Notice how different fear and love feel at a somatic level. Remember and breathe in the scenario of forgiveness to lean on in tough times.
It is up to us how much space we want to create for pleasure and joy to live within.
I would never have been able to have this profound shift in conscious thought if I had not found support and reconnected to my body. My catalyst for change was to find the intersection of fear and vulnerability within myself, my oasis of courage.
If you feel moved by this piece, know that there is always support waiting in the wings to offer the insight you need to capture the desire, the courage and the essence of your truth living just below the surface and waiting to emerge, you'll be so glad you did.