This is me, looking into my own eyes with kindness.

andrea_self_portrait_700

Self-portrait, shot with Canon 6D

I caught myself today, telling my sister a tired old story on the telephone. You know the ones I mean –the thing you have been complaining about for years, the thing that never seems to change, the one that always brings you anguish. When I hung up today (after venting at length) I noticed how my body felt- icky, tainted, like I had just eaten an entire bag of fritos.

I think I’m done telling that story, I thought to myself.

I need a new narrative. One that’s still true but makes me feel empowered + hopeful.

I went on a photo walk this afternoon. I wanted to shake my legs and get in the mood for the Treasure Hunt course starting in a couple of days.

I found myself taking self-portraits, click click click and then peering into the tiny screen to see how they came out. Sometimes it’s hard to look at yourself, isn’t it? My skin is mottled, my eyes are too small, I should wear makeup… the critic had a steady stream of commentary. Then I remembered something that Vivienne McMaster had shared with me, a self-portrait exercise where you look into the lens with total kindness + love.

I decided to try it, peering into the camera with the kindest part of my heart. I acted as if I were looking at my own boys, tiny and perfect and beautiful. Not only did it feel good to do this, but the shots turned out so much better.

I’m not sure what this new story is. (I will have to call on one of my life coach friends for this one)

What I do know, is that the key will be starting from this place of kindness and love. From this angle, things are bound to look so much more hopeful + beautiful.

 

37 Comments

  1. rebecca
    Posted April 29, 2013 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    love this, love you.

  2. Amy J.
    Posted April 29, 2013 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    That is basically what I’ve always done or told my photo clients. For a portrait of yourself, look into the camera as if you are looking at someone you love deeply…put a look of love on your face that they would want to see. When you do that, you get a wonderful portrait every time. It’s always in the eyes (which of course they say is the window to the soul…love is carried in the eyes, always) : )

  3. Posted April 30, 2013 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    Oh it makes me happy that this activity came to mind in that moment and we can so see the love in your eyes!

  4. Posted April 30, 2013 at 12:20 am | Permalink

    What a beautiful post. We should all look at ourselves with kindness and love. I can think of no sweeter way to look at yourself than the way your children see you.

  5. Posted April 30, 2013 at 1:21 am | Permalink

    Your smile made me smile. Thank you!

  6. Posted April 30, 2013 at 1:29 am | Permalink

    Love this Andrea! I hope your new narrative is beautiful & life-giving.

  7. Posted April 30, 2013 at 1:51 am | Permalink

    Thank you!

  8. Chery Sampson-Dutro
    Posted April 30, 2013 at 1:51 am | Permalink

    Beautiful post and beautiful picture! Thank you. I think I will try this.

  9. Honey
    Posted April 30, 2013 at 2:18 am | Permalink

    To be able to reframe our stories and look at them and ourselves with softer, loving eyes. That is the secret and the wish. Today in particular I needed these words. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Posted April 30, 2013 at 3:44 am | Permalink

    I’m not a fan of the idea of a tattoo on my body, but I wish I could get a tattoo on my thought stream that said “kindness and love.” To remember these is to tap into the gooey chocolate ganache center of living. I could just melt into that place you caught so beautifully on film.

  11. susan
    Posted April 30, 2013 at 6:03 am | Permalink

    You know, Andrea, I have the same ideal, but this week i sure came up against opposition to this.. That is the difficult thing to encounter, and it can get you off track. There are myriad places though, i found, today, to verify (my belief). Your blog post today,, also Oprah’s new issue of O too! A new Jamaica Kincaid novel found at the library, full of craazy run-on sentences!, portraying what was my unfortunate own inclination to think in this way often.. What a funny world, what a mystery it is, what a wonder it is, what a traverse we are on! Isnt it so very glorious, in moments, and so incomprehensible, momentarily, too? I am enjoying it so much though,, ..even thru tears.. sometimes. ..And enjoying your documented exploration in this/your blog. Thank you so so much Dear-heart! Best to you always, Miss Suculant Wild Woman! You Rock!

  12. Posted April 30, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Andrea-

    Thanks for this post. I can so relate. Letting go of stories that don’t serve us is one of the best gifts we can give ourselves.

    I hope that you keep this photo in a place that will remind you of how beautiful you are from the inside out.

    Nan( friend of Ahri’s)

  13. Natalia
    Posted April 30, 2013 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    You are beautiful, Andrea! Your stories keep me coming back to you! Love always wins!

  14. jennifer
    Posted April 30, 2013 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Oh wow — you described so well things I have been pondering too. I read an article last week in some magazine at the doctor’s office where the author said simply, “It is YOUR story — you can reframe it. You choose what you give your energy/attention to in your life and how your life and everything in it is described and seen by you.”

    Like you, I have heard myself over the past couple weeks — almost have “caught” myself talking — in a rut of language. Same old problems, same old complaints, same old attitude, and it all feels sluggish, tired, cobwebbed-over, YUCK. Just as you described feeling in your body after talking with your sister.

    And I don’t LIKE who I am when I’m telling these tales in this way. There’s some line between vulnerability/honesty/”hey, this is where I’m at right now” — and staying stuck and helpless. I think of how I would want my little son to see me, and what I want for him too — and that is not it. I want to be myself, be truthful, but — not like that.

    And as a side note, I smiled all-too-knowingly at your stream-of-consciousness comment about your eyes being too small … such differences of perception … I have always been struck by your eyes in your photographs: so big and bright,perfectly proportioned and striking.

    Here’s to telling different — and still truthful — stories.

  15. Debora Pfeiffer
    Posted April 30, 2013 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Dear Andrea,

    You are such a mensch. Thank you for sharing you. I and we appreciate it so deeply.

    Yours sincerely,
    Debora

  16. Posted April 30, 2013 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this. And what a beautiful portrait. :)

    It seems like this is a message so many of us need to hear: to look within ourselves, at ourselves, with love, kindness, and hope.

  17. Wendy P
    Posted April 30, 2013 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    love this idea and thank you for sharing.. yes, its time to “change your story”.. and isn’t it amazing how your face can change based on the emotion you are feeling?? beautiful!

  18. Lisabeth
    Posted April 30, 2013 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    BEAUTIFUL. thank you for this! I’m working on changing my story too. taking hands with you in this.

  19. Tamara
    Posted April 30, 2013 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    This is wonderful, thank you. You struck a particular note with me “I acted as if I were looking at my own boys”
    To practice looking at myself with the consideration, wonder and patience I have when I look at the gorgeous children in my life- will my heart fill with that warmth, love and kindness? (Instead of the chilly spiky barbs of the critic…)

  20. Posted April 30, 2013 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    Oh Andrea, how I understand that eaten a whole bag of fritos feeling in telling the same story over and over!!! I get it, and I love this post. It too feel its time to be done with a few of my tired stories – not that they will go away because they make up a history and becoming – but they need a new reframing, and some quiet. Thank you for the inspiration! And lovingly kind self-portraits are amazing. Miss Vivienne is a genius. Such a difference! Much love to you today and every day!

  21. Posted April 30, 2013 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    And this kind of post is exactly why I am so excited to go on a Treasure Hunt with you starting tomorrow! Counting down the minutes :)

  22. Kathryn
    Posted April 30, 2013 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    Precisely what I needed to hear this morning. My inner critic started in on me upon awakening – his voice loud and incessant today. The concept of looking at myself with such adoration and love is a new one. One that I am going to cling to with ferocity today!
    xxx

  23. isavoyage
    Posted April 30, 2013 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    How beautiful you are! I’m so thankful to know you through your blog, you inspire me so so much thousands kms away. Thank you again and again.

  24. Kathleen aka "Chillybeans" Harrigan
    Posted April 30, 2013 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    Andrea- I can so relate to all of this. Reframe your story, reframe the portrait of your life…I think gentle reminders are gifts to all of us to lead with love not only in our actions to others, but especially with and to ourselves… Thankyou for this!

  25. jenna
    Posted April 30, 2013 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    do you ever get into narrative therapy? it’s about those concepts you mentioned of creating a new narrative of your own story

  26. Posted April 30, 2013 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    Yes! Just this week I had written in my notebook…

    TELL A NEW STORY!!!

    It’s so easy to do really. And frees us from all the crap of the old stories. New stories. New pipes. New perspective on life! Love it.

  27. Bridgette
    Posted April 30, 2013 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    I recently had that same experience with my sister. Thank you for your stories.

  28. Posted April 30, 2013 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    Bless You! I needed this today . . just this very moment.
    -g-

  29. Nina
    Posted April 30, 2013 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    Dear Self
    There is nothing wrong with you, not a god damned thing.

    (From a friend attending a women’s empowerment conference. This was from one of the young ones at a poetry event).

  30. Ann
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 1:54 am | Permalink

    Ahhhh to look at ourselves with Love + Kindness what a gift! You have beautiful eyes….

  31. Erin
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Its amazing how hard we can be on ourselves!
    Just thinking about how my face must look when I think of the love in my life, my son, man, and friends, I know I can see the beauty in my face. Your face is so warm and beautiful!

    And yes, letting go of those stories that are painful, like a hamster wheel with no end! I am learning by letting them go, it gives me such peace to not live in those stories of pain and discouragement.

    Thanks for sharing-so rich!

  32. Rachel
    Posted May 2, 2013 at 2:52 am | Permalink

    I once found myself doing the same thing–explaining (again) to someone that my mom has the amazing ability to hold a grudge and never let that sucker go. Then I realized I wasn’t helping her by allowing this to be my point of view of her story. I felt such relief when I released that grudge-holding image of her (my own tiny little grudge, I guess?).

  33. Monica
    Posted May 2, 2013 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

    I think this is a wonderful, wonderful practice for cultivating self-compassion! Maybe try sharing this with scholar Kristin Neff(her book is called Self-Compassion), or looking at her website for additional inspiration?!

  34. Nina
    Posted May 6, 2013 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been thinking more about this…many of us have gifts (or “geniuses”) that are a result of our own trauma or pain.
    We are able to shine on others, love-up others, and yet we still struggle to use our love genius on our own selves. Someday, I’ll have this all figured out :)

  35. Nicole
    Posted May 6, 2013 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    you are gorgeous! love this

  36. Kara
    Posted May 8, 2013 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Andrea, I think the picture above your self portrait is of Ben and his friend? Well, except for the hairdo, I think Ben’s picture is a splitting image of you in your self portrait.

    I don’t know anything that is more empowering and more hopeful than being a mom. I read somewhere where a lady was describing how the only calendar “holiday” she makes a point to celebrate each year is Mother’s Day. She responded the reason why was because she had to earn every minute of it. Isn’t that so true? Happy early Mother’s Day to you!

  37. Gemma
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    You have a beautiful, classical face for the ages. I look at that portrait and see the kind faces of generations upon generations of strong, resilient, loving women, flowing through time. That’s a level of beauty no cosmetician will ever be able to copy.

4 Trackbacks

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