Shifting Focus: a Letter of Love to Women

Women, we are too hard on ourselves my friends! As a photographer, I am acutely aware of this fact.  You see I photograph families. I am beyond excited when I capture an image that portrays the love that lives within the everyday. The kind of natural exchange of love that lies within a look, a gentle swipe of hair off the brow, an embrace, a shared laugh with locked eyes. I share this lovey dovey image with my client and she tells me she doesn’t care for it because her thighs look big, or her arms look chubby, or her stomach looks saggy, etc.  Rather than focusing on the love, she focusses on her physical body.

I understand it all too well. There was a time in my life, more predominately when I was at my heaviest, when I refused to be photographed. I saw a camera and I ran for the hills. If forced into a photo, I opted for the “Gopher” pose. You know the old hide-behind-everyone-in-the-back-row-and-poke-your-head-up look. Looking back on it, I now realize I took years of printed memories away from my children.

I had a revelation the other day while I was trying in vain to fall asleep. A memory popped into my mind from a few years ago that happened while I was visiting my little sister Brenda. We woke up on a lazy Saturday morning. Brenda and I poured our coffees and sat in the filtered sun surrounded by our children who were in their glory to wake up and play together. The girls were playing dress up and skipping around the house filling the room with laughter. My son Lucas was composing his very own piece of music on the piano while my other son Ty laid on the floor playing with his iPod. Brenda’s daughter banged her chin on the ground and ran to the reassuring arm’s of her Mom so she could be inspected for injuries.

Click….

Click…

Click…

As Brenda talked to my Dad on the phone, my niece ran over to me and asked for an airplane ride. I laid down the camera, and my shutter-bug son Lucas picked it up.

Click…

The reason I have this memory is because of these photographs. Had this moment not been captured, I would have never remembered this hour of everyday life. Through time, this seemingly insignificant everyday life moment has transformed into an extremely significant memory that tugs at my heart-strings every time I look at it.

Here’s a weird fact: If I see something I want to remember and I don’t have a camera, I hold up my hand to where a camera should be and click the air with my right index finger. Yes, it’s weird but I swear it forces the image into my mind.

Moms: our children don’t look at our physical body. They just love their Mom. They see  our spirit, our heart, our love…not our body. I think about how I love my own children, purely, wildly, and with all that I have. It has nothing to do with aesthetics, yet I hold so many judgements when it comes to my body.

Those self-deprecating thoughts that play in our mind about our body are damaging, not just to ourselves, but to those who love us.  Can you imagine saying any of those things to a loved one?  Imagine telling your sister, or your mother, or your girlfriend, or your child:  “Great family photo, but your arms look huge.”  Yet, we accept this as our own truth. What does that say to our children? What are they learning from us?

My sister Janice is unable to walk without support because of MS. Can you imagine if I said to her “I hate my jiggly thighs.”   The thought of it makes me cringe.

To all you Women out there…

Appreciate your bodies. Your legs allow you to walk/run/dance, your arms allow you to embrace, your smile lights up a room and exudes warmth and joy.

Be good to yourself, children are listening, watching, and learning from you.

You are not defined by your physical body, it’s a part of who you are as a whole but it’s merely the vehicle for the spirit.

Let’s stop trying to be something that we are not but rather shift our focus to all that we are!

We can blame the media for our focus on the physical, but we buy into it.  To change it, we need to take responsibility for feeding our insecurities.

What would be so wrong with loving ourselves the way our loved ones do? The person we are as a whole. The generosity we show, the love we give, the energy we put into making the world a little brighter. The raising of spirited little children into confident self-assured adults.

When you wake up in the morning, be proud of the person you see in the reflection of the mirror.

You are beautiful.

You are amazing.

You are loved.

You are different!

Just be you with confidence and pride.

Treat yourself with the same level of love and respect as you treat those you love most.

And the next time someone asks to take your photo, remember that photo will produce a memory. Your loved ones need those.

From my heart to yours,

Christine

Back to the School Yard

Kids can be cruel.

Over the years, each one of my 3 kids have come home with hurt feelings from some sort of school yard incident.  My daughter is the youngest, and I find cruel words are more prevalent among girls.  I tell her it will all be OK, just continue to be who she is, and don’t worry about what others think of her.  She’s perfect as is.

I realize this is easier said then done.  I work from home, so it’s not very often I actually dress professionally when I’m editing photos alone in the comfort of my office (think yoga pants and baggy well-worn t-shirts I refuse to give up).  Today I managed to get up early and I actually did my hair, makeup, and dressed like I was going to work where *gasp* I would see other people.   Three O’Clock snuck up on me, and I quickly put on my favourite pair of brown heeled boots and ran out the door to pick up my kids from school.

You see, I love these brown boots. I feel confident when I walk in them, but since I’m usually at home I don’t wear them often.

I felt good getting ready for the day, so I suppose I did walk to school with a bit more zest in my step.  As I waited at the doors of my daughter’s school for the bell to ring, I noticed two Mom’s talking quietly beside me.  They looked over at me, and then continued whispering. I felt like they were talking about me, but told myself that was ridiculous, what could they possibly have to say as I was just standing there minding my business.

As they walked by me, the one Mom said to the other Mom loud enough so I could hear them “I didn’t know it was wear-your-stripper-boots-to-school day”. The other Mom looked down at my boots and giggled as they walked away.

I just stood there stunned with my mouth open, staring at my much-loved boots. “These aren’t stripper boots” I mouthed.  And then I felt stupid… just. for. one. second. The anger quickly set in, and in that moment of anger I wished I had something witty to say back.

It wasn’t until I got home that the patronizing words I tell my daughter rang in my mind…”Just be yourself, don’t worry what anyone else thinks about you.” The thoughts I had a few moments before in the “school yard” also replayed in my mind and I pictured myself saying to my daughter “Be confident, but not too confident or other women will think you are stuck up. Be happy, but not too happy or other women will think you are annoying. Be kind, but not too kind or other women will question your motives. Be proud, but not too proud or other women will think you are vain. Work hard to be successful, but not too successful or other women will be threatened by you.”

Bull Shit.

To all you women out there, I learned something today and it’s also raised more questions in my mind. Perhaps you can share some of your wise insights with me. Please feel free to comment on this topic!

Why can’t women support other women? Forgive me for generalizing because this certainly isn’t the case for the women I am so thankful to have as friends. I’ve met some incredibly supportive women. I’m just questioning the times in our lives when we are cut down by other women.  Those times when catty comments filled with judgments and misunderstanding are delivered when one just needs support, kindness, and understanding.

There’s many distorted messages in the media that influence women in a negative way regarding how we should look, how we should dress, what our role  in society should be…and yet, rather than women supporting and uplifting other women, there are times like the one I just experienced that places us right back into the school yard full of insecurities.

So this is what I learned today:

Do not make assumptions about another person based on their outside appearance. We are all just people. All deserving of respect and kindness. If a judgment pops up in my mind about another person I’m going to take some time to evaluate WHY I feel that way…because it’s more about my own insecurities. It truly isn’t about them.

Kindness is important.

Positivity is important.

It’s OK to walk with your head held high. There was a time not so long ago when I walked with my head down. I refuse to go back there.

I will continue to support, uplift, encourage and genuinely appreciate the women I meet in life. It DOES make a difference.

Positive out, Positive in. You receive exactly what you give. I’ve never been so sure of this fact in all of my life than I am now.

I will accept and love those who I do not understand.

I will not hide my strengths because of another’s weaknesses.  There is nothing wrong with loving who you are. I was trapped in self-loathing for much of my adult life. It’s not a fun place to be.

There is nothing better than watching a friend succeed. Successful, independent, confident women motivate and inspire me. Thank you to each wildly imaginative, accepting, successful, caring and kind woman whom I have had the pleasure to meet. You make me a better person.

Tomorrow I will walk with my head held high back to school, and I may even try to find higher heels to walk in.  Who am I kidding, I would twist an ankle. My doctor once prescribed me high-tops for my weak ankles. Sadly, this is a true story. But a smile will still be on my face. 🙂

From my heart to yours,

Christine