Recently I sat in a circle with 16 other women who came together on retreat in Hawaii to reclaim their Re-Imagined Selves. Stepping into the courage of “who I wish to become” requires first that we stand openly in acceptance and acknowledgement of who we are.
It was the second day, they were looking at photos of themselves.
It was quieter than quiet.
Dewitt’s great photographic skill had caught each one of them on the previous day as their “authentic selves”. We had been workshopping hard, journaling and sharing and discussing and he caught them in action states - listening, thinking, speaking. He caught them in emotional states of frustration, concern, elation, hope, fear. He caught them in physical states - standing, moving, crouching, lying. Each time he used his exquisite skill and his eye to capture each woman in her truth, as she was experiencing herself through the workshop moments.
These photos were not posed or planned.
There was no hair fluffing or mascara, we had been up since dawn.
There were no composed faces, better sides, forgiving light, soft camera-ready smiles.
No one had checked for pulled-in tummies or double chins.
No filters or photoshop.
There was only what was real, raw, true.
And they were looking at them.
And they hated them.
I mean, HATED them. They hated what they saw. It was visceral. It was horrible. It was palpable.
The longer we sat the more I could feel my own discomfort growing. The truth is that they did not need to voice all the hateful things that they were thinking in that moment, I’ve heard my own version of that voice in my head for most of my life.
I could see their lashes barely held back tears, their lips were pursed, their temples throbbed.
They were disgusted, dismayed, shocked. That’s what they shared with me with such venom that I struggled not to recoil and run.
“I am too fat, too old, too wrinkly, too wobbly”, turned quickly into
“I am disgusting, I am unworthy, I am gross”.... and then
“I don’t like this person”
How did it come to be that we have learned such contempt for ourselves?
Each woman slowly revealed her shame, convinced that her photos were terrible, that they revealed imperfections that had stayed dormant and unseen by any of us until now.
What we hated is that we saw that we were vulnerable. Here was evidence of us unbridled, uncontrolled, imperfect. Not influencing how someone would experience us, but interacting with our environment, our feelings and one another.
Think of it.
We never see ourselves in our vulnerable moments. I don’t know what my face looks like in desire, anguish, hunger, frustration, though I experience those emotions every day. The only time I really witness myrself “living life” is when I see my reflection in the bathroom mirror brushing my teeth, putting on mascara and perhaps a quick flash as I pass the mirror by the door.
Most of our lived moments are either unseen or posed. You stop, fix yourself, chin up, head angled, eyes focused, serene expression for the photo and then get back to whatever you were doing.
One of the participants did something bold that night.
She sent her photos to her 3 children and her husband. She had asked them which was their favourite and why, not revealing to them to 2 that she thought were “ok at best”.
What they came back with stunned her. The ones that they chose were ones that she had eviscerated herself in. But what they said gave her some insight to what they saw.
This one mom, because that how you look when you sit on my bed at night and listen to me.
THIS one mom, because you are laughing and your face is scrunched and I love when we are not self-conscious together.
This one, because when you dare to cry in front of me I am overcome with how much I love you.
Those were the faces her family saw. Not the portrait face, not the posed face, not the sitting up straight look at the camera head tilted face. Not the corporate headshot I will take my place in the world face.
But rather, the mid-hug wish I could make it better face,
the runny nose teary eyed feeling your sorrow face,
the tired but willing to listen to you face.
How well do you know your face?
Slowly as the week progressed we began to love our faces. Because we realized that they are the precious things that our loved ones, our children, our mothers, our lovers saw. They are the gateway to the passions and the dreams that we hold. They are the canvas on which our wins and our losses are painted. And in the end, they are our truth, witnessed by anyone who is sharing our journey.
And nothing was more freeing than to step into our truth.
Wholeness, peace, positive energy- I so desperately wish it for the world right now. But I believe that achieving it all depends on what we hold within ourselves—our peace with who we are.
Would we not start to heal the world if we first cleaned up the self-talk of hatred and pretend as we look at our own face? Once we do not allow that it was possible to hate ourselves, only then will it become truly inconceivable that we could hate one another.
We cannot seek peace in the world until it is first within.
This week of the Re-Imagined Self allowed me to Re-Imagine the dialogue that I was holding with myself and to choose the authentic, light shining from within me.
Celebrating what’s right in the world - and in me,
Tania Carriere and Dewitt Jones hosted The Re-Imagined Self, a 7 day experiential retreat in Molokai Hawaii. For more information about this retreat or other Advivum Journeys in 2018 visit AdvivumJourneys.ca