re-picturing WORTHINESS

Worthiness (noun). Having value or worth.

Do you believe you are worthy? Wait a second. Let me ask again. Do you really believe you inherently have value or worth?

I am continually reminding myself that my worthiness is not contingent on anything I do or have. It does not matter how much I weigh, how old I am, how much I earn, how beautiful my home is, how many publications I have, how many places I’ve traveled to, how many hits I get on my blog, how many good photographs I take. Your “hows” may be somewhat different than mine, but so many of us make our worthiness dependent on something outside ourselves. We are all worthy. Period. That’s a wrap. Enough said. You have worth. Do you believe it?

re-picturing WARRIORS

From worrier to warrior.

Worrier: a person who torments oneself with or suffers from disturbing thoughts.

Warrior: a person who shows great vigor, courage.

Last weekend we trekked to Minnesota, so that I could help my mom throw a bridal shower for one of my favorite cousins. The events leading up to bridal shower were, how shall I say it, a bit very stressful. As a result, my mom was very worried about the event– about the little things – would we have enough food – and about the bigger things – would there be a major blow-up between the conflicting parties.

In the aftermath, with drinks in hand, we were reflecting on how worried we were about the event and how well it actually went – we had just enough food and there were no major conflicts (perhaps a couple nasty looks, but nothing too bad).

I deeply desire that women go from being WoRRIeRS to WaRRIoRS.

I think the possibilities for this shift in frame of mind are significant.

Psychologists have suggested that rather than worrying about potentially stressful events, adopting a warrior perspective indicates that yes, it may be difficult, but we have the power and resources to cope with anything that comes our way.

I think we could also adopt this perspective when it comes to our bodies. Perhaps we can go from being at war with our bodies, worrying about how we appear to others to being warriors of our bodies, recognizing that we have strength and fighting power. Those things that experience has done to our bodies – the stretch marks from pregnancy, the wrinkles from age – are the battle scars that come with the territory. Rather than resorting to starvation or binging, which reflect a level of self-hatred toward our bodies, we could deal with difficulties straight-on. It’s something to consider.

Worrier or warrior? Which are you?

re-picturing THE WAITING (WEIGHTING) GAME

What is the waiting game?

Waiting (or should I say weighting) to lose a few pounds is a crafty form of procrastination that our society teaches many women to use.

It may be small delays.

I’ll replace my ratty swimsuit (you know the one I’m talking about) once I’m able to drop a size or two.

I’ll join that new gym after I lose a few pounds (why are there so damned many skinny people on those treadmills).

I’ll renew my vows once I can fit into my wedding dress (from 20 years ago).

But minor delays can meander into major detours.

If I apply for that job and get an interview, I’ll have to buy a new suit at this bigger size and I just can’t handle that right now.

The thought of wearing a swimsuit in front of others horrifies me. I’ll wait on that beach vacation until next year.

A first date might turn into a first kiss, which might turn into something else and I just can’t stand the thought of someone seeing me naked right now. Maybe we can go to the movies another time.

One solution for the weighting game is to take one small step toward accepting our bodies just the way they are.

Perhaps we buy a swimsuit (or a pair of jeans, or a dress, or whatever) that flatters our current body, rather than the one we wished we had. We buy a treadmill for our home, rather than joining the gym.

Ironically, doing something out of self-love for our bodies can take the focus from our bodies to the real things in our lives that are weighing us down. And it can help to lighten the load as we take small steps in the directions of our dreams.

What is weighing you down? It might have less to do with the number on the scale than you might think.

re-picturing EMPOWERMENT

Are you empowered?

Girl power, as conceptualized by the Oxford English Dictionary, refers to power exercised by girls; specifically a self-reliant attitude among girls and young women manifested in ambition, assertiveness, and individualism.

I am ALL about empowering girls and women of all ages. I strongly desire that each girl and woman be able to tap into her inner strength, trust herself, and let her own song be heard.

I am woman, hear me roar. You go girl!

When I look to our culture, however, I am deeply disturbed and angered by the conflicting and limiting messages that we send about empowerment.

On the surface, girls and women have a multitude of means for empowerment. We can do anything we put our minds to. However, a closer look reveals a message that consumerism and sexualization are often required.

Spring’s latest fashions, the fad diet of the week, a haircut that properly frames your face, and, of course, the right push-up bra (that shows just enough, but not too much cleavage) will transform you from an invisible, insecure doormat to a powerful, butt-kicking diva.

If we only had these things, we’d march into our boss’s office and demand the promotion we deserve. We’d get into a meaningful relationship. We’d start that new creative project we’ve been dreaming about. We’d finally be able to look ourselves in mirror and respect what we see.

However, what most girls and women discover is that none of these things leads to genuine, long-lasting empowerment.

What if we took a slightly different approach? What if we realized that we already are empowered. There, I said it. You heard it here first. We already are strong. We already have an inner voice that we can trust. We already know what we want and how to get it.

Perhaps then we could use our resources (our money, our time, our energy) to invest in those things (yes, even shoes) that reflect our true, empowered self?

Are you empowered? I think know so. What are you going to do about it?

re-picturing SPACE

Are you trying to lose weight? Do you often don a posture with your arms and legs crossed over your body? Do you resent mirrors that make you look bigger than you actually are? Do you feel a sense of pride or accomplishment when you can fit into your skinny jeans?

If you responded yes to the above questions, you are much more likely to be a woman than a man.

In our society, we encourage  girls and women to be small and take up less space than men. Although we may encourage our girls to have big ideas, we simultaneously convey to them that they should restrict the space they use, by telling them to sit more ladylike (with arms and legs crossed over their bodies) and through the clothes that we encourage them to wear (its hard to take up much space in skirts and tights). This follows girls through to womanhood. How many men do you know who are trying to fit into a size 6? I’m pretty sure that men’s clothing does not have a size 0. A size 0 implies that we literally want women to vanish, disappear, or to be nothing.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a firm believer that less is more when it comes to most things. Less TV, less gossip, less spending, less junk food, less stuff. But this is not the case when it comes to space. Space has both physical and symbolic power. By being bigger, we literally take up more space in our worlds. In fact, the ideal body for men often includes a muscular physique. In some ways, this is just as difficult and dangerous to attain (often through excessive exercise or steroid use) as the thin ideal body that we encourage women to attain. But being muscular gives men additional space, strength, and power. This doesn’t stop at physical space. When we focus attention on women’s bodies and how much space they are taking up, women tend to talk and voice their opinions less.

How can we encourage girls and women to take up more physical and symbolic space while still feeling good about their bodies? What strategies have worked in your own life?

re-picturing WORDS WILL NEVER HURT ME

You should never, EVER wear sandals. Your feet are SOOOOOOO ugly.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

I beg to differ.

I don’t remember his name, but I can’t forget his words.

Most of us are surrounded by a cacophony of voices. That was a stupid thing to say. I’m never going to get this done. I’m running late…again.

For women, the voices often go for the jugular – they attack our bodies and/or our sexuality.  Eat this. Don’t eat that. My eyes are up here. Is that another wrinkle? Are my roots showing? Do these pants make my butt look big? Did he think I was asking for it?

Have you ever wondered where these voices come from?

Unfortunately, we often carry the words of others with us long after they voiced them. Perhaps a well-intentioned friend tried to help us pick out clothes that would be flattering for our trouble spots. Our mothers complained about their legs growing up, revealing to us that we were genetically destined to have cankles. A lover may have made an off-handed comment about our breasts, or waists, or hips, or nose, or eyes, or whatever.  Even compliments can be backhanded criticisms – Have you lost weight? You look so great. Did I look so bad before?

I hate my feet. Seriously. Hate them. Actually, it’s not my feet per se. It’s my toes. I blame my parents. My dad’s toes are crooked, but long and lanky. My mom’s feet are short, but very well proportioned. I inherited the crookedness from my dad and the shortness from my mom, leaving me with short, crooked toes. Pedicures help. The right shoes (wide please) can also make them acceptable for public viewing. Often times, however, I’ll wear sneakers instead of sandals even when its 100 degrees outside.

There is something very powerful, however, about calling this voice out. What did you say? Who do you think you are?

There are a few steps to reclaiming these imposter voices.

1)   Identify the negative voice. If we aren’t conscious of the negative things we say to ourselves daily, then it is very hard to combat them. Your feet are ugly.

2)   Write the words down. Although writing it down may be scary, it gives us something tangible to work with.

3)   Identify whose voice it actually is (the most unexpected people – friends, family, strangers – have often taken up residence in our minds).  I can’t remember the name of my attacker, but I call him Foot Festish Fred (where does he get off making comments about my feet).

4)   Change the words from criticisms to affirmations. Although there is something powerful about criticisms, affirmations can be just as powerful. My feet are unique. My feet support my running. My feet have helped me walk all over the world.

This isn’t a panacea. But I’m working through it. You can too. Summer and sandals…here I come!

What words are ringing in your head? How are you combating them?

picturing LAST DROPS OF VINO

For those of you who have been following the wine project…

It is finally finished. Some may make there way to my etsy shop soon in the form of fine art prints or note cards. Which one is your favorite?

A Toast to the Many Pictures of Vino

You are a warm embrace on a frigid winter night, but also a crisp refreshment on a sweltering summer day.

You are often a deep crimson or burgundy, sometimes a smooth alabaster, and any shade in between the two.

You were born in Bordeaux, Chianti, and Napa, but you make yourself at home whenever you walk in the door.

You are mostly (but not always) sipped.

You are one of the few things that I don’t share with my husband.

A little can help you appreciate the moment, but too much and you’ll regret each moment from the night before.

You arrive during everyday, ordinary times when we want to relax and reflect, but you also often make an appearance to celebrate the most extraordinary moments, especially if you are of the sparkling variety.

Here’s to you, vino! Cheers!

Stay tuned for Wednesday. We’ll have another installment of the Re-Picturing Women Project!

re-picturing PREGNANCY

How has pregnancy changed the way you and others think about your body?

Today we’re talking about the paradoxical consequences of pregnancy for Re-Picturing Women Wednesday.

On the one hand, pregnancy can be a time of great wisdom, connection, and strength for women and their bodies.

The body can be a source of new knowledge. It requires different foods, rest, and movement than it did before.

The body can also be a source of connection. The connection to the being growing within is completely unlike past relationships.

New strength is found as body literally creates and births another being.

On the other hand, it can be a time of additional sexual objectification experiences.

Appearance commentary and body evaluation from others is a relatively frequent experience for women. Pregnancy can make sexual objectification even more frequent, but it may take on a decidedly different flavor.

Suddenly, a swollen belly becomes the object of other people’s attention.

People may feel perfectly comfortable staring at (and often touching) women’s pregnant mid-sections. Although touch can be a form of connection, when it comes from complete strangers it is hardly the welcome connection that most women are seeking. Although the bodily changes are one important part of pregnancy, women are often trying negotiate profound changes, including changes in the body, new roles as expecting mothers, and sometimes what seem to be entirely different lives.

Vanessa Roof is re-pictured here. Below she shares her experience with pregnancy and her body. Vanessa is a fierce woman who is also a psychologist, researcher, mother, artist, student, and many other things. I am honored and delighted to have her share her experience as she expects her third child!

How did it feel to be photographed? It was strange – I don’t think I have been photographed since my wedding – nearly 9 years ago.  I usually try to stay out of pictures. It made me realize that I really need to try to be in more pictures – especially with my kids.

Tell us a little bit about the story of your body. I normally think about my body from a health standpoint.  I think that being healthy is most important – eating right, staying active, sleeping enough, taking care of yourself.  As an adolescent, I thought there were a lot of things that were wrong with my body – that seems to be a normal phase.  As an adult, especially with 2.5 kids, I have realized that each year my body changes a little more, so I try to appreciate where I am right now because next year….things will look a little different.  I think that over the past 3-5 years, I have become completely comfortable in my body – and not just with my body – with my whole self.  That was nice.

How has this changed when you’ve been pregnant? Some women really enjoy being pregnant, and I am really not one of them.  I have a short torso which means I am very uncomfortable for about four months.  It means simple things – like my son had to help me take my boots off last week.  I can’t paint my own toenails.  This baby is a boy, and the extra testosterone also affects me in some way – I really just don’t feel ‘cute’ very often.  I didn’t feel that way when I was pregnant with my daughter.

What struggles have you had with your body? I always wish I was stronger.  I am not an athlete, and I wish that I could develop those long and lean muscles that come with athletes.  My struggle with my body is that I am so busy, I really do not have much time to workout, and I like how fit bodies look.  Some women figure out how to keep working out with small kids and full time work – I am not one of them.  I try to run, but that is sporadic as well.

What makes you feel alive and energized in your body? Sun and Water.  I love swimming, being at the pool, laying out.  I also like when I use my body for something physical and I accomplish what I set out to do – like running a long distance.  I also like wearing a great pair of jeans and boots or flip-flops.  That makes me feel cute.

If you could tell women (or men) one thing about women’s bodies, what would it be? Growing up, I was involved in dance, and I continued with dance through college.  My dance teacher in college was amazing, and when we were working on something that was difficult, she would tell us to close our eyes and ‘just feel it.’  I loved that approach – she told us to shut our eyes and find what felt right from within.  I wish women could shut their eyes and do what ‘feels’ right rather than what they see as right.  My daughter is going to start dance with the same teacher this fall, and I can’t wait.  

Anything else to share? Women’s bodies really are amazing.  They are powerful, capable of amazing things, and really beautiful.

What was your experience of pregnancy?  How did it change how you experienced your body? Did you experience it as empowering, objectifying, or some of both?

re-picturing CELINA

Hi Folks! Welcome back to Re-Picturing Women Wednesday. Today, I’m honored and humbled to have a guest post from an amazing woman, artist, gamer, photographer, and dreamer…meet Celina Wyss!

Celina writes the blog Steps and Snips in which she documents with amazing honesty her love of travel and crafting. I find myself clicking back to Steps and Snips often (like multiple times a day!), hoping for an updated post. Celina puts into words the truths that most of us experience, whether talking about the tragedy in Japan or poll dancing.

The post below includes Celina’s words and self-portraits. Thank you for having the courage and vulnerability to share your story, Celina. Your words of love and self-acceptance ring true in my heart and I know they will touch the heart of others as well.

Guest Post by Celina Wyss

Do you love your body?

When presented with this question most women will probably give quite a weighted answer. Most will tell you what they don’t love instead. I face all the same struggles with self acceptance. As a child, I was immersed early on with images of beautiful movie stars, models and princesses in fairy tales. I thought I had a pretty good idea on what women should look like. I thought if I looked like they did then I would be fabulously successful and happy. When I was in 8th grade I struggled daily with sexual harassment and physical prodding from boys in my small rural school. Being blessed (or cursed) with a large chest at an early age can bring on some very unwanted attention to a girl who is struggling to find her sense of self. I started to feel like I needed to hear the sexual comments to reaffirm that I was pretty enough. That if I was receiving that kind of attention it meant I was doing something right. Only it didn’t really feel right in the end.

Fast forward to me now at age 30. I am working towards having a healthier attitude about my body and learning to love and accept it for what it can do. It is an exercise in learning how to love all the little pieces of me that make me unique. Like the way I have beauty marks almost forming a perfect necklace across my chest. Or the way I have a big splat of a birthmark on my lower back right in the spot that most women get a tattoo. More recently it was learning how to come to terms with the 5 scars on my stomach from the Nissen Fundiplication surgery I had this summer. Or the acceptance that the stretch marks on my hips will never really fade away and instead act as a badge of honor for being blessed with the ability to carry a child inside of me.

Recently I came across this video of Eve Ensler talking about loving your tree. I found it to be a beautiful message. I got to thinking about ways my body would be considered beautiful in other cultures. More importantly it helped me understand that there is no correct term for outer beauty. Only what others think it should be.

Today I continue on my path of self-love and acceptance. Will I still dye my hair? Probably. Will I still fantasize about liposuction? Maybe. But I can work towards doing those things with a more mindful choice about why I am making the decision instead of a lusting to fit into the ideal body image we all have created in our own heads.

picturing MELTING INTO SPRING

Hello friends. I have good news. Winter is melting into spring.

The days are getting longer, the temperature is getting higher, and it is raining more than it is snowing.

But spring hasn’t decided whether she’s sticking around for good. She’s a bit of a tease…peppering in gray, cold, snowy days amongst the sunny, mild (not really warm yet) days.

Yet, people are out wearing shorts and sandals, even though it is only 50 degrees.

There is something wonderful about this time of year. As the season transitions from winter into spring — the darkness turns into light and the warmth replaces the cold — we are reminded that everything, good and bad, passes. In fact, I sometimes wonder whether the bad serves the purpose of making us appreciate the good.

The winter helps us appreciate the first glimpses of spring.

A bad job makes us grateful and humble once the perfect job comes along.

The sweet touch of a loved one feels so welcoming after a long absence.

What bad in your life is making you appreciate the good?

Also, stay tuned for Re-Picturing Women Wednesday! If you didn’t get a chance, be sure to weigh in on the post from last week…re-picturing OGLING…it is a complicated issue that affects both women and men, can elicit mixed feelings, and is difficult to resist.