... imagine practicing Just Being in front of a camera. What a great tool and moment of opportunity to be present with any old thoughts that surface telling you that you're not enough. Concerns that you're too fat, too thin, that your nose is too big, too small, that you have too many wrinkles, or that your smile is not flattering. The list goes on and on. How would it be to completely love yourself for exactly who you are in that moment... -- Carl Studna, Click! Choosing Love One Frame at a Time
I don't know about you, but I really have a difficult time sitting still, holding that uncomfortable "posed smile," because that single moment before the "click" seems to go on for a very long time. Have you noticed the photographer never asks you to just look natural for the camera? It's usually "smile for the camera," and that is what I have the greatest problem with: smiling on command. I generally have a sunny disposition; however, the microsecond just before the "click" of the camera it nearly always catches me between smiles as it were, with my eyes blinking, squinting, or gazing off into the distance, essentially doing anything to escape the dreaded freeze frame moment at hand. I had seldom wondered why I disliked having my picture taken so much until I read my friend Carl Studna's new book, Click!, and now I think I know why: The camera doesn't lie -- it looks right into us and offers us real time feedback, an opportunity to pause and see who we really are between "perfect poses" and, perhaps, even about how we really feel about ourselves in that moment.
I have long believed we live in a shame-based society that seems quite adept at reminding us of our self-perceived flaws and shortcomings. To help put shame into perspective, consider the difference between shame and guilt: Guilt is a feeling or belief that we have made a mistake; shame is a feeling or belief that we fundamentally are a mistake, which renders us "invalid" and sends us on a scavenger hunt for wholeness, looking everywhere for what's missing other than the only place we'll ever find it -- within. In other words, the hidden toxic energy around shame is buried in a belief that we are not "enough" just the way we are, and the tendency when we feel incomplete is to seek our "enough-ness" wherever we can find it. Main Street, USA has made it its business to keep us feeling less than whole -- that is, until we buy what they are selling, including other people's opinions of what makes us good enough, smart enough, desirable enough, rich enough, popular enough, healthy enough, or (fill in the blank) enough. I mention this because what Studna points out in his book is that if we are able to lean into the awkwardness of being in front of the metaphorical camera of daily life with a willingness to love ourselves "enough" to be who we authentically are, warts, wrinkles, and all, the snapshot of the moment will always yield a reflection of our true wholeness, irrespective of what the critics and marketeers have to say. There is no feeling we can ever have that will bring greater satisfaction than that of wholeness, because it is simply the effect of completely and unconditionally loving ourselves and our life, just the way we are, and the way it is, with no "yeah buts" attached.
The take away for me is this: Arriving at a point of authentic self-acceptance frees us to show up in those "click" moments in life with no need to be perfect, which, in and of itself, is a major accomplishment and relief for most of us. Being a recovering perfectionist myself, I know from whence I speak. If you can at all relate with this conversation, below is a mindfulness practice I invite you to try:
- Ask someone you are comfortable with to take your photograph.
- As you sit waiting for the "click," conduct a quick scan of how you are feeling about yourself in that moment. Rather than looking into the camera lens, allow your gaze and facial muscles to soften naturally and focus your thoughts on your heart center, breathing slowing and deeply.
- Consider the gift of life that was unconditionally given to you so many years ago. Then think about how much you must have been loved -- so much so that the Creator clothed itself in this garment called "your body" and breathed the breath of life into it.
- Finally, allow a sense of gratitude for the gift to rise gently from your heart center and reveal itself on your face. When the "click" comes you'll see a reflection of who you really are in that photograph, and that really is a beautiful thing to behold.
If you are at all challenged with this process consider simply asking yourself the question Carl Studna proposes: "How would it be to completely love myself for exactly who I am in this One Frame at a Time moment?" Can you love yourself that much? You can if you remember what a gift you really are, just the way you are. Click!
For more by Dennis Merritt Jones, click here.
For more on emotional wellness, click here.
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