Jodi of MCP Photography wrote a wonderful post a few days ago. The topic is “What happens when a photographer gets photographed,” and the post is a tender and honest exploration of how Jodi hated being in pictures because she didn’t like how she looked, then forced herself to be in them for the sake of her kids (so they’d actually have pics with their mom in them), and now finally has come around to a place where she’s been able to see what is beautiful about her.

I really appreciate this post. It’s such an incredibly vulnerable thing for a woman to say out loud (especially in front of other women) that she thinks she’s beautiful. It’s the opposite of that tradition we have as women where I put myself down and all my friends rush to reassure me that I am indeed attractive. We’ve been conditioned to pounce on people who think they look good (perhaps we pounce only in our heads if we’ve been raised to be polite) and tear them apart. “How dare she think she’s beautiful? She’s fatter/zittier/shorter/skinnier/hairier etc. than I am, and I’ve been pummeled by media until I think I’m not attractive. So where does she get off delusionally thinking she’s beautiful?” That’s what I’m worried is going on in other people’s heads when I say I think I’m beautiful – that it will actually prompt them to look for my flaws. But I keep on doggedly saying it, and then I tell them that I think they are beautiful, too, and that I want us all to reclaim the power that feeling confident in our looks can give us.

I have a few stories from my own history with this that I wanted to share.

The first is that never once when I was growing up did I hear my mom criticize how she looked. And it would never have even occurred to me that she might criticize how I looked – she never told me anything other than that I was beautiful to her. And now I’m a rarity among the women I know – I’ve never had an eating disorder, and I have pretty good self-esteem and body image, despite being definitively not the celebrity ideal. Now that I’m an adult my mom complains sometimes about the things she doesn’t like about her body and looks, but I am SO GRATEFUL that she somehow managed to keep from expressing that in front of me when I was young, and to keep this attitude from being instilled in me. I think that’s another important thing to think about when we avoid being in pictures – it’s not just that our kids won’t have pictures of us – we’re actually raising girls who will follow our model and grow up to be women who don’t feel good enough about themselves to be in pictures!

The second story is how I became beautiful. I remember one day in my early 20s saying to myself, “What would happen if I just decide I’m beautiful?” It felt very daring and transgressive, but I tried it out. The effect on people I was potentially interested in was fascinating – they found my unusual confidence attractive in itself. The effect on myself was even more fascinating – I saw so clearly that I was gaining NOTHING by disliking how I looked. Nothing by feeling like I needed improvement. It didn’t encourage me to exercise, or do anything else healthy. Feeling unhealthy might do that – but not liking how I looked wasn’t actually an aid in that department. Feeling beautiful, however, made a huge difference. I felt happier and more peaceful, it contributed to a general sense of self-esteem beyond my looks, and there was this big area of life I didn’t stress about as much anymore. I realized it doesn’t matter if I am conventionally attractive or if a stranger on the street would agree that I’m beautiful. I am beautiful to myself and to the people who love me – romantic, family, friends; the beauty they see in me is both part of why they love me and called forth by their love for me.

This whole worry about whether or not we are beautiful or pretty or attractive is so ingrained in us we never stop to question what PURPOSE it’s serving. Maybe to attract a mate, but I know so many people in secure, satisfying relationships who still don’t want to be in photographs or don’t like this or that about their appearance. The main purpose I can think of for worrying about this in our modern society is that this fear is what drives consumerism. I think it’s pretty well agreed upon that advertisers cultivate this feeling of lack in us so we’ll buy things to try to fix it or make up for it. Well, I reject that. I can’t actually remove from myself the desire to look certain ways (that would take a lobotomy or something, I think) but I can decide whether or not to feel beautiful right now, looking the way I do.

So my last story is that there was a final hold-out to my whole “I am beautiful” self-campaign. Circling back to the topic that started this piece, I’ll admit that even years after my whole transition to feeling beautiful I still hated photographs of myself. I tried to be all sneaky and get around this by bemoaning the fact that I wasn’t “photogenic.” Like, I look in the mirror and see beauty that just isn’t captured in a photo. And that may be true, but once again – WHO CARES? When I started my photo-a-day project four years ago I set a goal of trying to be in at least one picture every week. Suddenly I was constantly looking at pictures of myself. And yeah, I still delete my fair share of awkward shots. But something about just giving myself over to the reality that there were going to be pictures in my albums where I didn’t look perfect eventually helped me to widen my range of tolerance for seeing myself in photos. Maybe I don’t have to look pretty in every photo. I can also look goofy, or in motion, or sad, or even exhausted (because that’s the reality of my life a lot of the time). And then there are the shots where I’m incredibly happy with people I love and smiling so big and when I do that my chin does this weird thing and… And you know what? I have pictures of myself where I’m incredibly happy with people I love. When I look back, will I be sad to have so many awkward chin photos or grateful to have captured so many fun times?

There is power to be had in claiming our beauty. There is peace there, too, and a certain kind of freedom. And it doesn’t take a makeover or liposuction or plastic surgery to get us there, because we’ve already arrived; we just have to look around and notice where we are. So I invite you to join me in this experiment. Look in the mirror and let what you see there be beautiful. And then notice what, if anything, changes for you. What becomes absent from your life, what enters it? Without making any assumptions, really peer closely at this part of your life – is worrying about how you look helping you to accomplish things, be a better parent, a better partner, more the person you want to be? If it is, I’m surprised, but more power to you, you’ve found something that works to motivate you. And if it isn’t, maybe you can try letting it go. It’s not something that happens all at once, it takes dedication and frequently remembering to come back to those three little words, “I am beautiful.” But I can promise you that the rewards are totally worth the work. Imagine what the world would be like if we all felt okay about how we looked. It would be beautiful.

This topic always reminds me of the moving scene in Glee when Mercedes sings the Christina Aguilera song "Beautiful" at a cheerleading competition. (Although I do think it's messed up they didn't put her in a regular cheerleading uniform!)

This topic always reminds me of the moving scene in Glee when Mercedes sings the Christina Aguilera song “Beautiful” at a cheerleading competition. (Although I do think it’s messed up they didn’t put her in a regular cheerleading uniform!) I tried to find a video for you guys, but it’s all copyright-blocked, sorry!


September Favorites

I love scrapbook pages that are lists: top tens, favorite songs, best memories, etc. Nettio Designs makes layouts of her favorite things from each month, which she then turns into templates for sale. I’ve bought a couple but have never managed to finish one. She’s a paper lover and builds in spots for tons of different papers, which is awesome, but also means there are a lot of decisions to make and since I’m the queen of Analysis Paralysis, it takes me forever. But the abundance of papers and elements seemed like a perfect way to show off all the delicious designs from this month’s Pixel Scrapper blog train. What beautiful work everyone did; it was a pleasure to go through everything and pick out my supplies from the abundance of high-quality designs.

This month Pixel Scrapper is running a Layout-a-Day challenge. Because for some of us (me! me!) doing 31 layouts is a bit too much of a challenge, we were allowed to set our own goals. My goal is 8. I have no idea if I’ll meet it, but even if this one is the only one I do this month, I’ll feel pretty great about that! There’s something weird going on with me and memory keeping right now – I’ve stopped taking a picture of the day (and video of the day) for the first time in four years. I think maybe the fact that I never can find time lately to do anything with the pictures (like Project Life them) got me discouraged in some way it never has before. But at least I can look back on this past month and have this fun layout highlighting some of the best parts.


Template: Nettio Designs ~ May Favorites
Numbers: Mommyish ~ Wired Up Alpha
All other designs are from the Pixel Scrapper October Blog Train (follow link for previews & links to all parts of the train)
Papers: Craft Bliss, Digi Dewi, Holly Wood,, Nadia Slegers, Misplaced Mermaid, Playful Peanut,
Brandi’s Creations, Brooke Gazarek, Bits o Scrap, Sheila Reid, The Emily Files
Arizona Girl chevrons
Craft Bliss ribbon
Digi Dewi leaves
Nadi Slegers frame
Abloom flower sticker
Playful Peanut chevron, confetti string
Studio Linda Renee stitches, lace
Timber Scraps paint scatter
Creations by Samantha ribbon
Dhariana flowers
The Emily Files flower
Mariscrap butterfly
Pics edited on iPhone with Over and PicTapGo apps

Pixel Scrapper October Blog Train ~ Thankful

You know that thing where you write a word over and over and at some point it starts to look like it’s spelled wrong, and then eventually it doesn’t even look like a word anymore? Well, my brain thinks “thankful” is just about the strangest collection of letters it has ever beheld! I’m looking forward to having a little distance so I can get back to appreciating the word, which does express, after all, one of my most beloved concepts.


Blog train color palette

This month’s Pixel Scrapper blog train is quite dear to my heart for several reasons. For the first time, I proposed a potential color palette, and when we voted it was the one chosen, which was very exciting! I love the richness of the colors, and the way they evoke harvest and bounty without screaming “Thanksgiving.” We wanted to create a collection that honored the theme of the holiday while still being useful for everyone who doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. I’m glad about that because thankfulness is so much bigger than a single holiday (not even getting into the issues with historical distortion and whitewashing that accompany our American Thanksgiving). Gratitude is such a core concept in my life. When I manage to connect to my sense of all that is right in my world, either through happenstance or through deliberate manifestation with mindfulness or prayer, I find my life is infinitely sweeter and less stressful. Right now I’m feeling grateful to have had the opportunity to make all these pretty things for you!


I’m continuing my habit of breaking up my contribution into separate pieces. The advantages for me are that I like knowing you can take the things you want and not have a bunch of stuff you’re not interested in that you have to then remember to delete later (yes, journal card junkies, I’m looking at you!), and that doing it this way allows me to see what types of materials you like best (because I can track the number of downloads for each piece). A potential disadvantage I can see for people who do want everything is that then they have multiple folders, palettes, previews, and TOUs they’ll have to delete if they want everything all tidy and streamlined. If you have a strong feeling either way (all one big download or separated by type) let me know in the comments!

Up first are a set of papers, frames, and mists. There are four papers that would make good starting points for art journal pages and four frames that will add an arty touch to any page. All the materials I used are credited in the kit, but I have to give a special shout-out here to Cajoline Studios, who made and then generously gave away the gorgeous frame templates. They fit so perfectly with the sort of dreamy, swirly look I was going for here. The frames are actually quite a bit larger than they appear in the preview. I like to have things large and then shrink them down as needed, since you can’t ever upsize design materials. The five mists are pretty fun – they’re 12×12 overlays that will “stencil” a misted pattern onto whatever is below them. I used the diamond patterned mist to make one of the journal cards below – check it out! [Click preview to download.]


Then there are two sets of journal cards; each set is a separate download. There are some fun simple cards with gratitude words on them, and an assortment of various more elaborate designs. I even threw in the flower I made for one of the journal cards (in a larger size, of course). I’m not much of an element-maker, but I figured since this one was already made I might as well add it to the mix. I’m sorry there’s not much in this month’s kit that’s okay for Commercial Use – I have too much fun playing with all my CU materials that are only for making PU stuff – the simple wordy journal cards are the only things that can be used for CU. [Click previews to download.]


Finally, I present to you my first-ever word art. I’m not really a word art person – I tend to make my own titles, quotes, etc. so I don’t find much use for premade ones. But the topic was so inspiring to me I thought I’d try my hand at bringing a few of my favorite gratitude quotes to life. I had fun with these; I like the Oprah Winfrey quote with its ransom-note-like lettering – it makes me imagine the person saying “thank you for that experience” through slightly gritted teeth! And the gorgeous wings evoke so much for me around this theme – the sense of being borne up by a power greater than myself, and the image of my own gratitude soaring out into the Universe. They’re not technically word art, more… “image worth a thousand words” art. 🙂 [Click preview to download.]


The blog train is huge this month! Over 30 contributors at last count – there’s sure to be something for everyone. You can find previews and links for the rest of the train at Pixel Scrapper.

So, please enjoy! I’ll be so delighted if anything I made can contribute to your expressions of gratitude and thankfulness. If you do end up making something using any of my designs, do let me know, I would love to see it!