Art + Shame + Magic: A Wild Defense of the Selfie ☽

Self-portraiture is controversial art.

At the very least it's an art-form often misunderstood, criticized, + dismissed as self-indulgent, narcissistic, and vain. I can't speak for those who believe so or for those for whom it's true, but I'm quietly hoping that criticism of the selfie has had its 15 minutes of fame and we can all merrily move on.

Because shame.

I am a woman who knows shame.

My embodiment has been an apology for more years than not, years spent furiously scrubbing the mark of my existence off the walls of my days. My issues surrounding body image and weight began when I was twelve years old, weighed 180 pounds and confided this to someone who yelped it back to me in shock ... and in earshot of several people in the room.

Many years have passed since then and, like rings around a tree, they are layered with stories of survival: grief, self-hatred, disgust, shame, healing, acceptance, illness and recovery, endurance, and—finally I can say with clarity and truth—love. 

Truth is, I am made to be seen.

I am tall and curvy, with strong bones and a body that fills space. No matter how many times I've desperately wished for invisibility the truth remains that I am made to be seen—my presence cannot be ignored even when I want it to be. But before I could make peace with this I had to be willing to look at my Self. To witness my I am-ness in the context of my own life. To sit in the discomfort, the vulnerability, in the flinch of gaze upon mirrored gaze and not walk away. To see myself and begin pouring myself back into my body, back into the presence I worked so feverishly to escape. To move past labels and cliches which did not bring life to me—plus-size, full-figured, big girl—and adopt new language, words I could embrace and be proud of: Soft. Lush. Luscious.

Intoxicating.

Entrancing.

I am made to be seen; I am made to see.

Self-portraiture is an expressive + healing form of art therapy for me. My camera is a creative tool which allows me to see myself in context of my life and bear witness to my own story—my lament and my joy. My cycles of life + death + life. My grief and my re-birth. My laughter and my howl.

Learning how to do this for myself has paved the way to do it for others, to help others begin to look at a gorgeous, holistic life through eyes of compassion and love. Regardless of your own body story and how you identify yourself—thick or thin, with smooth lines or curves, petite or statuesque, or any other way—I hope you allow yourself the grace to witness the intoxicating beauty that is the wild earth of you: skin, flesh, spirit and bone. Dare yourself to heal from old messages of hatred and shame. Love and be loved. 

Let me see you.

Leave a comment, leave a link, send me a note ... I want to see your luminous Self. How do you feel when you take a self-portrait? What do you see when you look into your eyes? How do you feel in your body when you witness yourself in the context of your everyday life?

*This is an excerpt from my online program Inkstains & Alchemy.

Hillary Rain