This shoot is part of a series I did focused on self-love and sensuality.
As women we receive so many messages about how we’re “supposed to be” that life can become a game of self-protection as we try to figure out how to be, speak, dress, act, love, etc. so we’ll be approved of. The more we operate this way, the more separate we become from the vital life force and knowing of our deep, intuitive, untamed, real, wild (call it what you will) selves that is our true nature.
There aren’t many places in our lives where we can feel completely safe to embody and express our untamed, wild, limitless selves. Yet it’s something we each crave for this place is our real home within ourselves.
My Portrait Journey shoots are containers for this exploration and discovery process. They’re held as intentional rituals where women bring to it whatever they most need. In this woman’s case, her intention was to operate from a place of I Am Enough. I can not think of a more empowering intention to work with to access the deep self-love and intuitive, sensory knowing that is our true nature.
As a part of this project, I asked the women who participated if they’d like to share their views on sensuality, the messages they received about their bodies and sensuality, and their experience. I think it’s important to talk about these things in honest ways because it’s through feeling connected to each other that we cultivate the courage to love ourselves and stop hiding. You will find some wise words in what she shares and if this inspires you to share your own experiences and views, please do so in the comments, or out in the world where your voice and light is very much needed.
What does sensuality mean to you? How is this different (or not) than sexuality?
I guess I think of sexuality as more about enjoying relating to others or enjoying our experience with others, while sensuality is more the experience of enjoying yourself. Enjoying your own body and touch and the way it feels to inhabit that body; allowing yourself to admire your own beauty, inner and outer, and more literally, delighting in sensory experience and being fully embodied and in the moment.
What’s your relationship with your body, sensuality, & sexuality like?
Generally I feel I have a fairly healthy relationship with my body/sensuality/sexuality, but I would like to more regularly make time for opportunities to really be in my body and enjoy it fully, whether that’s through exercise or just laying outside in the sunshine, taking a bath, getting a massage – any and all of it! Moments of just enjoying & loving myself as I described above.
What messages did you receive about your body, sensuality, & sexuality growing up? What impact has this had on you?
Well, unfortunately, as is the case for SO many women, I definitely grew up hearing & feeling negative things about my body. Not from family or anyone really close to me, but certainly from peers. It’s a real disease of our culture. I’d like to say I’ve grown up and moved on, but truthfully, all these years later, I’ve still never been able to fully shake the image of myself as being fat that was burned into my brain in my teen & college years. I can definitely say that the basic core belief that I was fat/ugly as a younger girl influenced my sexuality early on, because it contributed to such a low self-image and lack of self-confidence. It took me years to figure out that I could be selective about a partner rather than thinking I was lucky for any guy to give me attention. It was definitely a hugely empowering transition as I entered adulthood and began to be able to actually see myself as sexy and recognize my own sensuality and power as a woman.
What do you think about the messages women receive in this culture about their bodies, expression, sensuality, & sexuality?
Pardon my language, but I think it’s totally fucked!!! It’s slowly getting better as there’s an emerging movement toward no makeup, real-woman sizes, unaltered image modeling and such by larger companies and magazines, but there is still a LOT of pressure to look a certain way and act a certain way perpetuated by the destructive media factory.
On top of that, our schools lack real-life sex education that includes how to have emotionally and psychologically safe sex/relationships as opposed to just pregnancy and disease prevention. When you combine those problems with the prevalence of “slut-shaming” and generally negative treatment of women who are sexually-liberated, you have a pretty dangerous combination that keeps a lot of women from ever fully loving themselves, stepping into their power, and commanding the respect they deserve.
What motivated you to do a photo shoot focused on sensuality and self-love?
I wanted to have some photos of myself not in costume, a more pure version of myself than what I usually present to the world. I also just wanted to give myself something nice, a day to just enjoy being me and celebrate myself. I also feel myself at a transition point in my life and the ritual aspect of the photo shoot felt well-timed. I could tell from the way the shoot was described that it would be a good exercise in shedding and letting go of certain definitions of myself and stepping into new facets of my personality that are starting to reveal themselves.
What intention(s) did you bringing to your shoot?
To be playful, stay in the moment, feel connected with nature and the elements. To connect with myself on a very pure level without the presence of social constructs or any of my hang-ups. To step into my next stage of self-empowerment.
I really wanted to make a conscious effort to stay in the sensual/self-love headspace, enjoying myself and feeling strong, not allowing the negative voice of the wounded teenager in my head to tell me I look fat, ugly, awkward, and all the other nonsense. I also wanted to feel content with myself “as-is” without being painted and feathered and bejeweled as I so often am for work. I wanted to find a state of being at peace with myself, but also invoke strength.
What fears & hopes did you have before?
Fears: Reacting negatively to some of the photos. Seeing myself in a negative light rather than a positive light – judging myself too harshly.
Hopes: Loving all the photos! Being able to use the photos and my memory of the experience of the shoot as a reminder to be kind and loving to myself. Inspiring other women to do the same!
What was your experience like during the photo shoot? What did you notice/experience about your relationship with your body?
The shoot was really just a lot of fun! I felt high from the experience! You (Robin) had such a good balance of being soothing and making me feel relaxed, while also challenging me to come out of my shell. You were such a good guide through the whole experience. I felt completely at ease and excited to explore the possibilities of each different shot we composed. I was surprised at how fast the day went!
I actually felt a lot less preoccupied with my body than I expected. Being out in nature without clothes on just feels good, so it’s actually pretty easy to just get caught up in the sensory experience rather than the self-judgment. Despite all I’ve been saying about negative body image and hang-ups, I also certainly have a wild and playful, run-naked-through-the-woods side to me too (don’t we all??), so she pretty much took the reigns once the shoot was underway.
What did you learn about letting self-love and your senses guide your expression?
Letting the process be intuitive, light-hearted and spontaneous really took all the pressure off.
I think we are all starting from a place of self-love but are fighting a tough battle with all sorts of external influences that make us forget that. Going outside for the day and, literally, stripping off and shedding layers and spending quality time with myself helped to reset my thought patterns. It felt less about learning to love myself and more about remembering that I already love myself and don’t need to pay attention to any of the things that distract me from doing so.
Is there something you long to express, be witnessed as, open to, celebrate, step into?
Is there a story you want to rewrite? A new level of freedom you want to feel?
Learn more about Portrait Journeys & be in touch / firstname.lastname@example.org
I look forward to sharing a photographic soul-jouney with you! x