Self Portrait: Month One

I have been absent for the past few months. My presence has been lost online, in relationships, and within. I feel as though I am no longer deeply intentional and thoughtful in my everyday or in my relationships, and that is something that has troubled me greatly. I fondly remember the time when I would sit and plan out my days, think intentionally about my time, my impact on the world and on others. I used to be so thoughtful in relationships and in friendships. I would invest so much of my heart and soul into others, as well as myself. Lately, all of that passion has been lost.

I don't know if it has to do with a lack of inspiration, a lack of human connection, or simply seasonal depression; all I know is that something is off, and it is hindering my happiness. Only a few short weeks ago I was feeling so inspired, ambitious, and excited. Jason and I designed a gorgeous office, a creative space for me to work in. I spent hours designing it on paper, and then days on end bringing it to life. It is such a beautiful space, but now that it is finished, I feel like I am not using it the way I should be.

On a more personal note, I feel as I am no longer intentional. I hardly ever do my skincare routine anymore - even though it is one of my favorite things, I no longer carve out time to take baths or read books, and maybe the worst loss of all is that I have stopped writing. I don't write how I am feeling anymore, thus this post is an explosion of the literary expression that I have been cooping up inside of me for so long.

What I have come to realize is that up until recently, I have been somewhat forced to write. I had to write stories in school, essays in high school, and research papers in University. I kept a personal journal for several years, and I used to write detailed letters to pen-pals. When Jason and I were living in different cities, I would take the time to write out massive text messages or emails about anything and everything so that we could still feel connected despite the distance. We didn't talk that often, so when we did, our words were so crafted and full of so much intention. I used to write so much and so often. Whether it was about what I ate for lunch, or a carefully crafted research proposal, I was writing. I was diving deep into my thought process and developing words to correspond with my thoughts and feelings. A few months ago I stopped expressing though words, and since then I have felt so low, empty and confused. Everything in my life was going so well, but I was feeling so down. I couldn't understand how that could be, until I realized that I had abandoned one of my prominent outlets. Now, I don't believe that writing will solve all of my current woes, but I do think that it will help me process everything that I am experiencing and going through.

Body image has been something that I have struggled with for quite some time now. In recent months, it has been especially negative - which I am ashamed of. I yearn to be proud of my looks, excited to be in this body, and happy with the way that it moves. I am working towards living a body positive life, free from self criticism and shame. I am not there yet, but through intentional words and creativity, I hope to get there. As of now - February 2018 - I am going to start a project which documents my body, thoughts, and emotions, in a monthly post.

For the first time in my adult life, I took self-portraits. I was feeling uninspired for an upcoming photoshoot, so I thought it could be fun to do a little bit of practicing on myself. It ended up turning into this incredibly inspiring and empowering self experiment/project - I haven't felt this happy in weeks. I set up my camera at the end of my bed, and started shooting with the self timer. I played around with the aperture and focus until it was perfect, and went from there! You will notice that quite a few of the photos are out of focus - especially the ones in the hallway. This is something I hope to improve upon next month, though I think blur and all, the photos are great!

I spent probably around 2 hours shooting - there was a ton of back and forth looking at the shots and posing for the images. I am by no means a model and have zero idea how to pose, I mostly stuck to incorporating movement and choosing positions that I thought felt the most natural to me. The most surprising part of this whole process was how I reacted to seeing my body in the camera screen. I am so used to photographing others, it was challenging to see my own body in the camera. My body has changed a lot over the years, and it is no where near as strong as it used to be. Seeing areas of my body that do not have the muscle that they used to was hard for me. I am used to glancing at my body in the mirror and then carrying on - I haven't forced myself to look at my body like this in a very long time. At first I felt extremely vulnerable and kind of silly. However, those feelings quickly turned to confidence once I stopped worrying about how the pictures were turning out and just started to have fun. I think everyone should try and take a self portrait sometime (no, selfies don't count 😋), as I found it to be a very empowering and enlightening experience.

I am excited to carry this on as a monthly project, documenting my body, my confidence, and my many feelings and emotions. Below is a selection of the edited photos, I plan to share a few on Instagram in the future (@madisonjoue).

I was a little hesitant to share these photos, as they showcase some of the very things that I am weary about - body wise. There are so many things that I could point out about my body that I am unhappy with, but I am making a conscious effort to ignore them, and get excited about the things that I love. I think that these photos are beautiful, flaws and all. Here's to a journey towards self acceptance and body love!

Thanks for being here and taking the time to read about my most personal struggles. I appreciate you.

Madison xx