We live in a culture dominated by the art (and slick marketing techniques) of photography. There are images of women everywhere – and most of those images are posed, altered and taken under prime conditions, making the subjects look inhumanly flawless. As actress Keira Knightley puts it:
“I think women’s bodies are a battleground and photography is partly to blame.” -click to tweet
Even at a young age, we start to judge ourselves against impossible standards of beauty. Knowing we can never achieve the kind of beauty sold to us by the media, we tend to compensate in one of two ways – either by avoiding the camera at all costs or taking loads of selfies and only sharing those that make us look really good.
In the meantime, we have no idea what’s really happened to us. We’ve lost some of the pieces of ourselves, and those pieces have been forgotten along the path that stretches out behind us. We’ve written new stories about ourselves, about what we look like and who we are, and those stories are based solely on the pieces of ourselves that are still in our possession. In short, our story is painfully incomplete and out of focus and the worst part is, we often don’t even realize that fact. -click to tweet
Well, what about the rest of your story? Do you really see yourself in the mirror each day? Do you let others really see you? Is your vision of yourself in focus?
Self-image and self-esteem have been issues very dear to me since I was a teenager and first started noticing my deep discomfort with my appearance. In my twenties, I vacillated between obsessive-compulsive beauty habits to just "giving up." In my 30's, as my self-awareness continued to blossom, I began berating myself for berating my body (and you can guess how helpful that was).
After publishing Glowing: Soulful Skincare, my hypocrisy became glaring. Here I was, extolling the virtues of radical self-acceptance and I still struggled with despair when I looked in the mirror. Too fat. Too frumpy. And oh, those scars on my face.
In the early part of 2014, I began a project that I hoped would help me start to heal my self-image issues on a more fundamental level than I had previously achieved. Spiritual practice, while essential, was not getting me to the finish line. I knew I needed to supplement it with a physical challenge.
Thus began my journey into selfies and self-portraits, one that has helped me see myself in a whole new light. I stopped seeing myself as a flawed shell and started seeing the beauty beneath it all. I began to pick up all the pieces of myself that I had lost along the way. I was able to re-write my store. And… I came into focus. -click to tweet
Through a series of four modules over the course of 8 weeks, we are going to take an unflinching look at ourselves. I won’t lie to you – it isn’t an easy course. You’ll be asked to explore the things you don’t like about yourself and your reasons behind the discomfort. You’ll have to come face-to-face with your shadow side starting on Day 1.
And that’s not all. You’ll be challenged to push yourself beyond your comfort zone again and again and again. Your guided assignments will include taking photos of different aspects of yourself – aspects that you may have lost or forgotten, or that you might not even believe you possess, at all. Like an actress, you’ll have to play parts that may make you feel exposed and uncomfortable. And you’ll be sharing it all with others going through the same journey on the She Came Into Focus Facebook group page.
It’s going to be raw. It’s going to be scary. It’s going to make you feel more vulnerable than you have felt in a long time.
So I’ll be frank: You have to be brave as hell and 100% ready to dig deep in order to participate in this program.
These are some samples of my own self-portraits and selfies from 2014.
Like so many of us do, I started out this year with a goal to lose x number of pounds. I wanted to lose weight to look better, to feel better, to be a better version of myself. But what if you don't need to lose weight to look better, or feel better or be better? What if I don’t need to change anything about myself except to realize that I’m amazing just the way I am? That’s exactly what happened for me during this course. During the weeks of asking myself hard questions, exploring my personality through the eyes of the camera, digging down deep into my memories and questioning my automatic thought patterns my perspective shifted.
I came into focus. I see myself now. I know myself better than I ever have, and the best part is that I like myself more than I ever have.
Yancy has put together powerful course materials, but the real magic is her guidance. Her enthusiasm for this work is contagious and she makes you feel like you have you own personal cheerleader / best friend / mentor throughout the entire course.
Did I lose weight? No. Do I care? No. I finally feel free from the burden of living up to someone else's beauty standards. And I can think of a million better ways to spend my precious days here on earth than fretting over losing 20 pounds.
-Kristy Kaufer, Art of Everyday Life
I signed up for She Came Into Focus with a friend last fall and found a community of brave and supportive women, a ton of interesting, honest conversations, and the challenge to look at myself—my body, my perceptions, my personal narratives—through lenses I had not previously considered. I loved the freedom, the make-believe aspect, the play, the invitation to take on and shed personae, to explore ways of seeing myself in new ways. It was a safe place to look at things that sometimes make me uncomfortable, to ask myself how much baggage I want to keep hauling around, and to practice new ways of recognizing beauty, in all of its darkness and light. Yancy was a capable and compassionate facilitator who fearlessly lead by example, which helped to bring us out of our shells. I look forward to participating again.
"[She Came Into Focus] is deep, profound, gorgeous and highly revelatory in all the best ways."
-Kris Oster, Ph.D.
You’ll receive an introductory course packet a week before the program begins so you’ll have the chance to prepare yourself for the work ahead.
After that, you will receive a module packet every other Sunday for the next 8 weeks (there are four, total). Your homework will include some minor (or major, if you choose) journaling exercises and, most importantly, some “selfie assignments.” You will be asked to take pictures of yourself using the framework of archetypal “characters” – and many of these assignments will push you far past your comfort zone. You’ll have 2 weeks to complete each module assignment and will be asked to share and discuss your assignments in the SCIF Facebook group page. That’s the biggest part – it’s the sharing, the putting yourself out there that is the real challenge.
During the course of this program, you will receive some bonus material, as well, that will help you go deeper into the work. We will also be "meeting" online a few times in order to touch base with one another - if you cannot attend these meetings, rest assured, they will be recorded.
Through this course, you will:
1. Collect many of the pieces of yourself you have lost over the years.
2. Explore who you *think* you are and start to build a new sense of identity.
3. Build your self-confidence.
4. Learn that you have more power than you think over the way you “look” and find more peace within regarding your physical appearance.
And as if that isn’t enough, you’ll also learn how to present yourself better to the camera, how to play with filters and take artistic photographs and many participants have found that they are less worried about how they look when being photographed. Now that’s freedom!
If one or more of these statements describes you, then you are the perfect candidate for She Came Into Focus!
::You struggle with your feelings about your appearance. On the spectrum of self-criticism you fall somewhere between “kinda okay with my appearance” and “hate this potato sack of a body.”
::You tense up inside when you catch unexpected glimpses of yourself in reflective surfaces.
::You feel like what you see in the mirror doesn’t “match” who you feel like inside.
::You require your friends to get your stamp of approval before they are allowed to post photos of you on social media (for vanity reasons, not privacy concerns). By the same token, you untag yourself from photos that make you appear unattractive.
::The collection of images on your social media accounts has been very carefully managed and controlled in order to show your absolute best to the world.
::You might not have any images of yourself to share because you hate having your photo taken. For this reason, you may not even have a social media account or perhaps your family photo collection would make an outsider think that you are just a friend of the family since you appear in so few pictures.
::Whenever you see a photo of yourself, you immediately, without even thinking, criticize how bad it is (either mentally, verbally, or as a written comment). You type “OMG, I look awful!” so often, you should have a stamp made. (Okay, that doesn't work for computers, but you get my point.)
::Even when you feel pretty, there’s still that nagging discomfort in the back of your mind that keeps you focusing on a perceived flaw (your heavy thighs, your scarred face, your stubby fingers) instead of fully enjoying whatever you’re doing.
::You take dozens of selfies and only post the one or two that make you look particularly attractive.
::You are kinda okay with the way you look – and sometimes you even think you’re kinda pretty – but you would never describe yourself as beautiful. At least not in front of witnesses.
If any one of these is you, then you are ready for this inner journey!
A) Good luck ignoring it and B) I’m here to tell you that your discomfort, shame and/or hatred about how you look is affecting you in the following ways:
::Your ability to fully experience joy is inconsistent and sometimes nonexistent.
::You are avoiding life, in some form or another, to varying degrees.
::You are withholding the experience of pleasure from yourself – you’re living in a state of lack, whether you have realized it yet or not.
::You are creating walls around you that prevent you from getting what you want, need and deserve – intimacy, love and acceptance.
::You are creating an unattractive appearance just by believing it is unattractive, thus perpetuating the circumstances you fear the most.
Taking selfies, self-portraits and journaling using the prompts provided in each course packet. We'll be meeting online a few times during the course in order to share our insights and go deeper, as well.
It’s not a problem if you fall a bit behind. Over the course of 8 weeks, things will come up – illness, family issues, work commitments, etc. Because of the photography aspect, I’ve designed this course to give you more than enough time to complete at least one selfie assignment for each of the four modules – you have two weeks to play with each assignment. This time frame also allows you to dig deeper and do more, if you so choose. At a minimum, you’ll need about 1-2 hours a week for the assignments. It’s essential that you make sure, before signing up, that you can stick to this time commitment so that you can get the most out of this course. It’s all about the sharing and the dialogue on the Facebook SCIF group page and if you fall too far behind, you won’t get as much out of the program.
Your privacy is my #1 priority. I realize that posting pictures of yourself in a group of strangers on Facebook is not for everyone.
In order to alleviate people’s concerns, I will be asking everyone to electronically sign a Privacy Pledge before they are admitted to the Facebook group. Further, the group will be set to “Secret,” which means no one outside it will be able to search for it or see who is in it.
Yes. When I opened the beta version of this course in September 2014, the Facebook portion was optional and it was clear from the first week that the people participating via email were missing out on the best and most important aspect of the course: the sharing. The Facebook participants were on fire, inspiring one another (and me!) and cheering each other on. As I’ve said before, it’s all about the vulnerability of sharing and discussing.
There are no fancy supplies required for this course. You can use a cell phone, any digital (or film) camera or a simple webcam. Yes, we are going to get artistic, but this doesn’t require expensive cameras, equipment or expertise. Trust me, you’ll see!
You must be 18 or older in order to participate.
Sorry, boys, this class is for the ladies!
Please read the yancylael.com terms & conditions before making a purchase. There are no refunds available for this course. If you have to change your plans for some reason, you can attend the next course or gift your spot to a friend.