My close friend and mentor teaches boot camp in the next room from where I hold my self-care classes. She is able to post photos on social media showing the “before-and-after” effects of these workouts on her clients. You can see the weight-loss, you can see the slimmed down bodies.
I scratch my head: how can I, too, show the before-and-after effects of a self-care practice on my students?
How do you take a photo of a person who has sat in their 5 minute morning meditation and is moving through their day feeling a little lighter, more grounded than they used to.
How do you take a photo of that same person’s calmer nervous system in that exact moment when someone cuts them off in traffic but because they meditated that morning, they don’t cuss a storm or clench their fists or grind their teeth like they used to.
How do you photograph that moment when someone says no to an invitation because they are exhausted from the week and are choosing quiet time over obligatory socializing? How do you capture the feeling of guilt or shame they might initially feel but also a feeling of self-empowerment: they are finally putting themselves first. The thrill of it. In their heart, in their spirit. How this small change will lead to big results in the coming months and years as they create more and more time for themselves.
My friend posts videos of her workouts. It is noisy, it is fun, people are dripping with sweat. Very engaging, external signs of the work.
My self-care classes have deeply personal discussions around why we come to these practices and how difficult they are to maintain. Honest discussion in safe community. Knowing you’re not alone makes the work so much more accessible.
My videos, when I do make them, show folks who look like they’re asleep on the floor. I can’t photograph the deep relaxation their nervous system is experiencing, or the release of childhood trauma that their body held for decades which releases slowly every time they are in this carefully set-up restorative pose.
In a society obsessed with the external, with legitimizing every moment with a selfie, the work of self-care can easily take a back seat. Because the work brings up all the feels, and then helps us move through it to a more grounded, easeful place. This work is internal, it is personal, it is hard, it is unglamorous.
It asks us to get quiet. Sit with ourselves. Reflect. Rest. These things are increasingly difficult to do in a society that asks us to do the opposite all the time.
And when we do, when we show up for ourselves, over and over, day after day, change happens. Unphotographable change but deep, lifelong change. We get lighter, not in weight but in our hearts, our spirits. We get powerful not from the heavy weights we lift but from each time we take care of ourselves, put ourselves first.
We show up for ourselves and love ourselves and people will see it, trust me. They may not be able to put their finger on it, you may not be able to at first either, but you will inspire your loved ones when they see the results of your self-care journey written all over your body, mind, spirit.
You may not photograph it, but you will be walking proof of it.
proudly serving queer and trans folks and people of color in learning self-care to move towards self-love