Embracing Imperfection | The Refined Collective

This post is in collaboration with The Refined Collective Series. Be sure and check out the other ladies in this wonderful group: The Refined WomanJulien GarmanBrynna WatkinsJackie Viramontez,  Lauren ScruggsRebecca Hajek and Erica Chen.


 Image by Katherine Harris

Image by Katherine Harris

A few years ago, when I was rebranding Boudoir by Tutti to properly define its core values, one of the most intentional decisions I made was to eliminate the word imperfection from my vocabulary. Women would reach out to me, interested in booking a boudoir shoot with the caveat that I retouch their imperfections and then they'd list them off for me. Early in my business, I basically did whatever my clients wanted me to do. If they wanted me to get edit wrinkles, lines, skin, dimples, scars, acne, moles or any other skin feature, I'd simply do it, no questions asked. This resulted in pictures I can barely look at now without cringing. They're so over-edited and fake that I can barely stand it! Not just for the amateur aesthetic they display, but because they don't represent the woman I remember meeting and photographing that day. They don't showcase the way she made me feel or the essence of her being. Did I do a disservice to her by airbrushing her skin and erasing the marks that make her, her? The answer is yes and no. In booking a shoot, going through the experience and seeing pictures of themselves that reflect a wonderful version of themselves, these women felt joyous and beautiful. I can't discount the power of that. On the other hand, they continued on with their lives perhaps believing that what makes those pictures beautiful is the fact that those features were erased from existence, and that's certainly counts as a disservice.

I've expanded and refined my vision for women in the past seven years in a way that serves both my values and my vision for women. I'm confident we can move toward being women who not only embrace the skin we're in but also stand in the power that comes with that truth. In practical terms, what this means is refusing to use destructive words such as imperfections to refer to natural features of our physical body, embracing the features we have difficulty accepting as well as celebrating the ones we adore, being tender and loving to our bodies through wellness and continuing to fight for authenticity in relationships, interactions and media's representation of women. 

During a recent interview, I asked a woman to describe a visualization exercise where she pictured her future self. In her mind, the picture she saw, albeit a physical representation of herself, represented her actual spirit - her essence - her soul. She referenced how her children see her, how no matter what she's wearing, how congested or sick she might feel, how tired or unattractive she might appear on any given day, her children still run to her for love and comfort. They see her essence. She is enough. She is beautiful. She is worthy. It painted such a warm image in my mind about how simple this all really is. You and I don't carry imperfections - we are exactly how we are supposed to be. 

We are enough.

We are beautiful.

We are worthy. 

What if we approached our perception of ourselves in the same way children do - with carefree and joyous abandon? When there's nothing standing in our way, joy erupts. When we flip our need for our physical bodies to speak to how we feel inside and instead allow our beautiful essences to coat our physicality, we will feel worthy, seen and beautiful. Always. 

As your peer and friend, I admit this isn't the attitude I wake up with daily. It takes practice, community and tools to peel back layers of yucky residue. One of my favorite ways to center myself and feel my spirit is by using affirmations during meditation. With eyes closed, a serene environment and breath connection, I find these repeated phrases helpful in reminding me how much beauty and love rests inside me. Take yourself through your favorite meditation and use any of these powerful words to bring clarity to your own spirit and essence.

May I be filled with loving-kindness.

May I be well.

May I be peaceful and at ease.

May I be happy.

May I be appreciative and thankful.

May I be blessed with pure love and light.

May I be joyful. May I be now smiling.

May I be larger to cultivate more loving kindness.

May I be healthy.

May I live with ease.

May I be blessed.

May YOU feel ease and peace, my darlings, and may you know there are no such things as imperfections.

With love,
Tutti

// C R E D I T S //

The Refined Woman Collective
Loving kindness affirmations

 

Just Breathe

This post is written in collaboration with some of the most stellar and deep-thinking women I've met. It's a series called The Refined Collective, organized by The Refined Woman. Each month, we'll each share our thoughts on an assigned topic. This month is all about Breathing. Be sure and check out the other women who are a part of this Collective: Katherine HarrisJoanne Encarnacion, Corie Clark, Jackie Viramontez, Julien Garman, Nikia Phoenix, Brynn Watkins, Jessica Chow and Tonhya Wysong. Check out the other ladies on Instagram!


It happens to me so often. An entire day goes by... I somehow navigated through various meals, different conversations and plentiful moments but the one thing I didn't "get done" was simply becoming aware of my breath. Our breath is magnificent in that it's the only function we do both consciously and unconsciously, voluntarily and involuntarily. How amazing is that?! We can do this because breathing is connected to two different sets of nerves - our sympathetic nervous system and our parasympathetic nervous system. What I want to shed light on in this post is recognizing when to tap into each individual set, why it's important to do this and what can happen if we don't. 

Beside being our life force and one of the most incredible gifts we're given every single day, our breath is closely tied to our health and well-being, specifically our hormones. Without getting too scientific, it's important to understand the role our hormones play in our health and how we can alter their relationship to our bodies and, moreover, their overall effect on our minds and mental state. WHY? Because we all want to be happy and enjoy highly functioning bodies, right? Right. Enter: our beautiful breath. 

The sympathetic nervous system is in charge of keeping us safe from danger - when it's activated in our bodies, we're able to face threats and quickly decide to "fight or take flight." This is tremendously helpful when we're actually facing dangerous threats, such as being chased by a lion or predator. In these stressful cases or simply when the sympathetic nervous system is activated (even without actual threats), the hormone cortisol gets dumped into our bloodstream to deal with this stress - physical or mental. The way cortisol works is it essentially shuts down other systems - like our immune system - to divert all energies to dealing with the stress. You can see how this could become an issue over an extended period of time when we're not actually being chased by lions (because most of us aren't). Our bodies - our sympathetic nervous system - can't tell the difference between a real threat and something like "I have so much on my plate right now at work." It deals with both stressors in the same exact way. Too much cortisol in our bloodstream can lead to many illnesses and unhealthy effects, such as high blood pressure, rapid weight gain, skin conditions, anxiety, depression and the list goes on. No one wants any of that! 

Our parasympathetic nervous system, on the other hand, is in charge of helping us heal, recover, rest and bring calmness into our bodies. Sometimes referred to as the "rest and digest" system, the parasympathetic system works to balance the effects of having triggered our "fight or flight" sensors. What a cool balancing act our bodies innately have. 

I've already established how both systems are connected to our physical health through the hormones that get released when each is activated. But what's also extremely important to recognize here is how directly tied both systems are to our mental health. In understanding this close relationship we can begin to infuse our daily life and general health with doses of the good stuff. What's the good stuff you ask? Yep, you know it! It starts with our breath. 

Remember when I said earlier that our breath is both voluntary and involuntary? The involuntary is what keeps us alive despite us forgetting to breathe for an entire day (or days, weeks, months. AH!). The voluntary is what we do intentionally. The voluntary kind can be used to actually kick the parasympathetic nervous system (think: recover, rest, balance, exhale) into gear and deactivate the sympathetic one (think: fight or flight, reaction to stress, inhale). This is wonderful news because we live in a world where we're all constantly ON; we're constantly going and doing and trying. Think of someone who's highly stressed and you can probably visualize rapid breathing as opposed to visualizing someone who's quite calm and the word exhale almost drips from the scene. The problem is we are living in full-on stress mode, most of us land on the sympathetic side most of the time, preventing our bodies from getting that healing parasympathetic goodness. I know this firsthand because I've felt the immediate effects of turning that off simply by breathing and noticing how much better I feel. If you've ever done any type of meditation or yoga or breathing exercise, you probably know exactly what I'm talking about. It's time to take control of our bodies, our minds and our overall health by simply taking the time to breathe. 

Here's a daily practice you can do to start blessing your body with healing and calming vibes:

  • Find a comfortable seat. This could be in your home, at your office, on the subway or anywhere you're able to sit quietly for 5 minutes.
  • Close your eyes and gently let your hands rest on your legs.
  • Begin just by listening to your breath. The tone. The length. The temperature. Where it lands. Where it expands. No judgements. Simply being curious with yourself and your breath.
  • Exhale all your air out.
  • Inhale for a count of 2 - breathe in air to capacity. Fill yourself up. Pause for a moment at the top.
  • Exhale for a count of 4 - let all the air exit your body. Empty yourself completely and pause at the bottom. Continue with this count until you feel you're ready to to lengthen each cycle. 
  • Inhale for a count of 4, pause.
  • Exhale for a count of 6, pause. Continue with this count until you feel you're ready to to lengthen each cycle. 
  • Inhale for a count of 6, pause.
  • Exhale for a count of 8, pause. Continue with this count for another minute or two.
  • After 5-10 minutes, allow your breath to continue naturally, at its own pace. 
  • Softly flutter your eyes open and smile.

I've prepared a video to guide you through this process so you know you're not alone in this! I hope you take this exercise and weave it into your life intentionally and voluntarily. If this is something you've enjoyed and want to see more of, please do leave a comment or message me separately - I always love keeping conversations going! 

Sending you immense love and wishes for your breath and body to be spacious and soft,

Tutti


This post is written in collaboration with some of the most stellar and deep-thinking women I've met. It's a series called The Refined Collective, organized by The Refined Woman. Each month, we'll each share our thoughts on an assigned topic. This month is all about Breathing. Be sure and check out the other women who are a part of this Collective: Katherine HarrisJoanne Encarnacion, Corie Clark, Jackie Viramontez, Julien Garman, Nikia Phoenix, Brynn Watkins, Jessica Chow and Tonhya Wysong. Check out the other ladies on Instagram!

 

Calling on Your First Love

This post is written in collaboration with some of the most stellar and deep-thinking women I've met. It's a series called The Refined Collective, organized by The Refined Woman. Each month, we'll each share our thoughts on an assigned topic. This month is all about Love. Be sure and check out the other women who are a part of this Collective: Katherine Harris and Joanne Encarnacion. Check out the other ladies on Instagram!

 Visiting my friend in Italy circa 2010 before I decided to become "a photographer."

Visiting my friend in Italy circa 2010 before I decided to become "a photographer."

When I received the notification from Katherine (from The Refined Woman) that the next topic on queue was love, I immediately dreaded saying yes to this task. Love has always felt so much bigger than me. A topic that I couldn't possibly tackle in real life let alone write a public post about! I felt utterly inept to write about love because the first thing that came to mind was a recent break-up - and then I remembered one of Brené Brown's insightful comments when she said that "When you ask people about love, they tell you about heartbreak." It's a behavior that intrinsically draws us closer together through connection and vulnerability. I knew then that I wanted this to be about something even bigger than THAT type of post, so I want to invite you even deeper into my heart.

Today, I want to call upon your first love - that which first set your soul on fire - which started as a seed and either sprouted into full-on blazing flames or perhaps got nipped in the bud prior to its first spark. Our first love is that place in our hearts where we forgo our egos and opt for something bigger. It's what inspires us to create, what inspires us to be a better fill-in-the-blank, what inspires us to dream, what makes our heart skip a beat, what sends our voice into a higher pitch and our speech cadence into a quicker rhythm because We. Just. Can't. Contain. Ourselves. In her TED Talk about success and failure, Elizabeth Gilbert calls this place our home. "Your home is whatever in this world you love more than yourself. Your home is that thing to which you can dedicate your energies with such singular devotion that the ultimate results become inconsequential." For her, home is writing and storytelling. For me, it's photography and creativity. 

I received a message on Instagram the other day from a lovely gal who essentially asked me how I started my photography career. I enthusiastically sent her an e-mail with as many tips and industry-related tricks as I could rack up in my brain. As corny as it sounds, I felt compelled to let her know that it's never too early (or late) to pursue her dreams - and if photography is what lights her up, what brings her home - then that's exactly where she should expel her energies. How many of you relate to doing something temporarily because "that other thing" just isn't practical at the moment? Or perhaps because it'd be foolish or seen as silly despite that intense feeling deep down begging you to give it a try? It may be writing, or being a great wife, or becoming a SoulCycle instructor, or inventing the next app, or doing community work, it could be anything! What is it? Dig deep. Go there. 

When I was a young girl, I'd beg my parents to buy me disposable cameras at Walgreens so I could document my super exciting tween life. I remember my grandpa giving me one of his old Polaroid cameras because he noticed my affinity for the art. I'd go through old photo albums with my mom, asking her about her memories, helping her rearrange the pictures, mesmerized by the entire process of photography. As time passed, I kept using my hard-earned money from selling limes and banana bread (#IslandLife) to buy cameras and film (translation: my parents bought them for me). I'd be the friend taking pictures at school and at the few parties I was allowed to go to. I'd make albums that I'd then show all my friends. In college, I'd do my friends' hair and make-up so I could photograph them and show them how beautiful they were (and how awesome my photo skills were). Looking back, it all seems so clear to me. From a young age, my home has always been creativity, human connection and capturing emotion through photography. It's what always brought me joy.

There's so much sacrifice in life. Inherently, to live is to experience a range of emotions that far exceed the limitations of human understanding. So why not make it a joyful life? I'm not saying life is perfect when you choose to do that which your heart craves, but I do believe there's a lot more room for joy when we do something we love. It's our way of communicating to the Universe that we're receptive to its call. 

What I want for you, my darling friend, is a life full of inspiration, joy, excitement, satisfaction, fulfillment, self-exploration, outward focus and LOVE. I want you to find your home. I want you to be blessed with a rich life because you've given yourself the gift of going through it with open communication with your heart. I want there to be more joy in the world by starting with you. If you've been strayed from your soul's path, as Gilbert says," your job is to fight your way back to that home the only way its ever been done... by putting your head down and performing with diligence and devotion and respect and reverence whatever the task is that love is calling forth from you next."

Do it. 

With love always,

Tutti

 

// S O U R C E S //

Elizabeth Gilbert, TED Talk, Success, Failure and the drive to keep creating

Brené Brown, TED Talk, The Power of Vulnerability