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Let Go of Picture Perfect

by Elise Museles

liz arch yogaDo you look in the mirror and give yourself a compliment?  Or do you zoom in on what you perceive as your not-so-perfect appearance?  Or when it’s time to shop for a bathing suit (with those awful lights), do you think, “I love my body just as it is?” Or do you use magazine cover models as a standard for comparison?

Let’s be honest: there may be a lucky few of you who are completely comfortable in your own skin.  But for the majority of us, no matter what we actually do look like, we often see ourselves with a judgmental & critical eye.  The pressure-valve of perfectionism runs so deep, and it sets us up with painfully high standards that are impossible for most of us to ever achieve.  And you know what happens next, disappointment inevitably sets in…

So, when my brother, Robert Sturman, told me that he had done a rare photo shoot with Liz Arch, a model & creator of Primal Yoga, that was raw, real and unphotoshopped, I couldn’t wait to see and hear more… In this guest post, Liz is vulnerable & courageous as she shares with us her experience of letting go of “picture perfect”.

The Real Unphotoshopped Me, by Liz Arch

yoga-5There are parts of ourselves we try to hide because somewhere along the way, we created the idea that we are alone in our flaws.

We flip through magazines and see gorgeous models with perfect bodies, then we look in the mirror and feel less than. The photo above shows much more than I would ever normally feel comfortable displaying, but I share it today with the hope that we can stop comparing ourselves to others and start loving ourselves for the beautifully flawed masterpieces that we truly are.

A photographer once told me that even the models on magazine covers wish they looked like their own images.  As a yoga teacher who has appeared in my own fair share of photo spreads and magazines, I can vouch for that. I have been told not to “overindulge at the salad bar” before big shoots and I’ve often wondered why I suffer through last minute juice cleanses and spray tans, when the final images are always photoshopped to erase my imperfections.

Sure, my ego loves looking at these “perfect” photoshopped images of myself, but these images aren’t the real me.  I have cellulite and stretch marks and days when I skip my yoga mat for the couch and a pint of ice cream. But in our social media driven world, where everybody’s life seems so much glossier than our own, we’ve managed to convince ourselves that real is not beautiful and every photo needs a filter. I’m definitely guilty of editing my public life down to a handful of inspiring quotes and photos on Facebook that only show my best sides.

I never really thought much about it, until I started receiving messages from people telling me how “perfect” my body was. The thought of other people lifting me up only to put themselves down broke my heart, especially since perfect is not a word I would ever use to describe myself. So I called my dear friend, photographer Robert Sturman, and asked him if he would shoot the “real” me.

One of the reasons I have always admired Robert’s work is because he doesn’t do a lot of retouching. He might adjust the exposure of an image or play with the background, but you will never see a size eight woman photoshopped down to a size four. As a skilled photographer, he knows the body’s angles and when angles are not enough, he leaves all unflattering photos on the cutting room floor.

This shoot wasn’t about flattery though, so we threw the old rules out and created a new set: 1. No photoshopping of my body or face would be allowed. 2. All angles would be fair game.  3.  I would show up to the shoot as myself (translation: I would not starve myself, workout excessively, spray tan, or do any of the other absurd things models do before a shoot).

Here is the result. The real me is someone with a normal, healthy body—and yes, a normal, healthy body has cellulite on the back of her thighs and a belly that folds instead of lays flat.

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Everybody has a part of her body that she doesn’t like, but I’ve stopped complaining about mine because I don’t want to critique nature’s handiwork…My job is simply to allow the light to shine out of the masterpiece.” ~ Alfre Woodard

Robert and I had set out to capture both the beauty and the beast, but a strange thing happened that day. Out of over 400 photos we shot, there ended up being only a handful of images that showed my flaws. Ironically, after years of being in front of the camera hoping I delivered the “right” shot, I was actually starting to panic that we hadn’t captured enough of the “wrong” shots. I had set out to reveal the ugly sides of myself, but in shot after shot, all I could find was beauty.  It occurred to me that I could easily take a photo of myself at my worst—we all could.

But even on my worst days, while ugly is how I might feel, it is never who I am.

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The beauty of this shoot is that it captured all sides of me and while some sides admittedly made me cringe, others absolutely took my breath. For the first time ever on a shoot, I was able to completely let go of all self-consciousness and get really comfortable in my own skin. It dawned on me as I posed unabashedly next to a soft and curved statue of Venus, that my flaws were part of what made me an exquisite work of art.

“People often say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing that you are the beholder.” ~ Salma Hayek

The next time you look in the mirror, adore yourself from every angle. Accept your flaws so you may identify with your beauty.  Let go of the obsession with your outer self and allow your light to shine from deep within.

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Question of the day: Have you learned to let go of perfection in the mirror and become more comfortable in your own skin? What do you think about Liz’s vulnerability & courage? Share your insights & experiences below.

liz-arch-smallLiz Arch is the creator of Primal Yoga®, a dynamic yoga and martial arts fusion class that merges Vinyasa yoga with the playfulness of Capoeira, the artistry of Kung Fu and the grace of Tai Chi into a mindful flow. She has over 10 years of experience in various yoga and martial arts styles including Yoga Tune Up®, traditional Northern-style Kung Fu and Yang-style Tai Chi. She is an athlete for Respect Your Universe and a proud advocate for A Window Between Worlds, the only national non-profit organization that uses art as a healing tool for women and children who are survivors of domestic violence.  Connect with her online at LizArch.com, via Facebook or instagram @lizarch.

*original article appeared on Elephant Journal.

6 Responses to Let Go of Picture Perfect

  1. Leda July 18, 2013 at 11:54 am #

    Love Love Love this article. Thank you for the reminder.
    Leda

    • Elise July 18, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

      Leda, I am so glad that the article resonated with you!

  2. Sharon Pingitore July 18, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    And what is PERFECT? Isn’t it always in the eye of the beholder.? I love this piece. It really hits home that your imperfections are usually in your own mind, and others, especially the ones that love you, never see them. Thank you Robert, Liz and Elise, for a beautiful article. ~ Mamaste

    • Elise July 18, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

      Mamaste,
      Yes, we are our own worst critics. So true: “Perfect” is in the eye of the beholder. Thanks, as always, for your wonderful insights. ~Elise

  3. Betsy Fry July 18, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

    This is beautiful in so many ways! The honesty and vulnerability is what the world needs more of. Thank you to both you women for sharing!

    • Elise July 18, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

      Betsy, I agree with you that we are meant to be real (not perfect). Thank you for commenting. ~Elise

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