This is the fourth article in the series Baring It All: Living Authentically From the Inside Out. If you are new to this series, check out our introduction here.
Congratulations, dear readers. You’ve made it through the first section of theory and are ready to put some of our ideas into practice. Each tactic is labeled with the type of person that this works best for; feel free to mix and match as fits your particular needs.
Before getting into this, you may wish to go back and read last week’s post on examining the roots of your inner criticisms.
Starting the Process
When you first begin exploration into your authentic voice, there are a few considerations you always want to keep in mind.
- You are very likely going to come up against some uncomfortable truths. It may help to find a way to catalogue them or talk them over with a therapist or someone you trust.
- This process is not one-and-done. You’re going to need to iterate through these steps multiple times, and over time you may find that it begins to occur spontaneously.
- You may have to question something multiple times, or filter through multiple layers.
- It’s possible that some of the truths you do resonate with are still problematic or undesirable. That’s alright, and it’s why we’re going to discuss the process of authentic transformation later on.
- Most of these methods will help you gain insight into where your thoughts come from, but knowledge is only the first step. You will want to take this new information and stay aware of when you’re acting and reacting from an inauthentic place. The practice of catching yourself and adjusting these behaviors will take time and repetition; be kind and patient with yourself.
For: People with good focus and introspection, those who can quiet their minds
Yes, we’re starting with meditation, because it is the one most people are familiar with. Self-guided meditation relies on finding a center focus and using that to take yourself on a journey inside your mind.
Contrary to popular belief, meditation does not require you to immediately be able to clear your mind of any and all thoughts. That type of training takes years of practice, or a very strong natural control over your mind.
For most of us, meditation is more about taking an active part in the flow of your consciousness and awareness. To conduct a self-guided meditation that focuses around the authentic voice, try this basic practice that can be done in short 5-10 minute sessions as needed. You can repeat this whenever you want to delve in on a question, or just get practice centering. You can also go for longer or switch up the process to suit your mind best. For example, it may be easier to do this in the shower or bath if that is calming to you (or if it’s the only chance to get some “you” time). Over time, you can also learn to adapt this to fit times like standing on line, sitting in traffic, or waiting on hold on the phone.
- Begin by sitting or lying down comfortably, with no distractions apart from optional instrumental music at a low volume.
- Close your eyes and begin by observing your breath without trying to change it. Just notice the pace, depth, and rhythm of your breathing. If any thoughts float in, that’s alright. Acknowledge them, allow them to pass through (don’t try to force it), and return conscious attention to your breathing. You may have to do this multiple times throughout.
- Begin adjusting your breathing to be deeper and slower. Try to time your breath to be at least 4 seconds each on the inhale and exhale.
- Once you feel you are at an easy rhythm, direct your awareness towards the feeling, belief, or thought that you are trying to examine. If you don’t have one in mind, you can always open up your awareness and allow something to drift in.
- With each thought, allow your mind to make connections. If you hear the voice of someone else saying something in your mind, if you get an image or flashback, follow that. If you aren’t getting anything, try prompting yourself gently with questions like “Why?” or “Where did I hear that?”
- Once you’ve sat with the thought for awhile, ask yourself, “How do I really feel?” and trust your gut reaction. It may be hard at first and you may overthink it; just relax, center on your breathing, and try again.
- To finish the meditation, thank your mind for the thoughts and release them. Return focus to your breathing, and when you’re ready, slowly open your eyes.
For: People who can’t quiet their minds entirely, or need explicit instruction
Not everyone is cut out for self-guided meditation. Most of us, it turns out. Instead, it can be helpful to have vocal guidance to lead you through. This gives you something external to focus on and eases up the burden on your mind.
Different guides will work better for different people, so I don’t have an easy go-to list to share. However, you may want to keep in mind the following factors when searching:
- Preference regarding in person vs. recorded
- Available platforms, such as YouTube, podcasts, Zoom, etc.
- Times available
- Preferred tone of voice (ex. some people are calmed by a quiet, feminine voice)
- Qualifications, such as mindfulness training, clinical licensing, etc.
- Possible quiet locations
For: Logicians, visual learners, and highly inquisitive types
If you do better with active visualization, it may help you to bring your inquiry to the real world. With mind mapping, you will create a written diagram that helps break each piece of your thoughts out into an easily digestible graphic.
Feel free to use colors, graphics software, different shapes, and any other method that will make it easier for you personally to understand your maps, but here are some basic steps:
- In the center of a large piece of paper or canvas, write the thought, reaction, judgment, or feeling that you are trying to examine, and circle it.
- Draw lines out from the circle and label them as you begin asking yourself some of the following questions (or make up your own).
- Is it true?
- Says who?
- How do I feel?
- What good does it do?
- Is it hurtful?
- Do I agree?
- Do I need it?
- Can I let it go?
- For each question, write down as many answers as come to your mind and circle them, connecting them back into the center hub.
- As you go along, look for connections between some of the answers. You may notice, for example, that the reason you believe something is because it was told to you by an authority figure when you were a child.
- After you’ve run out of steam, step away. You may come back later to review, to add, or to spend some time interpreting. Don’t remove anything once it’s down though; if you find that something you wrote doesn’t feel true, add more circles with notes about that, or write that thought on a new page and turn it into its own map.
For: Consistent writers and people who prefer to keep detailed records
A helpful alternative to mind mapping, especially for people on the go, can be reaction journaling. In this simple process, you carry a small notepad or journal around with you and whenever you have a reaction or judgment that you feel needs examination, write it down along with the context, as well as any thoughts you’re having about it at the time. Alternatively, you can use an online document, speech to text translator, or other recording method.
For best results, you will want to do this consistently throughout the day to make sure the details stay fresh in your mind. If you need to, however, you can also keep mental track of the thoughts you have during the day and write them all down before bed.
Regardless of your method, review your journal periodically. It may help to organize it based on the thought you’re having, or to just keep it chronological or spontaneous. Take a look to see the connections between situations and reactions, introspection, or any progress you have made.
For: People with close family ties who are comfortable talking about deep subjects
If you are in a position to speak with some of the people that have ingrained certain ideals in your mind, going directly to the source can be a great way to uncover truths. Interviewing is a great method for when you aren’t sure where a feeling is coming from. Caretakers and elder relatives will have been around before you had much of a memory, and might be able to shed light on incidents from your youth that you may not remember.
The most important thing to keep in mind when speaking to others about your experiences is that these sessions are about gathering information, not taking someone to task or fixing the thought. Focus on questions that are non-accusatory and try to avoid snap reactions, especially when talking about sensitive topics.
Some helpful questions based on your situation may be:
- Do you know how long I’ve thought this way?
- Is this something you taught me? Why?
- Where did you learn this?
- Do you remember a scenario that may have caused this?
- Did anyone ever talk to me about this?
- What did you hope I would take away from learning this?
- How did this thought affect me while I was growing up?
Psychodynamic or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
For: Those with the means to obtain a therapist
Unlike the rest of the options given, this one relies on professional assistance. While it requires more structured time and financial investment (usually), therapies that focus on talking through and working on the root causes of behaviors can be incredibly helpful. If your troubles with authenticity are causing a significant impairment to your quality of life, or if you historically have difficulty maintaining routines without outside guidance and structure, therapy may be your best chance for success.
Additionally, therapy is an excellent follow-up for any of the other methods shared here. A therapist specializing in behavioral or solution-focused methods can help you take the information you’ve learned about yourself and apply them to real world situations.
What Does This Have to Do With Boudoir?
When booking a boudoir shoot, it can be hard to know what exactly you want. It’s easy to say that you want to look “sexy,” but what does that mean for you? What look will actually empower you to feel that you are baring it all and being your authentic self? What do you want to see when you look through your photographs later? Being able to answer those questions will put you in a better place before, during, and after your shoot.
Furthermore, having a better sense of self and desire can be a great way to build a productive relationship with your photographer. If you are struggling with the judgments of others on your body, you are likely to either allow yourself to be posed, dressed, or shot in ways that you aren’t actually comfortable with. Alternatively, you might become very resistant to your photographer’s suggestions, making it difficult for you to relax and diminishing your satisfaction with the results.
With an authentic voice, you can set yourself up for success. You can choose the lingerie, costumes, outfits, accessories, and/or makeup that will help you feel your best. You will be equipped to have helpful and collaborative discussions with your photographer, while still giving them the trust and control to put their training to work for you.