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What's a Picture Worth?

Sometimes raising your confidence level is as simple as saying cheese.

Say Cheese

A few months ago, our priest announced during Mass that the ten year old church directory was finally being updated and asked parishioners to please schedule their photo sessions.

I glanced around me in horror, realizing that all of my fellow churchgoers had a book somewhere on their bookshelves with a photo of me, X and our kids. I remembered that evening- our last official family photo session ever. We were all color coordinated, and X and I dutifully put on some fake smiles and said, “Cheese.”

For a brief moment that morning, I was certain that everyone was looking at me and my new husband and stepson and thinking, “Hmmm…” Of course, I knew that wasn’t true, and who knows? I’m sure there were some other people gasping in horror the same way.

It was painful to think that there would likely be no more photo sessions with my kiddos, they’re grown and gone. There are boxes and boxes of photos from my 26 year marriage that are currently in a closet in my stepson’s bedroom. X had asked for copies (and most of the pix even have duplicates- remember those?!) but the closet is inaccessible at the moment and I’m not sure I can face them yet anyway. X will get his half eventually. The divvying up of family mementos is never easy.

Having a new church directory photo felt odd to me, as though I have somehow inserted myself into this new family Version 2.0. But, after Mass, I obediently went online and scheduled the photo session.

A few days later, I was talking with a new friend, Paulina Gwaltney, who is a photographer. She mentioned that she has been working with more divorced women.

Of course, it makes sense that a newly single mom might want to have some family portraits taken with her kids. But that isn’t what she was talking about. Did you ever think of a professional portrait of just you- YOU, a single woman, no- scratch that. A WOMAN.

Why not? In this selfie age, of course we each have countless photos of ourselves in various states of hair, makeup, or all sorts of Snapchat filters. But the thought of going and sitting for a professional portrait never crossed my mind. We’re done with that, right? That was a yearly obligation when the photographer would come to our school- did we want the gray background or the blue one? Perhaps our parents would celebrate these photos, hanging them in the hallway or up the staircase, little 8x10 tokens of each passing year. Yearly official photos stop when we graduate high school- everyone knows that.

Some of us certainly have professional head shots for our business cards; some of us have a picture taken for a dating profile. And, unfortunately, some of us may have old boudoir photo session portraits lurking around that were a gift to our exes. Hopefully, those were disposed of humanely… For the record, I thankfully eschewed that trend.

But I’m not talking about these types of photos- types that are ultimately for someone else’s benefit.

I’m talking about believing in your own, personal and beautiful wholeness, completely on your own, as you are. Enough so that you would have your photograph taken professionally, to showcase you.

As I talked with Paulina, it was clear that she really understands the unspoken, perhaps not yet perceptible need newly divorced women have to feel valuable, beautiful and lovable. She spoke of her own self doubt stemming from being bullied and the journey she undertook to see her own true value.

Paulina said that when she discovers her client has just gotten a divorce, she knows that “this is about more than a photo in a frame. It is about defining a new reality.” She explained that her goal when working with these women is, “For them to see that they do not need to lose weight, change hair color or get fancy clothes to be better. I want them to see that the only thing they need to do is let their own true beauty shine through. We all have it in endless amounts.”

Paulina does work with hair and makeup artists during the shoots and says that she can see her clients transform in beautiful and powerful ways into more confident women.

RillPOWER is love, and we all have it. My main mission is to empower women, especially women who feel diminished self-worth, turn the love level up for themselves and realize they are beautiful, valuable human beings. This is so hard to do, some women don’t know where to start and some might not want to. But spreading love is the underlying connecting purpose that all humans have. We have to believe it for ourselves before we can truly flow it out to others and fully express our own individual reason for being on this planet.

Some tough love here: I know sometimes it is easier to stay in a comfort zone and pretend things like loving yourself or living your dreams don’t matter. “What does it matter if I love myself on the inside, nobody knows how I really feel.” Or, “I may never be able to get promoted to manager, so it is safer to just not put in for it and stay on the teller line. I’m fine with that.”

And, if you really are, great. But if you truly want more out of your life, or if you feel like you have a purpose that you aren’t quite living out because you don’t feel confident or valuable enough to take the step towards it, then I urge you to think about why that might be.

And maybe starting with a photo shoot marking your new reality is a good place to start. It’s easy, its even fun and completely nonthreatening. And of course, by all means, if you have little ones, have a new portrait session with them. But also do one on your own- you’re so worth it.

I was married over the summer, and of course there was an engagement photo session and then the endless photos taken on the wedding day. It was fun and the pix are an amazing reminder of a beautiful day and our love for one another shines through. But I also realized something I never thought about before: I am a part of my “old family” and my “new family” but I am at first, fully and completely in love with me as an individual. That’s worth celebrating on its own.