Your Belief System

You’ve heard me mention negative core beliefs a lot in my writings.  This is something I work heavily on with both myself and my clients.  

These beliefs about yourself are created through negative and hurtful experiences, from the most minor to the majorly significant.  All the events you live through in life have the potential to build these beliefs.

Your trauma and pain – it creates beliefs about yourself.

Your depression and anger – it creates beliefs about yourself.

Your family and friend relationships – it creates beliefs about yourself.  

Without even noticing, those beliefs become truths that you accept as fact about yourself.  Yes, you believe them as truth but they are far from it.  They are based in the false messages that your inner critic sends to you about how bad and unworthy you are.  

You have to put forth the effort to first recognize these beliefs, identify some of the roots on where they developed, and begin to put some loving truth to them in order to see the reality of situations.

You essentially work to disprove these negative beliefs.

This is a critical step to quieting the hurtful inner voice, and you learn to trust your inner wisdom to help you see the truth of each and every situation.  I have a whole section about this in my confidence course.

While most women have similar negative beliefs such as I am not enough, I am unworthy, I am a failure, there are some beliefs that are very specific to you and your lived experiences.  

These are beliefs that you don’t often vocalized to others – it eats away at you internally, fearing judgement if you ever verbalize such things.  

It’s extremely isolating, and it’s a lonely place to operate from.

Why am I sharing this with you.  Well, a negative belief of mine has been rearing its ugly head over the past few months.  

One of my negative beliefs (yes, one, because you have many … many you don’t even know you have without the proper reflection) is that PEOPLE ONLY LIKE ME FOR WHAT I CAN DO FOR THEM!  

This belief leads me to think that others are always out for themselves and will throw me to the curb the second they have a chance to. 

That they will take advantage of my kindness.

That they will use our relationship to get what they want for themselves.

They will ultimately want to push me down so they can elevate themselves.

And well, they feel it’s OK to hurt me, my feelings and will blatantly disrespect me.

This belief dictates how I feel the world perceives me, it dictates my relationships, it defines who I am … and not in a good way.

And everything that happens in my relationships simply proves this untruth to myself.  My inner critic will say to me, “See, Maura.  There it is.  Remember, they only like you because they can get something from you.  Told you so.”  

Yup, it’s the little nag inside that says “TOLD YOU SO” after anything negative happens to me.  It hurts, deeply.  

I have to work, because let’s face it – nothing gets better in life without work, to understand what is happening with my thoughts while it is happening, take an eagle eye look at what transpired and choose a new story to tell myself.  A story that has loving truth to it – love for myself, compassionate love for others, just love.  It’s really hard to do because I feel so beat down, but I try.  I can recognize when this happens, and while I may hurt for awhile, I will eventually be able to come around and see what transpired.

I can see what my thoughts did.

I can understand that old belief that exists in my life.

I know it’s root, I know it’s trigger.

I can tell myself that it no longer serves me.

I can begin to change the dialogue with myself.  

I can build the foundation for a new belief.

And I can finally start to live a life built on that positive, encouraging and powerful belief.

That’s what I want to believe.  

I want to live in that truth, not the falsehood I have created for myself.  

I encourage you to challenge your thoughts, identify the falsehoods that hold you back, think about whether there is any basis for truth in them, and work to build your beliefs about yourself with a loving truth that is unmovable!  

You are worthy.

You are lovable.

You are enough.

3 truths that serve me, and you too!

*

(Let me be clear: I love my job and am so fulfilled by helping women feel good from the inside out. This is vulnerability sharing this belief that I have been carrying with me since childhood….)

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You Body Was Never The Problem

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I was speaking with a client recently who had shared with me that she’d been fad dieting since she was 10. I was reflecting about my own journey as well (my first SlimFast drink at age 11), and I sat down after her photo shoot and wrote this.

**

I see you.

Wanting to love yourself but can’t let go of what you should look like.

Going on another diet hoping this time it’s the one that will work.

Trying a new exercise program thinking this is the secret.  

You are convinced this time will be – must be – different but the doubt always creeps in.

Wondering if you’ll ever succeed, you’ll ever be happy, you’ll ever “get there.” 

But where is “there?”  

The finish line never seems to approach, so you let the shame, hurt and disappointment in yourself take over once again.

It’s a simple wish – to be comfortable in your own skin.  

Depriving yourself of life’s joy by not participating in the things you want, by focusing on something insignificant. 

Restricting yourself constantly, worried about what you ate, calories burned.

Do this, don’t do that.

Eat this, don’t eat that.

Constantly consumed with thoughts of food.

Constantly consumed with negative thoughts aimed at the failure you see in yourself.

Because you fail.

Every time.

And, it’s always your fault.  

Desperately wanting to “get it together” or “this time with be different”

“Why can’t you do this?”

You keep trying – one more diet, one more exercise routine, this procedure, that food – it might be the one thing.

But one thought prevails – when does it end?

Could, just for once, you look like the girls in the magazines.

Could you just have the body of your friends. 

Seeing the success of others, only increasing the disgust you feel because you can’t do it.

The comparison never ends, neither does your failure.

So, you look to the past, trying to find answers and resolution.

Now looking at yourself with kinder eyes.

Wishing you could go back in time and love yourself just the way you were.

Wondering if it would have been possible to stop this madness that you hope doesn’t last your whole life.

Wondering, when or if, it will ever be enough.

Whether you will ever be enough.

You miss the you that didn’t care about this stuff.

The you that could peacefully exist.  

The you that lived life without worry about what others think.

The you that danced in the rain, the you that ran around the yard, the you that wore whatever she wanted, the you that happily jumped in the water any time she could.  

The you that lived freely.  

Is that person still within?

But what if the only way to feel good about yourself, your body, the way you look is to change how you think.

Loving yourself and accepting your body, doesn’t mean you always need to change your body or the way you look. 

You have a choice to say that right here and now it ends. 

There is a more peaceful way to exist.  

Your feelings about yourself should never be tied to the way you look. 

This is what society wants us to believe, they want us to feel badly so they can sell us fixes to all our problems

Stop beating yourself up because you gained weight.

Stop beating yourself up when a new wrinkle appears.

Stop berating your body when your clothes don’t fit anymore.

Stop

Just stop.

Just stop.

BREATHE.

Your body is not wrong

It never was. 

**

PS – I always have to preface these kind of posts by saying that I don’t care what you do with your body.  You have body autonomy to do what you wish.  Your body is insignificant to me, it’s the least interesting thing about you – I like to focus on what makes you YOU, and that has nothing to do with how your body looks.  <3 

**

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Dealing with Rejection

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I was speaking with a client during her session recently and she shared with me how much she has been rejected as of late, particularly by romantic partners.

She was doing boudoir so that she can see and celebrate herself since she’s been so weighed down by this rejection.

She was talking about how devastating it is to be rejected so many times and how much it hurts her. How she feels like something is wrong with her.  How nothing ever works out.  I then said, “Do you feel like this rejection confirms all the negative thoughts you have about yourself?”  She answered, “Yes.”

Never missing a chance to coach during my sessions, I had to share something with her.

You have to stop looking at rejection as a personal rejection. You have to stop internalizing it.

They didn’t reject YOU, they rejected a relationship.

When you internalize the rejection and you think something is wrong with you, you can sometimes start to want to change who you are to be accepted by another. That change could be physical, emotional, mentally. You can start to pretend to be someone different, say you like things you don’t, etc. And when you do that it pushes you further away from your authentic self.

People will never see the real you because you will do anything to avoid that rejection. You will play the game and be what they want you to be, not who you are.

When you internalize the rejection, you live or die by another’s acceptance of you.

You should only be looking to yourself for acceptance.

Again, they didn’t reject YOU, they rejected the relationship.

Looking at it this way allows you to remove yourself from the rejection. You don’t internalize it as much when you realize that they rejected someTHING not someONE.

I saw a shift in her in that moment as a light bulb went off.  In my space, women open up to me, share super vulnerable things, they let me in.  It’s not enough for me to just take their photos, I am there to listen to them, support them, guide them.  This is more than “JUST” boudoir photos.  This is why getting my self love life coach certification was so important to me.  I use it in almost every session!

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Maura’s Musings – Body & Mind

Your body is at the mercy of your mind.  You’ve, I’m sure, heard the famous quote that goes something like this “Your body isn’t the problem.  What you think about your body is the problem.”

And, it’s true.  Your mind is bullying your body and you are the only one that can put a stop to it.

Whenever something happens in my life, my body immediately takes the brunt of my hurt, anger and pain.  I take it all out on my body, as if my body is the cause of all my problems.  That if I didn’t look the way I did that what I am experiencing, what I am feeling, what I am dealing with would not exist.  This is the biggest lie I tell myself.  I imagine most women do this.

Recently, I was trying to handle some HVAC issues at the studio and I found myself saying things like, “Gosh you are so gross. You need to lose some weight.  Stop eating all that nasty food.”

What did I think?  That if my body changed, I would have had HVAC problems.  They would exist regardless of what I looked like.  The anger I felt would be there regardless.  Why couldn’t I just deal with the emotions I was feeling instead of bullying my body?  The emotions will always come and go, and my body shouldn’t bare the weight of everything in life.

Knowing that this behavior is no longer a typical for me (it once was), I stopped and questioned why I was saying such things.  Knowing that my body hadn’t changed recently, so there was nothing physical that had actually happened that would trigger this kind of response, I knew it was an emotional response.  To deal with my emotions, I was taking it out on my body.

Ever have a bad day and you yell at someone that had nothing to do with your bad day?  That’s what I was doing, just to myself, my body, not another person.

What a terrible trend.  I realized that a new goal needed to exist within my life.

That goal is that my body and mind need to peacefully coexist.

That goal means that when someone happens in my life or when I’m feeling heavy emotions, that I don’t immediately blame my body.  They peacefully coexist.

When I was younger and my sisters and I would fight, my mother would inevitably have to jump in to get us to stop.

Her response to us was always, “You don’ have to like each other right now but you do need to respect each other.”

That’s how we should be looking at the relationship with our body.

You don’t have to like it.  Love it?  Not necessary.

But, peacefully coexistence where the mind doesn’t attack the body when something goes wrong.

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Do it because it’s Tuesday

I ask two very important questions before every session, two questions that are necessary for me to give the best possible experience to my clients.

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The second question is, “What do you want your photos to look like?”  Most of the time that’s met with a blank stare so I follow it up with, “When we are sitting here next month at your photo reveal, what do you want to see in your images?  What mood to you want to evoke?”  This helps me set the tone for what we will do, how we will proceed throughout the session, what I want to capture, sets I want to use.

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It all matters. And, it’s all about you.  Everyone what’s something different and I’m going to cater to that!

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When I asked this client those questions, she immediately told me two things.  First, she wanted to capture her JOY.  She’s come through a lot, as you’ll read through below, and she wanted that joy, the fun, the effervescence to shine through.  Then she said, “And I want to show my witch side.”  CHECK AND CHECK, BABY!

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Here is her joy and her witch.  The rest of this post is in her words!

(Maura note – as always, photos are shared with permission.  Nipples pixelated on website on purpose.)

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1) Why did you decide to invest in a boudoir photo shoot?  I had a very traumatic childhood. I was taught my only value was in my ability to bear children. I was taught to hide my body, to be ashamed of my curves. I was told to not like sexuality. I was abused and used for years. I was told women could not work unless as a teacher or nurse – “women’s jobs”. I have spent years finding my identity. I knew who I was in there, and did the work to uncover all of it. I had to strip off layers of lies. I worked extremely hard obtaining multiple degrees, and now work for a firm in Chicago! I landed this dream job 2 years ago, treasure my curves, delight in intimacy. I know who I am, and am so happy to find peace. I wanted a set of photos that captured all of me. I know that my sexuality is a wonderfully complex and fun side of me that I am quite comfortable with, and wanted to capture that very important part of me in photos. I have completely liberated myself from the shame they tried to put on me, and I wanted to SEE ME.

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2) How did you feel about yourself before your photo shoot?  I was very proud of myself – my inner work accomplishments, and my visible accomplishments. I spent so much of my life just trying to survive, then trying to recover. Finally, over the last 3-5 years, I have felt like I shed the cocoon and am flying. I am ready to live the next 30 years fully. Not fixing and looking back, but looking forward. I am present and celebrate moments. I am not ashamed. I’m not wearing labels others put on me anymore. I know who I am. I wanted to capture that in pictures. So, before my shoot, I felt ready. I wanted to see what that looked like on me.

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3) How did you feel about yourself after your photo shoot?  Validated. I see that woman in the pictures and I see the freedom I worked for. I SEE the joy I experience every day. I see health, stability, freedom, confidence, and the version of me who sits happily in her own skin and wants to experience the world. I am not heavy with grief. I have learned where that lives in me. I have learned how give my grief a safe home and treasure that part of me. I have joy, and I can experience it now, not in contrast to grief, but because and with, and I and never have to pretend they don’t exist simultaneously. My pictures validated the experience I feel deeply inside of me. I am so free. I thought that would look good!

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4) Describe your session in 3 words?  Validating, FUN, magical

5) What was your favorite part of the boudoir photo shoot?  Oh thats a really tough question because the experience was more than the sum of its parts. I loved Maura. I have watched her and her work, and the community she has been building for a long time. There are plenty of other photographers who could take pictures of me. Maura is not just doing a job though. I watched over and over when clients spoke of their experience, how uniquely special each one was. Maura has the ability to be present and handle each client as the client is experiencing it: A single, special day. Not just another day at work. And I think that is remarkable. This is not just a transaction of service and payment. Maura’s emotional intelligence is off the charts. She could *just* be a photographer, but she takes it far beyond. She gives energy and love. She emanates joy and comfort and that air supports every single one of her clients through their set. That is a tremendous energy investment on her part. So, yeah, my favorite part was Maura. She is a remarkable female leader, and uses her exquisite talent to build others up. Thats too big to even try to wrap words around.

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6) What value do you think a boudoir session brings to your life and the community of women you support? I will try not to go on a feminist rant, and will attempt to keep the soapbox from coming out! So, we live in this very patriarchal world, where we are pretty, but we can’t admit it. We are told men want sex, but women are coy and don’t. If we show our curves, it is incorrectly understood by others that it is for attention. What if, we just existed in our skin and loved it? What if we didn’t look at ourselves by how others were going to judge us? What if we took joy in exactly who we are? Thats what Maura does. She lets women be free from judgement for a couple of hours, and gives them a lens to see themselves as they really are. I think a woman gets her power back when she sees herself. The value of a boudoir session is immeasurable, but to try to quantify it in words, it is liberating. Once you see yourself and that side of you with true honesty, it’s a pivotal moment. This is a uniquely personal experience, and women generally don’t do things that are just for themselves. There are several major psychological things that happen as a person goes through the process. First there is deciding to reach out and book an appointment. That in itself is a giant breakthrough. Getting a woman to say she is valuable enough and pretty enough to take that step? Thats HUGE. Then, the experience happens. That is another step in the process because Maura is hooting and laughing, and it’s a FUN experience. The woman goes home that day smiling and excited to see the work. She feels GOOD. Maybe hopeful that the pictures are good, there might be some doubts, but at that point, the experience was so much fun, it was worth it! Then, the breakthrough of seeing the pictures. This woman gets to see herself – happy and relaxed because of the whole space Maura makes. This woman finally gets to see herself: relaxed, invested in, treasured, smiling, sexy, and unashamed. EVERY woman deserves to see herself through that lens. Every woman should.

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7) What would you say to other women who are considering a boudoir photo shoot?  DO IT. Do it for a special occasion, do it because its a Tuesday. Whatever reason for deciding to do it is a perfect reason. No excuses, no waiting for the right reason. The right reason is because you exist, you are beautiful. Do it because f&%$ it, you want to!

 

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