Last year I thought to myself, I want to go to Paris! And I want to photograph beautiful women there. I want to pick out their gowns, do their makeup, and show them how to dance beneath the Eiffel Tower. I want my husband to come with me and have a week of perfect, romantic dates. And as I would think these beautiful thoughts, doubts would creep into my mind. I would "adult" my way out of it. "But... but... but... but..." My responsible side would win over my imagination and I would end with the thought, "Well, someday." But somewhere in the last year I realized that "responsible" and "someday" are usually code words for "you're not worth what you want" and "it's nice to dream but let's get real." And thank God I cracked that code. Because I went to Paris and it was better than I ever even imagined.
You know what I love? Cliches. I am a lover of language and I love cliches because of what they reveal about a culture's belief system.
I want to crack some cliche codes for you. Are you ready? If you're like me, you've probably used some of these before. And odds are, you might not have thought about what they really imply. These are cliches that have been said to me since I returned from my trip to Paris.
1. "You're so lucky!"
SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE because it sounds positive, encouraging, and agreeable.
DANGEROUS because when I tell myself someone achieved something I also want to achieve purely by "luck," I remove all responsibility and blame from my own self and actions if I do not ever also achieve that thing.
2. "I'm so jealous!"
SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE because you're supposedly making the other person feel good for doing something you see to be of importance.
DANGEROUS because while desire itself is not negative, you've attached a negative component. Your ego is saying, "I should have that but I don't for some reason. I deserve that but for some reason, I don't have it." (Hint: if your ego is piping up, you probably ARE capable of achieving that thing, and the "reason" you aren't is because of your own dang self.)
3. "I would love to do it... if I ever get the chance."
SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE response to the person who said, "Yeah the thing I did was cool, and you should do it too!"
DANGEROUS because you are, once again, placing yourself in a passive role by assuming the other person also passively "got" the cool thing that you wish you had.
REALLY DANGEROUS because the core belief that good things happen to people by "chance" means you are likely giving up agency in your own life where you should really be taking charge.
4. "Maybe someday!"
SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE (kind of) but I think we all know in our hearts that's just a way of putting what you desire at the very bottom of your priority list.
DANGEROUS because "someday" is not a goal. There is no time frame, no end goal from which to work backwards and take actionable steps. If you think about it, "maybe someday" can logically mean "maybe never."
So now that I overwhelmed everyone with "goal setting" and using the word "actionable" (sorry, but I think my Dad will be proud), I want to challenge you.
Please look at your life. Look at what you value. (Hint: you spend the majority of your time, money, and energy on it.) Do you value yourself? Like, really. I'm not talking about binging on oreos when you have a hard day. You know it's bad for you and it's just a coping mechanism. I also don't buy, "No Mitzi, I value my children," because you can absolutely value yourself too (and what are you teaching them about self value?) What I mean is, do you put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others?
We write about what we struggle with. And me... this is my struggle. I live with a severe auto-immune disease because throughout my teenage and young adult years I stressed and worried about pleasing everyone around me. (Thank you, body, for telling me chill. I'm finally trying to listen to you.) I thought doing anything for myself was selfish. I got things like stress rashes and had friendships that were one-sided. I felt guilty for spending money on myself or doing things I enjoyed in my free time. I gave and gave and gave to EVERYONE but myself. And wouldn't you know it? I got bitter.
I still struggle with this. And I find that many of my clients do too.
Portraits are powerful. For many women I work with, portraits are an oxygen mask they didn't know they needed. And you know, that's also what Paris was for me. While I photographed Kelly and Emma, the world stood still. I saw these women - smart, beautiful, hard working, unsure of what it would be like in front of the camera - and I watched them come alive. I saw them be inspired in the most magical city in the world. They were celebrating themselves. As we walked through the city, women would stop and look at them with wonder. What a gift: to celebrate the the beauty of the everyday.
You know what I wish was cliche? Women who celebrated themselves. I get it - it's more blessed to give than to receive. We're often eager to put ourselves at the bottom of the shopping list. But do you know what's heartbreaking? The fact that so many women focus on all the ways they fall short and fail, and never on the reasons why they are an irreplaceable human being in this world.
Maybe it's a trip to Paris, or maybe it's just choosing a bubble bath over a sink of dirty dishes.
Hear me, woman: you are worthy of the gifts you are so eager to bestow upon others.
You are worthy.
We love you Paris,
you are what love is
to all of us.