Self-Love Series: Vivienne McMaster

May 07, 2013

The newest installment of the Self-Love series is here!   The Self-Love Series is an interview series hosted by yours truly and the phenomenal Margarita Tartakovsky from Psych Central’s blog Weightless and  We have teamed up to bring you a monthly interview series around learning the beautiful and delicate art of self-love.


I am thrilled to introduce today’s interviewee, Vivienne McMaster.

Vivienne is the brilliant heart behind the Be Your Own Beloved e-course, as well as many other tools for utilizing self-portraiture to tap into and dig into your own self-love journey. You can read her story here, and (from the bottom of my heart) I recommend following her on Instagram.


Due to a tech glitch, the gorgeous video interview that we created for you was eaten by my computer. Alas, the show must go on! There are two ways to gobble up this glorious interview. The first is to listen to the audio version, or download it by clicking here.


The second is to peruse the transcription below.


Mara:  Hello, everybody!  This is Mara Glatzel, and I am here with the newest installment of the Self-Love Series – an interview series that I run, between myself and Margarita Tartakovsky from Weightless on Psych Central.  And today I am thrilled to be here with Vivienne McMaster!  I am admittedly a huge fangirl of her work, and I just think – really, it’s like a movement, there’s a movement that’s being started, with all of the work that you’re doing around self-portraiture and self-love.  So I’m thrilled, and I’d love to introduce you, or ask you to introduce yourself a little bit.

Vivienne:  Sure!  I am a self-portrait photographer and portrait photographer from Vancouver, British Colombia, Canada, and I, through my own personal healing, have discovered that self-portraiture is an amazing tool to cultivate self-love.  So it has kinda become my mission in life.  And something that I’m living daily, as well.  I’m definitely trying to practice what I preach, because self-love is an ongoing process, it’s not something we all of a sudden succeed in.  There’s different levels and depths of having a love affair with ourselves in our lifetimes, so, yeah.  I love sharing how self-portraiture can actually be one of the tools we can use in that.

Mara:  Absolutely.  So, in think about the way that you’re practicing, the way you’re using this self-portraiture – and perhaps any other self-love practices that you have – what does it look like on a regular, everyday for you?

Vivienne:  Well, I often have my camera with me.  So taking self-portraits is part of my daily life practices that I do.  Whether it’s, like, finding a good spot to put – even just putting my iPhone down and turn it on myself, or finding something beautiful to hold in my hand, that’s – I’m always looking for moments where I can practice self-portraiture.  And just like…I feeel like self-portraits are a way of saying, “I’m here, in my life.  This is my story, this is what my day is.”  And for those of us who have any parts of our life where we felt lost or like we didn’t know who we were, or days like that, it just – it feels really grounding, I am here, in this day, this is the story.  So that’s one of my biggest self-love everyday tools.  I also have – it’s more in my week; I started something recently that I call my “self-care policies”, because as I’m writing things I’m like “Wow, I can make company policies for my business of one!”  And I don’t think we need to run a business to do that.

These are my self-care policies in my week.  So, today’s Monday, and one of my policies is to have some computer-free – okay, I might have my iPhone there to take a picture of it – but to have some computer-free time, like at a coffee shop, with just my journal and a pen.  Just to have, like, I might write goals for the week, or just spill out whatever I need to spill.  So, journaling, writing, with pen to paper, has felt like a big self-care space.  Just creating little pockets of space for myself, where whatever needs to happen in terms of self-care and self-love in that moment.  Sometimes I’ll be crying in the cafe, like getting stuff out.  [laughs]  It’s a very lovely place I go to, for that, where that’s okay.

My other self-care policy is hiking once a week.  I do live in a rainy city, so it doesn’t always happen, but I try to just get out into the woods, with a friend or alone, and just get out to nature really and move.  And that’s one of my other big self-love things.  Because, you know, self-love in the inner way is nurturing and nourishing myself, but I also just want to feel really alive.  You know, those moments that make me feel like “Oh, I’m here in this day!”  That feels like self-care, like that I deserve this, that I can just have sunshine down on me, whatever I’m doing, just feeling alive feels like self-love to me.  So those are some of my everyday or every-couple-days big tools.  And baths!  [laughs]

Mara:  Absolutely!  And you know what, I love that, I love how you sort of describe the self-portraiture as saying “I am here.”  And largely due to your fantastic influence, I’ve started taking pictures of myself throughout my day, and after a lifetime and so much more of being camera-shy, and doing a whole lot of self-love stuff but still resisting the camera, I found that it really…it does ground you in your day in a certain way.  It is such an interesting way to capture yourself and pay attention to yourself and your self-love.  I think that you do that so fantastically well.  I’m curious – and I typically ask about books or things that you’re interacting with or videos that you think are absolutely must-reads for self-love or body knowledge.

But since you are a visual artist, I’m wondering what inspires you in that way.  What have you taken in lately that you feel is a must-read or a must-see in terms of your own self-love process?

Vivienne:  Well, I do have a book right here that’s one of my –

Mara:  Oh!

Vivienne:  Yes, yes!  [laughs]

Mara:  So good.

Vivienne:  Beautiful You, by Rosie Molinary.  So good.  That’s the book of right now, that is lighting me up.  I keep thinking, “Thank goodness this is here!”  One of the other online things right now that just – I could watch it again and again – is Anna Guest-Jelley of Curvy Yoga.  She did a video recently about, can you love yourself in the moment and want to lose weight?  And I was like, “How in the world is she gonna answer that?”  And she did the most beautiful video, and I’m kind of obsessed with it.  That’s – yeah.  And I won’t give it away, because I think everybody should go see it, but just really trusting yourself, right?

Mara:  Absolutely.  And I love that video so much too.  I have that feeling of, “[gasps] Oh!  Oh my goodness.”  That’s a big question.  That’s a big, big question.  I love those, too.  And we have interviewed both of those people in this lovely self-love series, so I’ll leave the link below so everyone can check them out, because I think both of them are just really great resources and I just love those two.

So, in terms of other ways that you kind of get into your body and practice self-care, do you have any favorite ways to move your body other than hiking?

Or is hiking really your main thing?

Vivienne:  Hiking is a new thing for me.  I like to talk about rewriting stories, and I had this story that, I don’t have a car, and I live in a big city, and you need a car to go hiking.  You don’t.  You need a bus pass.  [laughs]  So hiking is new, but one of my favorite ways to move my body, which came even before self-portraiture, I think it really started my self-love healing big-time, is Nia Dance.

Mara:  Nia!  It’s magical.

Vivienne:  It’s magical.  I’ve gone to the same teacher for, like…oh, a long time.

Mara:  Why don’t you tell people what it is?  Because I feel like most people don’t know anything about Nia.  And they should.

Vivienne:  They should!  It’s a dance technique led by a teacher, that is all about being in your own body and moving in your own way.  There’s yoga influences, martial arts influences, and other different kinds of body-movement influences all brought together.  Your teacher kind of guides you on a routine, but you’re really invited to move in your own way in that process, and it’s poetic, and some days I just feel like a modern dancer, in, you know, a 35-year-old curvy woman’s body, but I feel like a dancer!  It’s amazing.  I take it at the local community center.  It’s not a dance studio in particular.  It’s amazing, and I feel like the more I take it, the more I can go to that place really quickly, where I just trust my body.  And there’s a fair amount of free dancing in it.  At first I was like “uh-uh!” [laughs]  That sounds like when you ask people to take a self-portrait.  “No, it’s just not gonna work, that’s scary.”  But the free-dancing part is what I’m really in love with, where you can be awkward, you can just dance and move and shake and just really trust that your body is going to move in the way that it needs to.  It’s amazing.

Mara:  And it seems so much, too, again, that reflection of claiming your own space.  Being in your own space, and…the last Nia class I was at, there was a fair amount of like, stomping, and really owning your spot in the room.  It felt so affirming to me, like, yeah, take your space!  This is your space, do whatever you want here.  It’s not very often that we have that kind of experience in our everyday life.

Vivienne:  Uh-uh.

Mara:  And I love that so much.

Vivienne:  You wanna scream sometimes!

Mara:  Yeah!

Vivienne:  Scream, “No!”  How often do you get to do that?

Mara:  Right?  And that’s hard, too, I mean, I think I had less trouble with the free-form dancing than I did with the really yelling, from your belly.  Because you don’t, I think we don’t really take up a lot of space like that.  It releases a lot of pent-up energy, I find, when we’re able to really use our vocal chords in that way

Vivienne:  Totally.

Mara:  So we’re talking about a lot of good things here, that answered this question a little bit, but I’m curious.

If you had like a minute or two minutes of somebody’s time, what do you wish that women really knew about loving and appreciating themselves?

Vivienne:  Well, coming from a photography place, I really wish that women knew that their camera could be their friend, not their enemy.  Or other people’s cameras.  And mirrors, too.  That their self-reflection, whether it’s in a photo, or in a mirror – those places where we are most triggered by the opposite of self-love, are the places where we have the most potential to do our work.  Yeah.  The course that I’m teaching now is called Be Your Own Beloved.  I just want women to start being their own beloved, and to treat themselves the way and see themselves the way other people see them.  Because we all put such kindness to other people, admiration, appreciation, but we don’t turn it on ourselves.  So, your camera can be your friend!

Mara:  So I’m curious, if there was someone listening to this who was like “Oh hell no, that’s not even possible,” what is the first thing you would tell somebody, or like the first way you would get somebody to just start experimenting with it?

Vivienne:  Well, one of the ways that I started, and is the way that I would probably recommend they did, is to just go out and search out beauty in the world.  Not necessarily themselves!  But like, go in search of something that they find beautiful, and add themselves to the photo in some way.  Whether it’s your toes, or your hands, that’s a self-portrait.  And I find that searching for beauty outwardly, it eventually comes back inwardly.  Searching for beauty in the world around you gets reflected, and eventually you just see the beauty within you.  And you don’t have to see it in the first photo.  Nor do you have to take full-body photos the first time.  So just, inserting yourself, that you are here in this moment with this bit of beauty that you found in the world, would be a great place to start making friends with your camera and yourself.

Mara:  I love that.  Well, I will definitely be partaking in the May class of Be Your Own Beloved, so I would encourage anybody else who’s listening to this to get on board as well, because it is guaranteed to be fantastic.  It’s funny, I was talking to a friend of mine about how I had to take this class and it was changing everything, and she said to me something to the effect of, “Watching you learn how to take pictures of yourself is sort of like watching a baby find its feet, it’s like you just didn’t know that cameras existed before this day of your life!”  And at first I was like, you know, offended.  [laughs]  But then I was like, it is kind of like a baby finding their feet.

Vivienne:  Yeah.

Mara:  You know, after an entire lifetime of not allowing myself to be photographed at all, even the opportunity to take a picture of your toe, or your hand, or something, and to just decide that it’s beautiful really does begin to slowly shift your perception of yourself.  Which is so wonderful.

So, I’m curious – who are your heroes in this world?  Who do you just admire and get your inspiration from?

Vivienne:  This question…the first thing that comes to mind is actually – this may sound like it doesn’t make sense, but it’ll make sense.  Fat fashion bloggers are my heroes.  Those folks who are walking the world every day, and these are just an example of people who are outwardly sharing that they, that we all deserve to feel fabulous and like our outward expression reflects ourself and we deserve to walk in the world feeling empowered and beautiful.  And so my heroes are the people who are doing that, like “I deserve this, every day.”  And fashion is a way, it’s a good way to claim it, to be empowered in how you go out in the world.

But yeah, my heroes are the lady at the bus stop who I can just see feels good in her body today.  Or the people who work hard to do that every day and share that online.  Those are my everyday heroes.  And I think Anna Guest-Jelley is becoming one of my heroes too, with that video.  [laughs]  Just people who are spreading the message of self-love, I think.  Whether it’s just to the person walking beside them on the sidewalk, or the internet.  And I have other – Oprah, or like, bigger heroes –

Mara:  You were on, like, what, this week?  Last week?  Oh my gosh.

Vivienne:  [laughs]  It’s so funny!  Yeah, that was pretty neat.  It was a photo of my feet, and this message, like a block from my house written in the sidewalk, “love yourself”.  So it was like, [gasps].  If ever there was a photo that is my message, it’s a self-portrait with “love yourself”.  So that was pretty neat, to have Oprah’s face and my feet on the same page!

Mara:  Yeah!

Vivienne:  But it’s about going out in the world and taking, you know, those little moments.

Mara:  So when we think about these kinds of heroes, these people who are going out and showing up and dressing up and really owning their bodies, I’m wondering – is that something that has been a struggle for you in the past?  Like, does that – because often, our heroes come out of this place where we are like, “That’s what I want, I want to chase after that feeling.”

So I’m curious if that, or you know, anything else, those are the obstacles that you have in your own journey of self-love.

Vivienne:  Hmm.  That’s a big, powerful question.  I think my biggest obstacle is myself, like, the ways where I just don’t let myself, right?  Or where I get caught up in negative self-talk, or…yeah.  If it’s okay, I’ll share a bit of my story.

Mara:  Please do!

Vivienne:  My teen years…this story’s a bit hard to tell, because it’s about family, and family is beautiful and wonderful and you don’t want to, like, spill your beans on the internet.  But I feel like it’s becoming more and more important for me to share why I’m so obsessed with self-love.  One of my siblings has a condition called misophonia, which is a neurological disorder, and it is essentially a hatred of sound.  Their hearing is so heightened – you know how people are irritated by like scratching on a chalkboard.  But if you have this condition, it’s extreme.  Little sounds, like me moving my hands here, or chewing, are just, they make you not able to cope, and get angry and stressed.  And so my sibling had this condition, and it’s common that your family members are the ones who are most triggering for you.

Enter little Viv.  So my teenage years were very much flavored by this and the experience of trying to find my pre-teen, teenage sense of self had this extra thing where the way I swallowed, the way I breathed, the way I walked, the way I moved my hands were irritating and were told, “you need to stop that!”  So I felt, by the time I finished the teen years I felt really disembodied, in a way, like not – I didn’t feel present in my own body, and I believed that I was unloveable, disgusting, and irritating.  So that’s where it all began, for me, was healing from that over the years.  So movement, in a big way, that’s why I love Nia dance so much, to feel back in my body again.

So, while either way I could say that that experience was my obstacle, it’s also been a blessing and the way that I’ve had to focus so much on self-love and self-care and healing, and so still I think, I don’t think of it as my obstacle.  I think that me believing it, and carrying it on for so many years that that was the truth, was – and it comes up still, in a daily experience where I just have to remember, “No, no, I breathe okay, I swallow okay, I walk okay, I’m okay.”  And not only that, but I get to control it all.  I felt so out of control for much of my life, and now I’m finding my way back to just trusting that I’m beautiful and loveable and worthy.  Lots of us have different stories that brought us to that place where we didn’t believe it in ourselves.  So, yeah.  That’s my story!

Mara:  And you know, something that I so much love in doing this series and talking to people who do work with self-love, is that so often, it’s like two sides of the same coin.  The things that were the hardest and the things that have also become your greatest source of light, and your ability to teach and heal yourself and others.  And I think that that is really powerful for people who are in that dark place still, or are really afraid of that dark place within themselves.  And having examples of people like yourself, who have felt that way and have really used that as this enormously powerful source for helping others and healing yourself and going through that entire process.

Vivienne:  Mhmm.  But it’s hard to think of it that way, when you’re in it, because you’re really like…your curse can become a blessing.

Mara:  Absolutely.  I could not agree more.  It’s very hard to hold onto, and I think that’s why it’s so important that people keep sharing those parts of their story, because I think that it’s all too easy for somebody to go to your gorgeous website and see your beautiful pictures that you take of yourself and say “This person loves themselves.  They probably always, they grew up loving themselves.”  Because of course that’s the story that we tell.

Vivienne:  Yeah.  That everybody else has it.

Mara:  Right, absolutely.  So thank you so much for sharing that part of your story with us.  Is there anything else, any last message or words of wisdom you’d like to leave our readers with?

Vivienne:  Pick up your camera!  [laughs]  Say, “I am here.”  I think that would be, I hope people would feel inspired today, to just get playful with your camera, even just your iPhone, to find some moments where they can claim space and look for some beauty in your day.

Mara:  I love that.  And you recently had a post up that was around camera gear, and apps that you use for your iPhone, stuff like that.  So I’m gonna link to that below, just as another resource for people who are like, “I want to pick up my camera but I don’t even know how my camera works.”  So I’ll link to that.

Vivienne:  And I ended the post saying, there’s this quote, I don’t remember who it’s by, but, “The best camera is the one you have with you.”  So don’t get caught up in that you need fancy gear to do it, too.  [laughs]

Mara:  Absolutely, I love that.  Well, thank you so much, this has been absolutely fantastic, and I hope that everyone runs to check you out, because I think what you’re doing is just so inspirational.  And needed, really needed in this world.  So, thank you!

Vivienne:  My pleasure!

Mara:  Bye!

Vivienne:  Bye!