The Face of Self

by Tania Carriere
December 3, 2017
The Face of Self
The Face of Self

Recently I sat in a circle with 16 other women who came together on retreat in Hawaii to reclaim their Re-Imagined Selves. Stepping into the courage of “who I wish to become” requires first that we stand openly in acceptance and acknowledgement of who we are.

It was the second day, they were looking at photos of themselves.

It was quieter than quiet.

Dewitt’s great photographic skill had caught each one of them on the previous day as their “authentic selves”. We had been workshopping hard, journaling and sharing and discussing and he caught them in action states - listening, thinking, speaking. He caught them in emotional states of frustration, concern, elation, hope, fear. He caught them in physical states - standing, moving, crouching, lying. Each time he used his exquisite skill and his eye to capture each woman in her truth, as she was experiencing herself through the workshop moments.

These photos were not posed or planned.

There was no hair fluffing or mascara, we had been up since dawn.

There were no composed faces, better sides, forgiving light, soft camera-ready smiles.

No one had checked for pulled-in tummies or double chins.

No filters or photoshop.


There was only what was real, raw, true.

And they were looking at them.

And they hated them.

I mean, HATED them. They hated what they saw. It was visceral. It was horrible. It was palpable.


The longer we sat the more I could feel my own discomfort growing. The truth is that they did not need to voice all the hateful things that they were thinking in that moment, I’ve heard my own version of that voice in my head for most of my life.

I could see their lashes barely held back tears, their lips were pursed, their temples throbbed.

They were disgusted, dismayed, shocked. That’s what they shared with me with such venom that I struggled not to recoil and run.

“I am too fat, too old, too wrinkly, too wobbly”, turned quickly into

“I am disgusting, I am unworthy, I am gross”.... and then

“I don’t like this person”

How did it come to be that we have learned such contempt for ourselves?

Each woman slowly revealed her shame, convinced that her photos were terrible, that they revealed imperfections that had stayed dormant and unseen by any of us until now.

What we hated is that we saw that we were vulnerable. Here was evidence of us unbridled, uncontrolled, imperfect. Not influencing how someone would experience us, but interacting with our environment, our feelings and one another.

Think of it.

We never see ourselves in our vulnerable moments. I don’t know what my face looks like in desire, anguish, hunger, frustration, though I experience those emotions every day. The only time I really witness myrself “living life” is when I see my reflection in the bathroom mirror brushing my teeth, putting on mascara and perhaps a quick flash as I pass the mirror by the door.

Most of our lived moments are either unseen or posed. You stop, fix yourself, chin up, head angled, eyes focused, serene expression for the photo and then get back to whatever you were doing.

One of the participants did something bold that night.

She sent her photos to her 3 children and her husband. She had asked them which was their favourite and why, not revealing to them to 2 that she thought were “ok at best”.

What they came back with stunned her. The ones that they chose were ones that she had eviscerated herself in. But what they said gave her some insight to what they saw.

This one mom, because that how you look when you sit on my bed at night and listen to me.

THIS one mom, because you are laughing and your face is scrunched and I love when we are not self-conscious together.

This one, because when you dare to cry in front of me I am overcome with how much I love you.


Those were the faces her family saw. Not the portrait face, not the posed face, not the sitting up straight look at the camera head tilted face. Not the corporate headshot I will take my place in the world face.

But rather, the mid-hug wish I could make it better face,

the runny nose teary eyed feeling your sorrow face,

the tired but willing to listen to you face.


How well do you know your face?

Slowly as the week progressed we began to love our faces. Because we realized that they are the precious things that our loved ones, our children, our mothers, our lovers saw. They are the gateway to the passions and the dreams that we hold. They are the canvas on which our wins and our losses are painted. And in the end, they are our truth, witnessed by anyone who is sharing our journey.

And nothing was more freeing than to step into our truth.

Wholeness, peace, positive energy- I so desperately wish it for the world right now. But I believe that achieving it all depends on what we hold within ourselves—our peace with who we are.

Would we not start to heal the world if we first cleaned up the self-talk of hatred and pretend as we look at our own face? Once we do not allow that it is possible to hate ourselves, only then will it become truly inconceivable that we could hate one another.

We cannot seek peace in the world until it is first within. 

This week of the Re-Imagined Self allowed me to Re-Imagine the dialogue that I was holding with myself and to choose the authentic, light shining from within me.

Celebrating what’s right in the world - and in me,


Tania Carriere and Dewitt Jones hosted The Re-Imagined Self, a 7 day experiential retreat, in Molokai Hawaii. Want to join us next year? Sign up to our newsletter and be the first to know about this or other retreats



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Wow. Amazing story and experience.

What a powerful retreat that must have been - one that was full of transformation and empowerment of one's concept of self and life-purpose. One of my daughters is very beautiful, but has always had difficulty posing for pictures, never liking her smile or the way she looks. In her mid-forties, she has had a lifetime battle with self-esteem and depression. Recently, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy. Over Thanksgiving, we took family photos and I was amazed at the ease at which she smiled - a smile that was genuine and full of love of self! We never know what will kindle the "I am okay" feeling, but once it comes, the enormity of meaning for us is unquestionable. Thanks, Tania, for your amazing insight. We MUST stop the hatred that exists in the world - and "let it begin with me"!!

Love this! Gen, one of the participants in the retreat, forwarded this to me and I am grateful. For many years I hated my photos, especially the unposed ones. And I work and live with folks who live with identified/named disabilities and are often seen as 'other' by folks. And whenever we have celebrations we all take lots of pictures and folks are delighted to see themselves. It is about belonging and being loved and accepted. After about 15 years experiencing this joy of recognizing self in photos my heart changed. One day I found myself looking at pics of a community celebration and looking really hard for my photo without the previous conversation going on in my head. I wanted my pic to be there! On the board with the others! In a public space! I'm so grateful that we learn from one another and that self-love and caring is possible.

Thanks Donna! It makes me think of an experience another participant had...on the last night we had a slideshow of all the photos taken on the last day. One of the participants confessed that she found herself getting increasingly anxious as the pictures scrolled by.... but unlike the first day, her anxiety was not because people WOULD see her, but rather she feared that her photo had been accidentally left our and she feared that people WOULD NOT see her! What a powerful transformational experience! thanks for sharing.

Thank you for sharing, beautiful!

and thank you Jack for reading and taking it to heart. T

Congrats Tania. You touch many people. Love you lots. You do wonderful work.

thanks MaTante. I am indeed grateful and honoured to do the work that I do and for it to be witnessed by people I love, like you.

I loved the comments from the family members, I will think about myself differently the next time I look in the mirror. Thanks for sharing.

I continue to make my looking a deliberate choice to step away from the old "refrain" and into the new way of seeing. It is a daily choice, but I see it has made me so much more gentle, with myself and with others.

Beautiful and revealing. Thought provoking as I take the time to look into myself and realize how often I see the me I think others see and now look at this differently. Thank you for sharing.

Ah yes, perfectly phrased "the me I think other people see"...and how that rarely matches the me that they do see. thanks for your thoughts! T

After reading this, I am sitting here with tears in my eyes. Grateful for the thought and care that went into the writing, grateful for the experiences shared by the author. As I face aging, it feels like a constant battle to maintain a positive self image. Thank you for this!

thanks Laura. This society is not kind to those of us who are brave enough to age! My own reflections on this started first in a blog called Helen Mirren Made Me Do It on my website AdvivumJourneys. You might enjoy that reflection too!

Wonderful, absolutely wonderful. Believe a candid moment of ones face is one of the most beautiful pieces of art that person has yet is totally unaware of. To zoom into that moment is a photographers 24/7/365 Christmas gift for that person and those who know and love them.

I totally agree. This retreat gifted us with a gift of a different kind of sight.

As others have said, this is very powerful and thought provoking. I am going to forward this to my three daughters. Every woman needs to read it.

Thanks Renie and hello to your daughters. It is a nice thought to think that you might all be seeing your faces differently the next time you are around the table together.

Oh my! This is powerful stuff and just exactly what I need to experience! Thank you so much for sharing this.

thanks Sharon. I think we all need this reminder! have a great day - and love that face!

Wow, what a powerful piece. Sharing with my family and friend right now. THANK YOU!

thanks John. It was a powerful experience for all of us. It is also a daily practice to CHOOSE to step away from what dishonours me in order to honour my SELF and others.

Love thyself and it will flow from there! Thanks!

Love begins in ourselves! Beautiful and lifts my day up! Thanks!

thank you. It is so wonderful to know that our experience touches others too!

Powerful and thought provoking. Thank you!

thanks for taking the time to read and comment Kim! It means a lot. T

not bad Tania.
Not bad.


:) cheers!

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