Why are we so afraid to love ourselves? Montreal Boudoir Photographer

I have asked women many times if they love themselves. The majority of the time the response I get is that they wish they did, or it’s a complete shutdown, a firm no, like if they even think about the possibility of loving or accepting themselves, something terrible will happen to them.

What is that fear about? Why are we so afraid to love ourselves?

Well I believe that this stems from two things: What we are taught about ourselves, and what we think it means to love ourselves.

What are we taught about ourselves?

I can only come at this from my own perspective, as well as the perspective of the many women I have photographed, but if you were taught something different, please comment below and tell me about it.

When we were young we were taught that we were sugar and spice and everything nice, that we were fragile and soft and delicate (and if we weren’t we were either made to feel weird about it, or just treated like a boy “oh she is just one of the guys”) We were taught that our bodies and how they look matter. We were taught to obsess over things like cellulite, or skin rolls, we were taught to hate any ounce of fat on our bodies, and that we should compare our body to our friends’ bodies or the bodies on magazines and rate ourselves against that. We were taught to value our beauty or lack thereof, but at the same time taught not to be vain. In fact if we saw someone who loved herself and was confident, or if we felt she was more beautiful than us, we were taught to make her feel less confident and less beautiful. We were taught to value how our bodies looked, and not on how they worked, or how they felt. We were taught that there was a standard, and if we deviated from that standard we were somehow wrong.

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We have all of these emotions, and values and traits that are SO MUCH MORE IMPORTANT THAN OUR SIZE… but we are “made wrong”, so all of that should mean nothing?
 

Think about that for a second… something that we could not control: the shape and size of our body… and we were being judged on that which we had no control? We have all of these emotions, and values and traits that are SO MUCH MORE IMPORTANT THAN OUR SIZE… but we are “made wrong”, so all of that should mean nothing?

What does it mean to love yourself?

Is it vanity? Is it being full of yourself? Is it thinking I actually look nice today, only to hear your coworker whisper to the woman next to her saying “who does she think she is? She is too FAT for that skirt”?

No. it is understanding you are so much more than what your body looks like. Your beauty resonates from within. And you know that is true because there are people in this world that ADORE you. It’s recognizing that your worth lies within your core values and morals, the things that ONLY YOU can control. It is looking in the mirror and seeing your eyes smile, not because you finally see your outer beauty, but because you can see your inner beauty shining from within.

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Loving and accepting yourself is a GIFT. More than that, it is a RIGHT. When you are ready to love yourself you will be unstoppable. Because instead of building all these walls and obstacles you will have the open road. When life throws something your way, like your coworkers comment above, you will smile because you know the secret.

You know what it is to love yourself. And you are longer afraid.

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We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the man. Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors not for jobs or accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men.
— CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE
 
Reina ProceeComment
how to drop that weight | montreal beauty & boudoir photographer

What is it that defines you? 

Your husband's opinion of you? Your parent's expectations? Your looks? Your work?

The problem with putting something as incredibly important as your personal identity on things as impermanent as your looks or your work, or on other people's expectations, you risk having your foundation ripped out from under you when it all doesn't go your way. 

You see, I think the most important thing you can learn in life; the most impactful thing you can do for yourself, is to stop measuring your worth by such flimsy barometers. If your husband is having a bad day and doesn't say he loves your outfit, or worse your relationship is starting to fizzle out... if you lose your job, or there is restructuring in the company that changes the dynamic you are used to... or let's say your looks are changing, be it age, having children, anything... when these types of things change, the network of value you have tried to set up for yourself will crumble. 

Then you are left feeling shaken, afraid, worthless, unloved, under appreciated and extremely incapable.  

But what if instead all of that you focused on what makes you you. Your integrity, your honesty, your sense of humour, your compassion, your warmth, your love for open windows and cool breezes, your love to walk barefoot in cool grass, your addiction to steamy romance novels... the things that have permanence. The things that will never change, no matter what your boss says, or your spouse/partner... no matter how you look, no matter what people expect from you. What if you put stock into that? What if you began to build your foundation of confidence and worth on those immovable FACTS about you?

Would you then feel a bit untouched when someone passes an opinion of you? Or when someone has ridiculous expectations of you?

What if you worked to build upon the things that are TRUE about you, and not upon things that people MIGHT say or feel about you? 

I think that's when you will suddenly find an inner strength you never knew you had... that you will be able to see beyond the harsh words others may say, into their pain, realizing that their problem with you was never actually your problem to begin with.

I believe we walk through life at times trying to carry everything. It's a sad and frustrating juggling act, that slowly flattens us under all its weight. This is not our own weight... but the weight of the pain someone else caused us, but they won't say sorry about it, the weight of someone not helping you, because they don't see your struggle and you don't know how to ask for help. It's the weight of expectations, unrealistic or realistic. It's the weight of magazines showing only one or two types of bodies and neither of them looking like yours. It's the weight of your partner not telling you that you're beautiful when you need to hear it... and the weight of your responsibilities in life, because you know that if you don't do everything, it will all begin to fall apart... 

Well I believe that when we realize that the weight we are carrying isn't even ours to begin with, and that when we are able to place that excess weight down and only carry our own, that is when we will stand straight and tall. Suddenly loving ourselves. Suddenly confident. Suddenly powerful. 

So, today, place just a little of that excess weight you carry on the ground. Walk away from it. Remind yourself that it isn't yours to carry anymore. And make a list of what it is to be YOU. Do not include your labels, you are so much more than a mother, daughter, wife, sister. Do not include your job title, or your looks. Make a list of what you ARE. INSIDE. And then remember - THAT is the only weight you need to be carrying around. 

I am including images from a personal project I did earlier this year, I had women come into the studio, drink tea and speak about what was weighing on them. Even through the toughest moments their strength and resilience shines through and they are a constant reminder to me of the immense power we have within us. 

Comfort is the Enemy of Progress | Montreal Boudoir & Beauty Photographer

As I have alluded to in many of my posts and blogs, I went through a massive personal change at the beginning of this year. 

Here is the story. 

Growing up I dealt with a lot of anxiety, a lot of pain, and a lot of bitterness. My life wasn't as hard as it could have been from stories I have heard out there, but for me it was extremely hard and very painful. I rarely felt safe, life was unpredictable and scary, and I never really felt accepted. I was constantly attacked for being myself, and made to feel very unworthy. 

The consequence of this was an adulthood of searching for whatever comforts I could find. A lot of that centered around food and a general dodging of responsibilities. What was the ultimate result of this? I gained so much weight I could not comfortably walk from one room to the next without being out of breath - to the point that I had low mobility and high health risks and some financial instability. 

My quest for comfort, or instant happiness, was crumbling down around me, and it was affecting my work, my loves and my health. 

I honestly felt close to death not much more than two months ago. 

Through my therapy and focusing on mindfulness it suddenly hit me that this life of decadence was killing me. And that just because I had it rough when I was younger, doesn't give me the right to have it easy now. 

I sat down and thought about what it was that I wanted in life, like truly deep down really really wanted. And the answers were: health and mobility, love, a chance to share my art, travel, friends, and to feel ALIVE again. 

And I realized, in order to have all those things, that I could easily see on the horizon for myself, just out of reach, I needed to work hard for them. And even more than that, I needed to get uncomfortable. 

That's when I went to see The Greatest Showman, and the entire movie moved me. My favourite song was "This is Me" and I played that on repeat CONSTANTLY, but the quote that hit me the most was "comfort is the enemy of progress." 

This is so true! So many times in my life I have been faced with the understanding that change is uncomfortable and scary, but as I have gone through life I have always always seen that when I go through that discomfort and fear and make the changes I come out the other side stronger, and happier, and freer. 

So there I was, faced with following a doctor prescribed 3 week long liquid diet in preparation for my bariatric surgery (this was after years of ordering in food and eating chocolate whenever I pleased)... I made it through those three weeks despite my hunger and cravings because I understood that the presence of these discomforts were only proof that I was changing. And you can trust that I whined a lot those weeks, to myself, to my friends and to my husband... but I made it through. And the reward I got from that? 30 pounds weight loss. Since my surgery I have been faced with making decisions on not eating greasy foods because it wouldn't be the fuel my body desperately needs right now which is protein. That has been hard. But it is getting easier... (which tells me I need to start getting more discomfort in my life like working out :) haha). The rewards so far have been overwhelming. Not only have I lost a total of 60 pounds, I can walk easily, I can take the metro and busses instead of Uber's, I can wear clothes I couldn't wear anymore, or never was able to fit in. And I feel amazing! Best of all I am starting to feel free, I am seeing my art improving, and I am getting closer and closer to that enriched life. 

******

I wanted to share R's session with my story because I was deeply moved by this woman's history. She also was treated rather horribly, and is currently battling with not letting what was said to her define her.

Guys, it is so hard to be with someone for years who is meant to love you above all, but who instead puts all of their energy into breaking your spirit and making you start to hate the sight of yourself. Then imagine how hard it would be to leave this person and begin to try and rebuild that self confidence in this cold and sometimes very cruel world. 

When R met with me at her consultation she told me she was determined to not let this past of hers stop her. Beyond that she wanted to celebrate the healthy body she now had and begin to learn to accept her own beauty. When she came to her session with me she was shaking like a leaf, so incredibly nervous, but she jumped right in. She did not hold back, nor did she let herself stay comfortable - she fought through the self-hate, she worked past her fear. 

She took a leap and trusted me, and above all trusted herself. 

She is a perfect example of someone refusing to settle. She has a life worth fighting for, she knows she deserves to be truly happy, and she is fighting that fight everyday. 

And for that she truly inspires me. 

(due to privacy reasons I will not be showing her face in her images)

Reina Procee Comments
What is your bravery? | Personal Post | Montreal Boudoir & Beauty Photographer

During my pre-consultations with my clients, I talk about bravery. I know that coming to do a boudoir session is already taking a lot of bravery, you barely know me, and I will be photographing you in your underwear... it can be very scary. But I still ask you to go deeper. 

I am asking you to open up and not just discard your clothes, but also discard your protective walls. What do you want to see in these images? What do you deep down know is inside of you, but you so rarely see it you have problems believing it's truly there?

Because these images are not for anyone else. They truly aren't. They are for you. And I want you to see YOU. I want them to prove to you that you are everything you WISH you were. You truly are. And I can't photoshop that in - it's truly there. And while it can feel super scary to just bare yourself to yourself let alone to a camera, it also will be a source of great strength. 

You know who you are, truly, deep down, but it seems that some people are truly afraid to just be themselves. And I want to end that. 

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I have been afraid to be myself my whole life. I was told from a very young age that I wasn't enough, and that what my instincts told me about myself was actually wrong. I have spent a lot of my life trying to find that person within me again. And the rest of that time questioning if that person I was searching for was enough, or was what I was told at a young age, actually true.  

This has made it hard for me to be friends with people... I used to DIVE into friendship. But now I hold myself back, I have literally been hiding behind my camera, and my computer, so that I could not be hurt, hurt others, and basically not be who I truly am. 

I am changing that now. I am noticing as I start to really dive into this work of helping women get to know themselves again, I am truly getting to know myself as well. I see the proof of this because I am not questioning myself so much anymore... I am not putting up with anyone's BS anymore. I am making connections that MATTER. That have DEPTH. 

And I am stepping in front of the camera myself. Slowly. But it is happening. And it is pretty cool. To actually look at myself and love me. 

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I am challenging myself to let my own sensuality and sexuality be shown through self portraits. This is my first one... and boy is it scary to put it out there... but I feel like if I am asking my clients to be brave, I need to walk the talk too. 

i am not what other people call me | montreal boudoir photographer

When I first decided to do this venture into women's portraiture and boudoir in Montreal, I was compelled by my love for the female form. Soft curves and luminous skin. My inspiration comes from the paintings of women during the renaissance. When I began this journey I was expecting soft and delicate, the play of light and shadow, the rounded curves of a woman's body, and celebrating it all with my camera. I was instead enchanted by the life and heart within these women, amazed with the inner and outer strength, and especially the way when I was able to get her completely comfortable in her skin, she would just shine. 

I was also surprised by other things, some not so good things. I had one client proudly use one of her images as a profile picture and she received a message from a man in her friends list saying that was very vain of her to do that. Why is that vain? Why shouldn't she be proud to show a beautiful photograph of herself? It blew me away that a man, or any person really, would take time out of his day to belittle and judge this woman for posting a photograph of her smiling confidently into the camera. 

It reminded me of how I was told as a child that I was selfish. I was told that so often that it made me into a walking doormat as a young adult. I had no spine because I was so worried about making sure I was the antithesis of selfishness. People either took advantage of me, or they didn't respect me. I couldn't understand why I couldn't be friends with people I obviously had so much in common with, until I realized that what was probably turning them off was my quest to be unselfish. It came across as desperate, dishonest, and untrustworthy. I wasn't being generous for the sake of being generous, I was practically begging them to acknowledge how I wasn't a selfish person. But no one could truly tell me that until I believed it myself. I had to realize I had nothing to prove. I am a generous and kind and loving person. I am not what other people call me, but only what I am at the core. 

So when I think about that, I also consider, is that what we are doing as women? Are we working so damn hard to prove we are not vain that we are slowly disappearing? Are we fading into the background asking people to acknowledge how un-vain we are? Are we self-deprecating because it's funny? Or because it is safer to be that way than to be called "full of yourself." Are we looking into the mirror and training ourselves to hate what we see, because liking it would mean we are egotistical? Are we downplaying our accomplishments in life because we don't want to seem like we are bragging?

And what if you aren't actually a vain person? What if you can love and celebrate yourself, and accept your body, because that is who you are? What if you don't have to prove anything anymore, and instead just accept who you are and just be? Would that mean you would have to stop hating what you see in your reflection? Does that mean you would have to stop disappearing? 

I think that it's about time to stop letting other people's opinions direct how we feel about ourselves. It truly is a matter of hurt people hurting people. And you do not need to adopt their pain, just because they are loud, consistent and forceful with their opinion. We are gifted as humans with these wonderful things we call blinders. We put "blinders" on as protection so that we can focus on what is important, and what is important is that we celebrate and recognize that we are works in progress but still enough, that we are the best versions of ourselves, or working towards that, and then all their loud and forceful and mean opinions can just become white noise in the background, where they belong. 

And it is very scary to switch your way of thinking, to stop disappearing and start existing fully in your life. It takes bravery and determination and faith in yourself. So my question to you is this - do you think you can do that? Do you think you can finally acknowledge that you are not what other people call you, but only what you call yourself?

Check out how GORGEOUS her skin is! That beautiful dewy look is a little bit genetics, and a little bit of Annie Young Boutique and Spa! I send ALL of my clients to them because they are so consistently flawless in what they do with hair and make up! <3

Reina Procee Comments
the truth about femininity | montreal portrait photographer

I have this friend. She is a fighter, survivor, activist, caregiver, and world traveller. She is visiting during the holidays in the middle of a year long mission in Tanzania. She is working hard to help people better their lives. And that is not an easy thing to do for so many reasons. 

And that can really wear on your mind. 

She gets cat-called every day, or is called by racial slurs, and it has caused her to lose touch with her femininity, because when that kind of abuse happens you fall into yourself. You retreat and try to make yourself small and invisible. 

And that can really wear on your heart. 

So when she came to visit me today, I had her put on some comfy clothes I have added to my studio wardrobe, sat her on a chair and just got her to talking about what she has been going through. And as she spoke I photographed her. I could see the struggle, I could see the vulnerability... but through that all I saw her never ending beauty that radiated from within and I saw her strength. I hope when she sees these images she sees that too. Because no matter what is happening to her, she will always be this person. This will never change. 

This is the truth about femininity. It is flexible, strong and timeless. It can withstand the heaviest of blows. It can withstand the most intense abuse. femininity is something that can never be taken from you. It is always going to be there to carry you through anything you encounter. 

Women are the strongest beings in my mind. And interestingly enough I hesitate to include myself in that statement, but that is the struggle we all face... we fight for everyone but ourselves, and deal with the most earth shattering things. And we still shine through it all. We still find the strength to reach out to another in need, to hold their hand and be a source of support. This is the truth about femininity. 

Look deep inside yourself... you know I am right. 

Reina ProceeComment
so much better than a tie or socks | montreal boudoir photogapher

Capturing the beauty in women is my favourite thing to do. Your natural grace, charm, and inner warmth can be read in the soft curves your body, in the movement of your hands, the curl of your smile, or your biggest laugh. Each boudoir session is very important to me.

I approach my boudoir sessions as a conversation. My client, myself, and my camera are all in conversation with one another. We are in search of the hidden mysteries of your beauty and sexual energy.

This said, a session with me is not your average boudoir photoshoot. I don’t put you through a set routine of sexy poses. I am enchanted by the beauty and individuality of each and every one of my clients. My aim is to pose and capture you according to your unique personality and body. And I have the knowledge in how to pose bodies of all shapes and sizes! 

This is why I am super excited to announce a Holiday Boudoir Marathon on November 18 & 19!

(Click here for more information!) 

This is a prime opportunity to be pampered and feel gorgeous for the afternoon! I have partnered up with Sarah Michelle Fahey to offer professional hair & makeup. And I also have a few surprises and goodies planned for my ladies who join!



FAQ
What should I expect on the day of the session? The way it will work is that you will come at the time you book and spend an hour with Sarah, then you will come into the studio to do your session in the second hour. Sarah and I will work together to make sure your experience is relaxed, fun and all about you! 

What should I bring to wear? I never want you to feel like you are wearing a costume. Authenticity is queen! I want you to recognize your own particular charm, and not some abstract standard of beauty. I want you to see what is within. So bring what you are comfortable wearing, bring what makes YOU feel sexy. And if you feel you have nothing to wear you have access to my full closet of dresses, pretty shirts and some gorgeous lingerie pieces as well! 

Are digital images included? I have two packages available, and both include digital images in the package. I worked hard to keep these packages affordable while making sure you have something to give your lover during this Holiday season.

Now I understand all too well the selfless nature of women. Rarely will we do something for ourselves. If anything right now you are thinking of all of the reasons why you shouldn't do this. Before your inner voice tells you that you are too this or too that, or that you need to lose those last few pounds first, think of this: You are beautiful - yes you actually are - your partner thinks so (in fact, I KNOW so) maybe it is time for you to see it for yourself. And there isn't a better place in this Montréal to be shown your beauty.

So I dare you to come in for this session. I dare you to brazenly accept your beauty - and the bonus is your partner gets a treat too! 

Book now as spaces are limited, and have your photos by Christmas!

(Click here for more information & to book!)

Reina ProceeComment
anniversary couples boudoir | montreal portrait photographer

When I met these two I was immediately struck by how much I just wanted to hang out with them. They are so laid-back, have a great sense of humour and are completely genuine. I was two-parts nervous, one-part excited to do their session. This was my first "couples boudoir" session, and I was worried about whether I would be professional enough (I'm a total goofball) to help them capture their connection, or whether I would be able to make them feel safe enough to give me just a peek into their most intimate parts of their relationship. My nerves made me talk too much, and I started the session focusing on Emily, because this is what I know, and I knew if I didn't do well with the couples portion, she will at least have her images. 

I tell ya, I had NOTHING to be worried about. I left that session feeling amazing, and while editing the photos I was completely amazed at how open and loving and sexy these two were! This is my new favourite thing about this portraiture line! Capturing their relationship 5 years into their marriage is only going to enrich the rest of their lives together - but enough from me... 

Here are her words:

My shoot with Reina was my first boudoir shoot, and first professional photos I had had since my wedding reception, and even then I didn't have my hair/makeup done by a professional {shout out to Annie Young Cosmetiques!}. My husband and I wanted to do something special for our five year anniversary that would not only be fun to do together, but also celebrate our connection and sexual chemistry based on the grounds of us not being young and hot forever. What we really loved about Reina was that she was open with trying shots and poses and scenarios that we thought would express elements of our relationship best, but shot in a way that would look the best in a photo. Whether it was a photo of my favourite past-time, having my feet rubbed while I peruse Instagram, or it was a romantic candle-lit bubble bath, it was a truly collaborative and fun experience and we couldn't be happier with the results. My husband and I now have something beautiful to remind us of a very important time in our marriage together that accurately represents our connection, and makes us both feel beautiful.

Reina Procee Comments
the beauty in her strength | montreal portrait photographer - boudoir

Something I have noticed in my time photographing women, is that we tend to look at our strength as a weakness. We look at what has carried us through the most difficult times and view it as something ugly, unattractive, or not lady-like. I am someone who until recently has held the same view, but in working with women who feel this way, and in posing them, I have realized that their strength is undeniable, it cannot be hidden, and it is the source of their beauty. Strength can be feminine, empowering, while at the same time delicate and soft. This is what I discovered during this session with my friend here. 

Here are her words:

"it brought me in sync with a body I hadn’t seen as my own in years."

Ever since my teen years, and even before, I always felt different and a little apart from everyone. I felt like I couldn’t truly share who I was with others, and with myself, because I was told by society that I had to be either a tomboy who loved sport or a “girly girl” who liked to wear makeup and heels. I wanted to be both but usually ended up putting most of my energy into sports, especially rugby, because I unconsciously felt empowered by using my body in a proactive way and taking over my own image. With time, I became so disconnected with myself and my own beauty that I went to extremes to try and fit in. I hit rock bottom when I let myself be dictated by bulimia. I came out of it but I still have my guards up constantly to fight back the urge of purging. Rugby again helped me own this and as I grew older, I realized I could be both strong and sensitive, but I still struggled (and still do) with my body issues.

That is when I met Reina through friends. She was not aware of my problems and about how much what she had said about giving women a moment to themselves and physical proof of their strength spoke to the innermost fear and desire I had. It took two years until I decided to finally contact her to book a session, I kept putting it off thinking I would workout for a while first but then I realized that was counter to her goals of making us feel good. Not only was the whole process enjoyable, with Reina being able to know when a laugh is needed or when a quick touch can help support you in a vulnerable moment, it brought me in sync with a body I hadn’t seen as my own in years. Since the photoshoot I have struggled again with my weight and I pick up the album Reina printed in order to remind myself of just how strong and gentle I can be all at once. She made both sides of me connect and that experience, as much as the photos, is something I will cherish.

Reina Procee Comment
breathless and beginning something new | montreal boudoir photographer

Beginning a project is always uncertain, scary, and stressful. I had been flirting with the idea of a portraiture side-project geared towards beauty, love, sexuality, and intimacy for some time. I made a few fleeting attempts over my career, but those occasions were more hobbyist than honest attempts. It was watching an Ewan Phelan session on Creative Live in the Fall of 2015, that I really decided to jump in with both feet and create my Breathless brand.

His boudoir style showed me that boudoir wasn't just a process of playing dress up, posing suggestively for photos and giving them to your partner. It was more a personal exploration of sexuality than a gift for your partner. It could be powerful, empowering and sensual. It was everything I envisioned boudoir to be but couldn't quite grasp before I saw Ewan’s session.

While I am a great fan of traditional boudoir sensuality, I wanted to say something different with Breathless. I want to be an observer and not a photographer. I want to capture my client’s unique energy, not impose my idea of beauty. To create this comfortable mood, I like to break up my sessions. I do this both for myself, and my clients. Taking it slow not only allows me to capture the special little details but creates a comfortable environment in which my clients can feel at ease. By chatting, joking around, or just being silly, all contribute to transforming the session from just a photoshoot, to a celebration of beauty and sexual energy. I really think that is a big part of why my clients feel so comfortable around me.

S. was my first client, and how grateful I am that she was. She is a free spirit, open, sensual, and a stunning presence to photograph. Having her model as my premiere client was truly an amazing opportunity.

—reina, #seeyourbeauty