Years ago, when I was leaving a full-time corporate job for the second time in my life to pursue unknown endeavors, a colleague gave me an inspiration stone with the word FREEDOM engraved on it. Even though I thought I knew what it meant at the time, today I have developed a very intimate relationship with the word.

As I coach myself and others through transition, I’ve learned that the most important part of change goes on in the mind. How we see ourselves and what we believe affects everything. I’ve noticed that most of us don’t have a great opinion of who we are and have little faith in turning things around. That’s ok. Because there are many tools to remedy this malady. And one of the best ones is the use of visuals. Guided imagery, vision boards, visualization exercises, expressive painting. While I practice all of these methods, I’ve discovered yet another transformative visual tool that’s worked wonders for me through my own personal evolution. Engaging with a camera.

I was blessed with a boyfriend who is a talented photographer and Photoshop expert. Before I met him, I had never loved being in front of a camera. In fact, I had trouble smiling, and I still hate the first picture he ever took of me—my smile looks forced and I look a little annoyed (which I’m pretty sure I was). But Jim kept taking pictures. And all of a sudden, I was able to let loose. At the Botanical Gardens in Atlanta, I was suddenly a butterfly. In the woods of Dahlonega, I became a wood nymph. And for my birthday, Jim gave me a DVD of pictures of me set to music. Some he had taken, some were from before we met. I cried when I saw it. He had captured me, my true essence, and given it to me as a gift.

The name of the piano piece he used as background music was Stanton Lanier’s Freedom. And I looked free, completely full of love and free. Many people in my life were under the impression that I had always been free—that I did what I wanted when I wanted, had no fears at all. But I knew better. I knew what my real fears were and they were real. I was terrified of pursuing my true passions for fear of becoming penniless, homeless and, worst of all, dependent on others. But seeing those pictures of me were amazing. I could see who I was, who I wanted to be and who I could be.

Practicing some type of visualization helps us change our perceptions of what is, gives us a better understanding of ourselves and can transform self-doubt into self-confidence. “We believe what we see,” my expressive art teacher used to tell her students. But more than that, if we actively engage with the visual, then it becomes even more powerful—a form of mind sculpting.

Try whatever visual method works best for you. Create a vision board of the life you’ve always wanted (there are many cool ways to create vision boards these days) or take 30 seconds to visualize yourself being who you want to be. But if you’d like to try engaging with a camera and are afraid, here are some ideas that might work for you…
• Play with striking different poses when you’re alone. Pretend you’re different characters and feel the difference between them and you.
• When you feel comfortable with that, do them in front of the mirror.
• If you don’t feel comfortable having a friend take pictures of you, practice playing with your camera’s self-timer. Remember no one ever has to see these photos but you.
• If you feel more courageous, create a DVD of photos of yourself or consider having a vision photo made.

Whatever you choose to do, remember to capture the essence of what you desire for yourself. Is it freedom, self-confidence, a life full of wonder? Chances are you already have some of this already in your life, and it might be living right inside of you. You just may not be able to see it. Bringing it out into your visual consciousness will make it easier to see, grasp and believe it is possible.

Today, I don’t feel like I need someone else to show me my own inner beauty (although I will purr happily if I receive a great compliment). But I still have days full of doubts, when I feel fear creeping in to settle in on its old stomping grounds. On those days, I look at the picture of the wood nymph hanging on my wall. I see her looking straight at the camera with complete confidence, free of any worry or concern. I dare you, she seems to say to FEAR. And I remember she lives inside of me. That I can find her and let her out whenever I want to. That her strength and courage is who I’ve always been. And continue to be. FREEDOM at last!

Different types of visual tools:
Vision board – typically collages that depict your dreams. Some people use 4x6 index cards for mini boards that show one theme each, so they can carry them with them as visual reminders. Contact me if you’d like to join a vision boarding group. I’d be happy to lead one.
Mind movies – pre-made movies you can download with different inspirational messages:
Altars – a physical space that depicts your wishes, desires and prayers. Check out Emiella Kaufman’s altars
Expressive painting – intuitive painting technique that sometimes includes dialoguing with and embodying elements of your work. Aviva Gold wrote Painting from the Source and holds many workshops and trainings:
Mind sculpting – a type of guided imagery that involves all of the senses (often used by professional athletes). Dr. Robert Mauer’s book, One Small Step Can Change Your Life, describes mind sculpting really well.
Custom inspirational DVDs and vision photos – compilation of photos of yourself set to music or a photo of yourself photoshopped into a setting that depicts your true essence. Check out Jim Sichinolfi’s work:
Guided imagery – Sanaya Roman has great guided imageries in her book Spiritual Growth. She also has a number of audio meditations you can purchase on her website: Jill Badonsky also sells a guided imagery CD:

Author's Bio: 

Rita Farin left a 20-year career in marketing to become a full-time writer, artist and certified creativity coach. She now helps individuals unleash their imaginations to bring about new realities and corporations foster creativity in the workplace to improve business productivity. Her blog on transitioning to a creative life challenges traditional beliefs about relationships, spirituality and the creative process.