The Homework Assignments

Own Your Beauty is a groundbreaking, year-long movement bringing women together to change the conversation about what beauty means. Our mission: to encourage and remind grown women that it is never too late to learn to love one's self and influence the lives of those around us - our mothers, friends, children, neighbors. We can shift our minds and hearts and change the path we follow in the pursuit of authentic beauty.

Each month, Karen Walrond will share a homework assignment with you.

If you blog, we encourage you to share your experience completing the assignment there and link your URL in the comments of Karen's first monthly post. If you don't blog, that's okay! You can share your thoughts or homework in the comments. We welcome your thoughts in any format -- text, video, photography or art. Open your mind to the possibilities.

Own Your Beauty Homework Assignments

October: Authenticity

Grab a pen and paper, and list everything you love to do that fills you with joy and/or grace.  It can be shooting photographs, or cooking, or taking a shower, or running a mile, or singing or whatever.  Write deeply profound things, or silly little things, like organizing the junk drawer in your kitchen.  Write until it exhausts you.  Just write whatever fills you with joy or grace.

Then once you're done, keep that list somewhere where you can find it at a moment's notice (and if you're moved to blog about it, we'd love to read it!  Please share it with us in the form below.)  You're going to want to refer to this list again over the next year.  Possibly even for the rest of your life.

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November: There Are No Flaws

This month, let's reflect on our perceptions of ourselves and start really seeing how beautiful you really are. For the next four weeks, I'll invite you to start a self-portrait project: Take a self-portrait every single day. (Don't worry: Like every exercise we'll do here on Own Your Beauty, this can be for your eyes only.) You can do it with your fancy camera, or you can do it with your camera phone, or even your webcam on your computer. You can do it at different times of the day. And you can do photographs of your face, your feet, your hands, whatever you'd like, as long as you (or some part of you) appear in the photograph. If you can, try to do the self-portrait in a moment of happiness or contentment or peace: while you're having a night out with friends, in the morning before the start of an exciting day, with an afternoon cup of tea, or even at night when you're feeling relieved that you're about to fall into bed. If it's been a crap day, take a few moments to silently breathe, slowly and deeply, and get centered in mindfulness before you take the picture.

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December: Creativity

I invite you to join me a creative exercise that is becoming a yearly ritual for me -- the making of a vision board.

Vision boards are simply a visual way of making your intentions concrete, and some people swear by their magic. I don't know how magical they are, but I do love them far more than making annual New Year's resolutions: Resolutions have a way of making you feel guilty if you don't accomplish them; however, vision boards are simply beautiful guideposts that help steer you in the direction you hope for yourself -- and for me, the results at the end of the year are often uncanny. The process of putting a vision board together can be an incredibly meditative and reflective time (and therefore, a nice break from the end-of-year madness), and best of all, they're incredibly easy to make.

Here's all you'll need:

  • Some posterboard, or canvas board, or a large surface you feel comfortable gluing things on (nothing smaller than, say, 8 x 10 inches)
  • Rubber cement or glue
  • A stack of old magazines and/or photographs
  • If you participated a few months ago, your list of things that fill you with joy and grace
  • Some time set aside to daydream (a good hour ought to do it)

The first thing you're going to do is start paging through the magazines and photographs, cutting out or setting aside the pictures or words that speak to you: the images that are reminiscent of your list of things that fill you with joy and grace, or things that you want for yourself for the coming year, or images that typify the kinds of creative activities you'd like to try, or just words or passages that you find especially stirring. This is a gut thing -- don't think about what you feel "should" inspire you," just notice how you feel when you see the image, and if you get a nice little jolt of happiness or peace, cut it out and set it aside. This is not the time to edit yourself, or start trying to talk yourself out of things -- just create a lovely pile of images and words. (Maybe you even print out your list of things that bring you joy and grace, and cut each of them out, as well.)

Once you've gone through all the images and words, simply collage them onto your posterboard, using your glue. You might want to arrange them before you glue, or even more intuitively, simply place them wherever it feels right, without thinking about placement so much. Again, whatever feels good.

And that's it! Once you've glued everything down, you've made a vision board! Place it somewhere where you can refer to it often -- up on a bulletin board, near your bedside table, in an unused file cabinet where you can open it up and glance at the vision board every day. Just keep looking at it over the coming year, and reflect on the images periodically.

January: Adventure

I invite you to join me a creative exercise that is becoming a yearly ritual for me -- the making of a vision board.

With your list of things that light you up and your vision boards close by, think of one thing you'd like to try for the new year. Not accomplish, not master, just try. It could be tasting a new food, or trying a new skill, or experiencing a new experience. You can tell your friends, or you can keep it to yourself (I'm generally of the don't-tell-a-soul ilk myself, so I get it if you want to keep it a secret). But write it down and keep it somewhere close (near your list and your vision board would be ideal -- or, you know, your journal!).

And every now and then, think about it.

And if the mood hits, then do it.

February: Spirituality

After we turned the microphone off, Karolyn and I continued chatting, and she mentioned that back when she was in junior high she had a science teacher who used to say that if you made a practice of breathing very slowly and deeply ten times as soon as you awoke in the morning and before you got out of bed (in the way Karolyn describes in the video), you would never get sick, you would remain at peace, and your spirit would be healthy.

I don't know if it's true, but it's worth a try, isn't it?

So this month, your challenge is to do as Karolyn's science teacher suggests: Every day, try to breath 10 times -- slowly, mindfully, just like Karolyn describes in the video. If you can remember to do it before you get out of bed, that's a bonus; however, if not, make a point to do it at some point in the day, each day, anyway. Again, do it 10 times, but if you want to do it for longer, that's cool, too. I'll do the same. And at the end of the month, we'll report back to each other and see what we learn about ourselves.

March: Humor

I think I'm going to really try, over the coming month, to approach my life with more open eyes; identifying the ways in which my stresses might actually be funny. It can't hurt right? You try, too.

And while I'm doing this, I'm also going to do a little more to make sure there's more humor in my life: watch a few more comedies on television (my steady diet of Law & Order episodes could probably do with a bit of a change), and search for some more talented humor writers on the web. I have a few favorites -- The Bloggess, Hyperbole & a Half, Fluid Pudding and of course, Alice's blog, Finslippy, rank near the top -- but I could always go for a few more.

In fact, if you have any favorites, please share them in the comments on this post. Share the laughter love.

April: Heartbreak

This month, I challenge you to be gentle with yourself: When things go wrong, rather than pushing them aside (or in addition to raging about them), try sitting quietly with yourself and acknowledging how you feel. Journal, meditate, or do what you can to mindfully treat yourself with kindness.

May: Agelessness

For this month, I challenge you to spend some time each day looking for the wonderful. Start a gratitude journal, listing the good things that happened to you during the day, if you think that would help. And for more inspiration, I wanted to be sure to share with you this fantastic blog I found recently, called Advanced Style -- whose mission is to show "proof from the wise and silver-haired that personal style advances with age."

And indeed, I guarantee you that the people featured in that blog haven't stopped looking for the wonderful.

June: Individuality

I challenge you to pick a day -- it can even be a day where you're not planning on going out -- and wear whatever makes you feel awesome. It can be based on a color or how it fits, but definitely it should be based on how it makes you feel. Play with accessories, hairstyles, make-up -- or just keep it to clothing and forget about everything else.

July: Sexiness

I invite you to spend some time thinking about when you feel your most awesome -- whether it's because of a skill you have, or a hobby you're passionate about, or even something simple, like a favorite shirt or perfume. Take time to do something every day, just for you, that makes you feel great, if even for just five minutes. And when someone pays you a compliment, instead of dismissing it, or downplaying it, for just this month, look the person right in the eyes, and say, with as much meaning as you can, "Thank you." Own it.

This month, we're going to work on our confidence -- and therefore our Sexy.

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