Welcome to SonjaSpaetzel.com
I believe in trusting your gut, because doing what you’re afraid of is more important than doing what you’re good at.
I believe in reminding yourself how special you are; choose the fancy coffee cup over your daily mug, at least once a week.
I can’t pass up the click-bait personality tests on Facebook. (I’m Sleeping Beauty… which Disney Princess are you?)
When I’m hiking I walk extra slowly so everyone else can find the spiders.
I have a glass display case just for beautiful shoes I bought that I knew wouldn’t fit.
Whenever I’m traveling alone, I watch Millionaire Matchmaker.
Popcorn and M&Ms are my favourite fast food lunch.
I’m not a glutton because I order three days’ worth of meals from Thai restaurants… to me, it’s grocery shopping!
I am addicted to Say Yes To The Dress… even though I’m happily married.
I sneak a shot (or two) of espresso vodka out of the freezer right before bedtime. (Shhhhh)
I plan my vacations around the restaurants I want to try.
I invite people over for dinner as an incentive to clean the house.
I believe in moving away from your hometown: get out there and test your wings.
I believe in questioning authority, because, I truly know what’s best anyway!
I believe making changes in your life begins with knowing your “why”.
I believe the things you say become the things you believe.
I believe in seat-dancing and full-volume rock star singing, steering wheel drumming and ‘I’m so cool” head-bobbing… even (especially) in traffic. (C’mon, you know you do it too.)
I believe in proudly telling your “skirt caught in your underwear” story every chance you get.
I believe in being intentional, in all things.
I believe photographs have the power to connect you to yourself. And that connection is absolutely transformative. This is why I create portraits. My clients celebrate themselves through recognition, acceptance and declaration – of themselves, by themselves – through my images. “There is nothing more beautiful inspiring than the authentic you.”
Whether you are on a journey to remember the courage, bravery and strength you found within yourself sometime in the past, or to discover the power that is bursting inside you now that outsiders rarely see: the journey to loving who you are is at the core of my process. Working with me is your opportunity to declare who you are and be courageous in trusting yourself. It’s a chance to use your voice unabashedly and unapologetically. And, ultimately, it’s your time to find freedom in being the one who defines who you are, without the concern of what other people think and say. Together, let’s be unjudgeable.
At the time when I got the idea to have some portraits made of myself, I was content with who I was. I was happy. I felt grounded. Solid. I knew who I was and, dare I say it, I liked myself! I didn’t expect to feel much different after the shoot than I felt going into it.
My purpose for having my portraits made was so I could have something of a visual legacy for myself: a reminder of what made me smile, of what I loved… something to bring me back to the times when I felt the best. I just wanted to do something to celebrate me! And I thought it would be fun.
So I was surprised when about midway during the shoot I started feeling, well, almost exuberant about things. About me. About what we were doing. About life in general. My outlook just kept getting more and more positive. And when I reflect back on the shoot I still get a little surprised that something as simple as getting my photo taken could actually impact me the way it did. Because I left the shoot feeling even better than I had going in… and I thought I was a really positive person already going into it!
Obviously I was planning on having a good time when we were roaming around making my photos, but by the end the session I honestly didn’t want to stop. I was having so much fun. I was playing!
I laugh a lot in general and I have a pretty good time in life – even when circumstances are not good I make it a point to try to see find something positive and focus on that. But I realize now that it’s not often in my daily life when I just play! When I’m just silly and I give myself over fully to fun. I honestly felt like I was about 5 years old again. I can’t remember the last time I was so free with myself. Here I was, thinking this would be a neat experience and how great it would be in the end to have these images that so beautifully and genuinely show who I am, but I didn’t realize the experience would impact me so much. I didn’t go into the shoot thinking I would feel any differently about myself. But I do!
I see how that time during the shoot helped me become even more playful, even more optimistic and joyful. I didn’t think I could be any more of those things, but I feel that I am more of these now. I want to feel like that all the time – and I’ve noticed I have changed since the photo shoot. I am even more intentional now about bringing myself fully into my experiences and friendships and into the opportunities that come across my path. I just want to fully immerse myself in life and in connecting with people – in sharing meaningful moments with them. I notice I’m doing that a lot more now.
I feel like I already had so much, and somehow, by intentionally remembering and reconnecting with some of the moments in my life that had already been so fulfilling and happy for me, I found even more fulfillment and happiness and now it’s just spilling over. I truly can’t contain it.
I am so thankful for the experience. I am so thankful I now have this beautiful book that tells my story in such a genuine way. And I’m so thankful for every new day because it’s another chance for me to go get ‘em and practice more joy, more confidence, more acceptance and love – for myself and for others. It’s another day where I get to give thanks that I get to be here on this earth and that I get to be me during my time here. It’s truly astounding to me how something as simple as having my photos taken could have such an impact.
Catherine remembers she was a loud, never-sit-still, talkative, feisty kid.
“I was always challenging the boys to races at recess,” she remembers. “I couldn’t stand it when they said I couldn’t do something as well as they could because I was a girl – and I let them know it! I was probably bratty in the way I confronted them, but looking back on who I’ve been now for so many years – someone SO different, someone so much more quiet – I’m proud of the younger, brasher, very vocally-opinionated me. I wish I hadn’t forgotten her for so long.”
Catherine wanted to have her portrait made after she went through a time of big changes in her life that had her remembering and embracing the bold person she once was.
“I stopped expressing myself honestly with most people, for a long time – decades,” Catherine recalls. “When I became a teenager it was like that mischievous kid that I was vanished and I became really quiet, really proper, meek. I was so afraid of telling people what I thought and felt because I was afraid of being rejected.”
“It all started to change for me when I, terrified, took the first step in addressing the problems in a relationship I was in. I had been burying the problems hoping they would go away and I never told the other person anything was bothering me. My frustration built up to such a level that I couldn’t ignore it any more and I surprised myself by going into what was for me the excruciatingly uncomfortable place of addressing the problem and revealing how I felt and what I wanted – which was something I hadn’t ever done as an adult. I usually took great measures to avoid anything uncomfortable with people.”
After that, Catherine says, it was like an avalanche of change started happening in her life.
“Once I started speaking up I started shaking things up,” she says. “Not everyone in my life was happy with the decisions I was making and the opinions I was expressing, but for the first time since I was about 10, being myself was more important to me than hiding who I was so that people would like me.”
Catherine’s portrait session mattered to her because she wanted to have a visual memory of herself at this turning point in her life. More than that, she wanted to use her new powers of expression to make a statement about who she was and to have the experience of being photographed be a way that she could fully celebrate who she now knew herself to be.
“I’d been making the changes. I’d been using my voice more and more to represent myself in the world, with the people around me. But these were just baby steps for me. I hadn’t yet fully accepted who I had learned that I was. I put myself out there because I believed it was important for me to do that. I saw the difference it was making in my life. But I still wasn’t able to whole-heartedly say that I loved myself. When I booked the photo shoot I did it with the hope that during that session, through the process of revealing and declaring myself, that I would be able, finally, to see myself as I am and love myself without apologies, without wondering if loving who I am is ok.”
So did Catherine’s session live up to her hopes?
“The shoot wasn’t easy. It was harder than I thought it would be to give myself over to the experience of connecting with my emotions and with the part of me that really was the most tender – which was where the important things that I needed to communicate about myself were going to come from,” Catherine recounts.
“But I did reach a point during the session where all my anxiety seemed to vanish and I felt this comfort in being myself. I was able to stop performing for the camera and just enjoy being in tune with myself. And now that some time has passed since the session, looking back I think the camera was almost like a stand-in for the people in my life. Before, when I was first starting to express myself in my life, it was something that I had to make myself do because I knew it was good for me. I did it, but it didn’t feel natural yet – even though when I was a kid it was so easy! And that’s how I felt at the beginning of the shoot also – even though I wanted to do the shoot, it was awkward for me to stand in front of the camera, alone, and reveal myself emotionally. I kept wondering if I was looking good or silly and I was hyper-aware of myself. Until I wasn’t – when suddenly I was so in tune with myself that I was expressing myself not for the camera, but for me, simply because I needed to, because it felt good, because I felt whole when I stopped holding anything back.
Since the shoot I’ve held on to that feeling of wholeness that I experienced. I’ve taken that feeling into my daily life. It’s what drives me – I want to feel that way all the time, whether I am with people or not. Now, I try to get out of my way when it comes to expressing myself and being the true authentic me in the world. I am speaking my mind without worrying so much, or at least not nearly as often, of what other people will think of me when I do speak my mind. I know that their opinion of me, whether positive or negative, does not actually change my value.
I’ve had some shakeups in my friendships and acquaintances since all of this. Not everyone I knew before I started making changes has stuck with me. But I’ve met new people who only know the ‘new’ me, and it’s been so healing for me to know that they are sticking around because they know me and accept me, not because I have painted a picture of me for them that isn’t true. And with the friends who have stood by me through the changes I’ve made I’ve been able to have some truly honest conversations and together we’ve built more beautiful and supportive friendships than what we had before.
Every time I look at my portrait now I get this warm feeling for the person I was then, this woman who was trying to figure out so much and who was trying to hard to be brave in being authentic even though it still felt pretty foreign to her. And I remember with gratitude what I learned that day about the value in being yourself just for yourself, no worries about anyone else’s opinion. That’s when I really felt love for myself for the first time. That’s when I started being able to really celebrate the whole wonderful beautiful complicated loud brash competitive goofy vulnerable and strong person that I am.”