I remember every time someone has commented to me about selfies. I remember because I’ve cringed every time at the lack of awareness about why people (and myself) take and share these photos.
“She posts too many selfies, so I don’t follow her anymore.”
“She’s so full of herself.”
“Doesn’t she have anything better to do?”
I remember the first time a male friend told me he’d been warned by female friends to ask for full-length pictures on dating sites. They told him that selfies taken at a certain angle make women look thinner than they are. I remember the pang of worry that I experienced when hearing this. I remember analyzing my own photos to make sure I wasn’t telling a lie. I remember breathing a sigh of relief on my first date with my husband when he told me I looked like my pictures.
I read a post from a colleague about how we should stop taking selfies and go out and enjoy time with friends. I didn’t realize the two were mutually exclusive. He thought he was being empowering, but really he was missing the point.
Selfies are for me, not you.
As someone who has struggled with my curves for as long as I can remember, there have only been a handful of periods in my life where I’ve happily let people take full-body photos of me without any angst. This was when I’d been working out like a lunatic, before I had two kids, or sometimes when it was a professional photographer. All other times I cringe when people take my photo without my controlling it in some capacity. I am meticulous about distance and angles and who I trust to take the picture. I know my mother is terrible at it, my sister is pretty good, and my husband is great. I assume because he knows it’ll never stop until it’s perfect.
But you know who is the best?
I know how to stand in the mirror. I know which side hides features I don’t like. I know the right moment to suck it in or point my toe to lengthen a leg. I know what message I want to send.
“She likes herself.”
“She’s got her shit together.”
“She puts makeup on and makes her bed every day.”
But those messages are only partially for you to see.
They are mainly for me. Because you see, it’s about the act of taking the picture. It’s about the act of making my bed and putting on makeup. It’s about taking a moment for myself amid the chaos to say I feel good right now, and I’m going to capture it. I have control over how I perceive myself and therefore control over how you perceive me.
A selfie isn’t vanity. It’s managing my narrative. I caption my selfies where possible to give you a glimpse into what’s happening behind my smile. But even without that, please don’t assume it’s just a play for likes. Instead, applaud that selfie from your friend because she is telling you that even on the bad days, she is trying to love herself.
When I stand in the mirror or turn that camera off of my cute kids or decorated house and onto me, I’m telling you that I don’t wake up happy every day with the skin I’m in, but I’m trying. I may have some work to do mentally and physically to be ok with your camera on me, but for now, I’m going to keep showing you what I see.
I encourage you to do the same. Even if the pictures sit in your camera roll for eternity.