Selfies. Although most of us have taken them, they have become a subject of ridicule and scorn. Taking a selfie is often considered vain or selfish, and the internet is there to criticize each and every one. Everyone’s a critic. But, in a time when we are constantly bombarded with images of celebrities and advertisements, what’s wrong with taking a snapshot of ourselves? Perhaps, despite all of the negative hype, a selfie is a good thing.
A few years ago, I decided to sign up for one of those 365-Day projects where you take one picture a day and post it in a designated site to share with others who are doing a similar project. I didn’t do this out of vanity, but because of a overwhelming lack of self-esteem. I thought that I could overcome the anxiety of having my photo taken by taking one every day and posting it to a site where I would get positive feedback. The problem was, I got anything but positive feedback. Complete strangers criticized everything from my weight to my skintone to my hairstyle. Someone copied a photo of me and put it elsewhere online with a mean caption about ugly people. Needless to say, I did not stick with the program!
Fast forward a few years. I reached a milestone birthday, and was feeling old. My husband was commenting on the fact that I avoided being in family photos whenever possible. I did not want to be in front of the camera because I was too concerned about the notion that I might not look conventionally attractive. It took the frustration of not being able to find many old photos of female relatives to make me realize that the dread of being photographed is probably the result of a culture that puts too much emphasis on a particular brand of beauty. I decided to do something about this, and overcome my anxiety about being photographed.
I knew I didn’t want to go back to one of the forum sites like the one I had originally used. The idea was to keep on track with one new photo for each day of the year. I wanted to make it something my family and friends could follow if they wished without having to sign up for anything, and something that those who did not want to see did not have to. I chose Pinterest for my venue. This way, those who wish to follow the board may do so, and pins can be viewed without an account. It keeps me going with the project, and it means that my husband will have at least 365 pictures of me from this year.
Although I was nervous about posting pictures of myself publicly, I began to have fun with the project. I decided that this was a wonderful opportunity to become comfortable with features that had always bothered me. It is also a chance to get to know my face much better than before, which was a surprise. You think you know what you look like, and then you spend time every day looking at your face and experimenting with filters and light, and you realize that there is more there than you ever realized. You see, while I have been taking these photos, I have actually gotten to a point where I have less general anxiety about having my picture taken.
Indeed, I soon started to realize that there were parts of my face that I thought were not too bad. Years of anxiety about no longer looking as I did at nineteen began to fall away. I am beginning to appreciate myself for who I am, and to realize that the opinions others have about how I look don’t really have any bearing on me. Sure, it’s great when someone tells you you look nice, but I no longer feel that it is a personal shortcoming if they don’t. In fact, something great has happened! Since I am spending less time fretting over how I look, I have had more time to be proud of accomplishments I have made. I have also started to accomplish more! Isn’t it interesting that worrying about how you look can actually set you back? When do we learn to do this?
Since I started this project, I have actually become confident enough to wear my glasses in public. I am not afraid to leave the house without makeup. I have been more confident in my own intelligence, and have stopped trying to hide the fact that I am a smart person. I have also noticed that I laugh more often, and that I feel lonely far less. All this because I have taken the time to take a daily selfie and post it on Pinterest. Many of the pictures are unfiltered, straight-up pictures as I took them. With some, I have gone a bit bonkers with filters and add-ons using apps on my phone. I am just over 100 days in to the project, but I already feel more confident in who I am, and in my own abilities to accomplish things in my life. I never realized how much my own self-doubt was holding me back!
Our minds and bodies are constantly evolving throughout our lives. We may never get back to a previous stage of life, but we can build and grow on what we have discovered. I believe that, by examining ourselves more closely, we can let go of the ideas that hold us back. For some, a daily poem or meditation may help to get in touch with one’s inner harmony. For others, self-affirmations or a personal gift each day will do. For me, a selfie a day is teaching me to value myself for more than how I look, and to also appreciate what I see.