This is a candid photo of me in high school. I was a pretty average looking girl who made above-average grades and had never been in serious trouble. I didn't smoke, didn't drink, and didn't do drugs. I was a shy kid--an introverted bookworm who tried to act extroverted--who was non-confrontational to a fault.
When I was younger, I tried to figure out what part of that led people--family, friends, acquaintances, complete strangers--to assume it was acceptable to comment on my appearance or my body. I blamed myself for awhile, thinking I needed to be more assertive. I thought maybe people were trying to take me down a peg, and that I needed to stop trying so hard to be perfect. As I grew up a little, though, I realized that even well-meaning people can be a-holes and make comments or "jokes" that are immature and hurtful--and that none of that was my fault.
Here's a brief list of my attributes that had been commented on by the time I had reached the age in the picture:
- My "big lips" (this was pre-"Angelina-Jolie-is-a-hottie" so definitely not a compliment)
- My "childbearing hips"
- My "ghetto butt"
- My "old-lady hands"
- My turned up nose
- My flat chest
- My "thunder thighs"
- My "ugly feet"
Here's the thing: if you asked me my biggest body insecurities right now, five of them still make the cut.
I hate admitting that. Hate it. I hate acknowledging that those (I'm just going to say it) bullshit messages got the better of me then, and still do. I hate that I buy in--even just the smallest bit--to societal standards of beauty, and that I judge myself by those standards. 95% of the time, I'm critical of my appearance. That's weak and ridiculous, and I know that, but it's true. So I absolutely will not apologize for the 5% of the time I feel good enough about the way I look to take a picture and put it on the internet. And neither should you.
Nearly all women have stories like this, and worse--even if they've managed to overcome them, the experience of having your body commented on is almost universal. Like I said, I consider myself to have been a pretty average looking kid, so I can't even imagine how dark and painful these things can become for people extremely far outside the societal standard. That's why I love selfies. I love seeing pictures of my friends pop up on instagram or facebook and knowing that they held up the middle finger to the judgements of others about the way they look and dress. I love knowing that they felt confident and pretty in that moment--because I know how rare, beautiful, and elusive those moments can be.
So. To sum it up:
Society: "You aren't good/pretty/thin/lovely enough because you don't meet our constructs of perfection......but LOVE YOURSELF! EMBRACE YOU!.......but not enough to take selfies, because that's too much; its conceit/vanity/self-absorption...........and besides, you don't really deserve it, because you aren't good/pretty/thin/lovely enough because you don't meet our constructs of perfection......." (It's a bloody freaking vortex, you guys.)
Me (and hopefully you): Eff that BS. Let's take a selfie.