Wednesday, July 23, 2014

On Selfies

I'm just going to lay it out there: I'm pro-selfie. My husband (and undoubtedly other people) think I'm ridiculous, but I'll get over it. I think selfies are misunderstood as vanity, when the vast majority of the time, they aren't. They're an all-too-rare statement of confidence and contentment from women (and men) whose self-esteem and body image is assaulted constantly by impossible societal standards of beauty and constructs of perfection.

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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"
I look at that girl in the picture--the shy, sensitive, non-confrontational, sixteenish-year-old girl--and I honestly can't see how the majority of those comments were even true, let alone necessary to make. Even though I just laughed them off publicly, though, I internalized every single one. I remember sitting down with my senior picture proofs and picking myself apart picture by picture.

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.

6 comments :

  1. You are a beautiful, beautiful girl. And I know writing this post wasn't a way for you to ask for that, but it's true and it's so crazy how we let ourselves and others mess with our minds so greatly. I only envy you when I see selfies you post and I'm sure it's that way for a lot of people. What's going on in our minds is so different than what others see. (Even if they make a-hole comments, that's because of something else entirely.) thank you for this post because I needed to read this today. Long live feel-good selfies.

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  2. Just shared with the kids. It's a great message for all ages.

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  3. :-) You really are beautiful and you should TOTALLY own it! :-)

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  4. Amen! Society and it's "standards" can suck it!

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  5. Woah. Your words are powerful. I love this post.

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  6. I got a lot of the hateful comments on your list as well- so I definitely know how you feel. I'm also introverted and non-confrontational, so it was especially hard on me as well. Also, like everyone says (and they're right!), you're gorgeous! Thanks for doing this post. Consciously, I know that everyone gets picked on and has insecurities, but it's tough to know what everyone else is feeling or going through, especially if they get teased for different reasons.

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