Or thoughts on the selfie and the process of settling into your own skin—not that you have a choice.
Today, as I thumbed (haha, I really don’t like the word scrolled) through my Instagram feed, I found myself being really pleased by how many selfies were posted up by my friends. I feel like it’s an odd thing to think—when it comes to these strange, autobiographical photographs of ourselves, I’ve read (and heard) a good amount of opinions expressing irritation and disdain at these photos: from accusations of vanity (no shit) to charges of being unproductive and having “nothing better to do”. While I know that these things are all coming from a place of alienation or exclusion evoked by the occurrence of the selfie, I also feel like that that take on something like this also comes from an unwillingness to participate and an eagerness to observe and detrimentally, judge without opening yourself up for judgment.
Don’t get me wrong: I do understand the vanity stand-point and to a certain extent, even understand that there is something about these pictures that can be irk-some. However, I find that this reasonable irritation can be limited to the following scenarios—a) when the photo looks nothing like the person being photographed in real life (or when it feels like you’re being lied to), b) when the photo is humiliating for the person being photographed without that person’s knowledge (e.g. there is something in the background as with those “you’ll shit bricks” memes)and c) when the picture depicts something inhumane (for example, that guy who took a selfie of himself and his dead wife after he killed her). In these cases, yes: f*ck that.
But in most cases, I think that selfie-taking is a really great way to settle into your skin—god knows it’s hard enough to do.
As always, I can only speak for myself. So, I will. Here are couple of thoughts on the selfie as a means of coming to terms with your self-image.
1. The opposite of a mirror.
The thing about any kind of condition that has a “dys” and a “morphic” attached to it, is that you are unable to tell reality and perception apart. Take it from someone who, in highschool, was told over and over again that it’s ugly to be dark, it’s ugly to have curly hair, it’s ugly to be short, it’s ugly to wear glasses: sometimes you can’t tell when something is true or not. Moreover, in the cases of self-image (whether it be body-related or beauty-related or both), you are an unreliable judge of yourself. No matter how many times you look in the goddamn mirror, all you see is yourself as yourself. I’m going to say that taking a photo of yourself acts as the kind of opposite of a mirror: it shows you yourself as another person, or as an “other” in general. Because of this, you’re able to see yourself in a new way: hey my smile isn’t so crooked or dark skin isn’t ugly at all. It gives you the distance to see yourself more or less as you are as opposed to the goddamn beast you’ve built yourself up to be in your mind.
Up until learning the art of the selfie in 2007 (?) when my friend Kiki used to lend me her Motorola Razor and I would prank her by making my face her screen saver, I don’t think that I was able to come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t ugly. Growing up in a conservative Catholic school where it’s okay for teachers to call you a bruha or to equate curly hair with Sisa was definitely traumatizing. I felt unlovable and ugly and oddly enough, the selfie helped me loop around–it allowed me to empathize with the self (or image) that I hated.
I am also aware that a lot of people feel that taking selfies is a form of bragging–look at how pretty I am–but for that to be the case, you’ve got to think you’re pretty hot stuff. So I always get the feeling that people who are non-selfie-takers on this account might actually be the truer narcissists. I must be spared from your face because it’s so beautiful that I will–what, envy it? Hrrrm. Okay. Louis Vuitton bags are one thing, a face–something completely different.
Not that I would judge them for that; most of the people who’ve told me this are, in fact, very beautiful. I would appreciate it if we dropped the pretense though. 🙂
The way that I see selfies is more as a form of sharing, a way of saying: hey, this is what I’m wearing today or this is the thing my friend gave me or wish me luck at a job interview or come support our event, pretty please?
In a way that perhaps takes “baring your soul” too literally, I think that selfies are the new polaroid: they’re instant, they’re fun and it’s a way to include people–both inside and outside the photograph.
Of course, there are also haters but there are always haters: and as always, they can suck my non-existent male appendage.
I went through this phase where I documented my face every day for a couple of months until my phone got stolen (those still exist here at my old Instagram account) and since those were cross-posted to my Facebook account, I still have them. They’re pretty funny in that I’m able to gain a kind of self-awareness about the different phases I went through re: haircuts, preferences in style, weight, places I hung out–things that I would ordinarily forget. Also, selfies aren’t always lone photos–it’s also great for taking photos with your friends and having keepsakes from outings, dinners, events. My parents have a lot of photos from the 70s and in the age of the let’s-pose-around-the-food, I feel like group selfies with a bunch of faces squished into the frame are the most honest expression of togetherness and fun. It’s cooperation, it’s willingness to suffer momentarily to have something to hold onto.
4. Understated Elegance
5. DIY: Your face is your face
One of the may things that I love about these years is that it’s okay for people to do their own make up. I remember back in the early 2000s, if there was an event you had to get your make up done or you were crazy. But now it’s perfectly acceptable to love your face and to dress it up the way that you see fit. You can do it yourself–after all, your face is your face.
In the spirit of loving yourself or at least being okay with yourself, here’s a selfie from today.
Got any selfies of your own to share? Leave me a comment! 😀 Also, Instagram here.