In Defense of the Selfie
I take a lot of pictures of myself.
If you look at the photos on my phone, there are over a thousand pictures of my own face. Some are done up with lots of makeup, others are so hideous only my sisters and best friends have seen them, and many of them feature my dog.
One glance and narcissism is assumed. Or long rants about the horrible, selfishness of millennial and their obsession with their faces. I have gotten SO. MUCH. SHIT. for taking selfies.
But this bashing it isn’t just pointed at me. Months of swiping through Tinder and Bumble showed countless men with profiles stating “if u have a snapchat filtered selfie on your profile, SWIPE LEFT. Take your dog face and flower crown elsewhere.” Then the following emojis: tongue out, beer stein, airplane, palm tree, water drops, sports ball, winky face.
Why does it matter if I have goddamn digital dog ears on my face?
I spent six years in an emotionally abusive relationship being told I was cute, even if I was fat. That if I ever gained more than fifty pounds, it was over. That he settled for me because no one else would love me despite my weight, so I should feel lucky.
So I developed an obsessive compulsive eating disorder. I can still tell you exactly how many calories are in most foods, how many minutes of elliptical are needed to balance out that bite of brown rice, and how many hours I can exercise before I literally make myself sick but can still recover to head to the gym at six am the next day.
I took a lot of selfies then because I was always looking for fat. The pictures of me back then are nearly unrecognizable, not because I’m 100 pounds lighter but because the misery and hatred I felt for myself is literally oozing out of my pores, visible beneath the Instagram filters.
Life crashed, relationships burned, the world moved on, and I gained weight for a lot of reasons, most entirely out of my control.
I was afraid to look at myself. I hid mirrors, didn’t dress up, and went a year without much picture proof of my existence.
When I began to take care of my mental health, I started to learn how to be okay with where I was at. No matter the weight, the makeup, the lighting, I’m still me. And I need to be reminded of that sometimes. So I took selfies.
Feeling fantastic? Selfie! The joy and love for myself can be seen in the arch of my eyebrow and the smirk in my cheeks. Having the worst FUCKING day ever? Selfie! Because I can see the pain in my eyes, but they’re still my eyes. I’m still there. I’m still here! I’ve seen some shit, I’ve done some shit, but I’m still here.
So fine. Go ahead. Mock my “narcissism,” it’s cool. I don’t care. I deserve to be reminded of who I am and to love what I see. And if it takes a thousand selfies to remind myself of that, then my front facing camera better get ready.
For more reading on this topic, I highly recommend Lindy West’s book Shrill. She has a truly beautiful chapter on selfies with my favorite tagline: “Fuck the system; take some selfies.”