Predating its addition to the Oxford dictionary in 2013, to selfie (because I like to think of it as a verb as well as a noun) hasn’t been a secret action. All you have to do is dig up the fossils of Myspace or Bebo- if of course, you still have access to that old AOL email address you used when you were 12- and you’ll most likely find photos you took of yourself that were so cringeworthy you won’t know whether to laugh or cry or track down everyone you knew at that age and apologise. At which point I’m going to share two that I hope don’t form the whole basis of your opinion of me:
I had a thing about bows and selective colour, shut up.
But in a way, these photos have a strong relevance to what this post is about. Because not long after this I lost the confidence to pose in front of a camera, whether it be my own or someone else’s, and it’s something that I’ve struggled with for almost a decade (which isn’t something a 23-year-old should have a problem with. At all). I’d go through ebbs and flows of trying to improve my confidence by taking self portraits for Flickr under the guise that ‘I don’t have anyone to take photos of’ and ‘I’m just practicing my portrait skills’, but my attention would always fizzle out eventually because my heart wasn’t in it, even if I’d get a shot that people from all over the world were telling me was beautiful. And all the negativity I held about myself and my body accumulated in this badly edited image, which I deleted two days after posting but ended up all over tumblr and gaining thousands of notes anyway:
But I digress because these aren’t selfies like the ones we know today, the ones we know as selfies today are largely taken in public, just of someone’s face while they pout or smile or whatever the person has decided is their best look and their best angle. And I used to hate seeing people taking them. Because I didn’t have the confidence to, so I used to kid myself into thinking those people were conceted and vain and I was superior to them because I wasn’t making a fool of myself by snapping fifty photos of myself on the bus. But in reality it was all jealousy, because I was so consumed by the thought that if I were to do that in public, people would laugh at me or judge me because I wasn’t pretty enough to be taking photos of myself. So I just tried to avoid the camera and trick myself into thinking that while these people were staring into their phones, I was living in the moment and just enjoying life. Which was totally untrue, and I see that now.
I’d never had any confirmation that I was beautiful from people other my mum and brother (and they have to say that, right? We share DNA), and I used to think that that meant I wasn’t beautiful. No one was interested in me romantically, I never got that first kiss, I never got the opportunity to lose my virginity, and I always thought that made me worth less because I was unwanted and undesirable. But now I see that beauty doesn’t come from there. Your beauty isn’t defined by the compliments you receive from strangers online or in person, it’s defined by whether you decide to be beautiful. Because everyone is beautiful if they believe themselves to be, and other people’s opinions aren’t worth anything, the only opinion about you that matters is your own.
And I have decided that I’m beautiful.
Which is why I now embrace the selfie. I don’t take them for likes or compliments, I take them as a display of my own self love. I take them because in that moment I feel beautiful and I want to capture that and remember it, or because I love the way I’ve done my make up (I’m still very much an amateur at make up application), or I feel fierce with the way I’m dressed. They’ve stopped being a way of seeking attention and started becoming a celebration of my own acceptance of myself and each one I take reminds me of that.
Selfies shouldn’t come from a place of insecurity and wanting to gain acceptance, they should come from a place of self confidence and just wanting to show the world exactly what you have to offer. That’s where the beauty comes from.
This is me- my hair may need a wash and I haven’t cleaned my face in two days, but I know I’m still beautiful. Because everyone should know that they’re beautiful all day everyday, no matter what.