Often in conversations around selfies, especially those bashing selfies, the argument is that selfies invite people to be narcissistic, make them focus on getting other people’s attention and that we do them to get likes or comments.
And yes, I know selfies are defined as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media”. So, if someone hasn’t taken them, it’s easy to look at that definition and think that is all it is.
But that isn’t my experience.
That’s not what I’m seeing around me or on social media itself.
That isn’t the way I approach it in my classes.
Quite the opposite in fact.
When the term selfie emerged in 2013 with the shifting of the tools we were able to take selfies with, when most phones not only had a camera but a front facing one in which we could see ourselves, selfie culture emerged.
But that word ‘typically’ in the definition of a selfie is an open door, one I see so many people choosing to walk through. To not be typical, to actively change how and why we take selfies.
For many of us, taking our own photo is incredibly empowering. It allows us to take the power back into our own hands, to create our own visual media, especially when we don’t see ourselves reflected back in visual media culture. It becomes a truly different experience than having our photo taken by someone else. We are the photographer, the subject, the lighting director, the artistic director and the artist that takes the raw photo and adds a creative spark to it.
Not only that, but it is a doorway to our relationship to ourselves. I hear so many people say that they see a photo of themselves and it feels like a stranger. I felt that too when I started taking self-portraits. But I started to see her as someone I wanted to befriend, to get to know her, to not have pre-concieved notions of who she might be or how she might look in the photo.
The camera became a way to get to know myself and to create a relationship that was based on compassion, forgiveness and possibility.
And it had nothing to do with social media.
I think it’s a big roadblock to people especially when they start taking selfies, to think that it needs to be a photo that is shared. Starting from this place of taking it for other people’s viewing will only take us so far. It leaves us thinking:
What will other people think?
Will anyone like it?
Will it be worthy of likes and comments?
But that is not really about selfies at all. It’s about our relationship to other people, our self-worth and our relationship to social media.
Selfies and social media are not the same thing.
What about taking our selfies, for ourselves?
If we DO choose to share our selfies on social media, then I really encourage people to get clear on their own answers to those questions first and reframe it:
What do I think about my photo?
What about it resonates or makes me want to share it?
What do I like about the photo and what would I say to that ME in the photo if I were to comment on this image?
When we ground ourselves in our own power, in our own relationship to our photo before we share it, it profoundly changes the experience. And when you experience this, you’ll see that it’s not out of ego or self-focus, it’s about building a relationship to ourselves, to valuing our own self-perceptions with the same weight (or more) than we might hold other’s opinions.
Because we can never predict or control how other people are going to respond to a photo and I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to ride the rollercoaster of other people’s opinions of me as my core information for my own worthiness. I want to define that separate from what anyone might think.
We have a right to be in our own visual story, to see ourselves reflected in the photos of our life.
And they are worthy whether we share them or not.
And yes, sometimes I’ll find myself taking a photo and will realize that I took it craving likes and comments from other people and it’s a wake up call. An invitation to return to those questions, that self-inquiry.
Then, when we do choose to share them, if we choose to share them, people’s encouragement becomes a bonus, not where we are deriving our worthiness.
Because we have already offered ourselves that.
And it’s a process, but I think often we don’t think of selfies as being separate from social media, but they are.
What photo would you take today if you weren’t worrying about what anyone else thought? How would you view your selfie differently if it was only you seeing it?
Let’s start there.
Let’s fill up our own well first and then choose to share if we want to.
Let’s reclaim selfies as an act of self-care, separate from the act of sharing it.
Try it today, take a selfie just for you…I dare you!