Selfies make me cringe. Girls on the subway all squish together, lips pouted, trying to take the perfect selfie; or a new Facebook photo album is uploaded with twenty identical pictures of somebody’s face; and I am inspired to vomit. I sit there thinking, “Really? Are people actually that self-absorbed?” The idea of taking a selfie, let alone putting one online, seems like the most vain and embarrassing thing in the world.
We are a self-obsessed generation. We post our every waking moment on Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr and Instagram and Foursquare and Vine and Youtube and Dailybooth and Pinterest and Reddit and who knows what else. Even Snapchat—the app that is supposed to delete whatever you send after ten seconds—has an option to post content semi-permanently as a part of your “story.” We assume people are going to take time out of their busy lives to read about the dinner we went to, or to ‘like’ that burger we post on Instagram, #cheatnight #burger #nofilter #gagmewithaspoonwhenwillwebedonewithallthesehashtags.
At least, these are the arguments I hear about selfies. I hear them from adults, from teenagers, and truth be told, these are the arguments I used to make myself against selfies. Looking back, I would like to apologize to everyone who had to interact with me when I thought like that. Like it is for most people, late middle school was a dark time for me—I still thought that a girl’s worth was derived from how revealing her clothing was, that hating things because they were popular made me cool, and that rage comics were the pinnacle of humor. Thankfully, those days are behind me: now I believe the selfie is a wonderful, powerful thing that ought to be encouraged rather than shamed.
As the years have gone by, my phone has become a selfie machine, and I the selfie king. I’ve become more confident; I’m not afraid to show myself off. Granted, I certainly don’t love myself all the time, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my relationships with myself and others improved tremendously when I became an advocate for the selfie.
When we tell people that they’re stupid or self-centered for taking selfies, all we’re really telling them is to be ashamed of their beauty. We’re sending them a message that says their bodies are wrong and that nobody cares about them. This is a dangerous message, especially when sent to young people. Why on earth would we tell people to hide something so beautiful—why should they conceal their bodies like some dirty secret? Your body is nothing to hide or run away from. Embrace it. I’m not trying to say everyone must take selfies. That would be ridiculous. I’m just trying to say that selfies can be a powerful tool, and everyone should feel comfortable taking a selfie if they want to. Selfies are a positive thing, and there’s no need to shame somebody for taking one (or two, or five hundred).
I understand that many people will read this and think I’m a self-obsessed hippie. Yes, I’ll admit that we live in a society which is fixated on fame and vanity; I’ll admit that we are self-obsessed. But honestly, I think we’re more obsessed with hating ourselves than anything else. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve been in the bathroom, only to overhear groups of girls picking themselves apart: “I wish my eyebrows were thin like yours,” “Oh yeah, well at least you don’t have weird curly hair like me.” These conversations go on for minutes. Sometimes one girl will keep saying that she looks ugly, even as her friends repeatedly say otherwise. That’s the thing with self-love and acceptance: while everyone else might tell you that you are beautiful and loved and that there is nothing wrong with you, it never means much until you actually say and believe it yourself.
That is why the selfie is so important: it gives you the power to love yourself. Taking a selfie puts you in complete control; you get to choose how to represent yourself. Whether you’re Frida Kahlo, Rembrandt, or regular Joe Schmo, nobody can dictate your self portrait. No one can tell you what to wear, what angle and lighting to use, or how to pose: you have complete authority over your image and identity.