My selfie, my self

The weight of my fixations is lessened when I’m not trapped inside my body but seeing it from the outside.

The dresser in my room is missing four of its six drawers. They’re not missing exactly; the wooden planks that will make up those drawers have been resting haphazardly in the hollow of the half-built frame since some day in October. I’m deeply afraid of power drills so I’m reliant on the kindness of a friend for the dresser’s completion, and we both work so much finding time to finish it has been hard. Some people would be irritated or embarrassed by such obvious disorganization— it’s an open admission that my bedroom is not finished, that I don’t have my shit fully together. But, for whatever reason, it’s never bothered me. I know we’ll get to it eventually; it’s good for now. Who cares if my room isn’t perfect?

I wish I could be as forgiving with my own imperfections. I wish I could view myself with as much patience and consideration as I give a pile of wood— why is it so easy for me to accept that my dresser is a work in progress, but so difficult to see myself the same way?

A few weeks after the first nails were hammered into the beginnings of my dresser, I wrote an essay admitting to an eating disorder I’d hidden (from myself as much as anyone else) for eight years. I started seeing a new therapist and working consciously on changing my habits, unlearning all the toxic behavior that had become second nature after so long. I’ve been fairly successful with my recovery so far, but some days are harder than others and on those days there is one thing I’ve clung to like a lifeline— selfies. It may sound frivolous to some, downright stupid to others, but those people are missing a crucial point: posting a picture of my own body is not something I do for the attention or approval of anyone else; it’s something I do for myself.

With a selfie, I claim ownership over my appearance and declare I can do with it whatever I want. I spent years hating on selfies and the girls who took them because I was resentful and jealous of their confidence and self-assurance. I spent so many of my teenage years preoccupied with my appearance and my body because it was drilled into me that those things determined my worth as much as (or more than) my intelligence, ambition, or humanity. I was always a driven, accomplished student and a compassionate, trusting person with a range of budding interests, but I felt reduced to my appearance (and later, my sexuality) by my peers throughout middle and high school, and, to a lesser extent, into college.

Whether I developed an eating disorder because of or despite this focus on my appearance feels a bit like a chicken-or-egg situation; in either case, it developed and it’s only been in the last four months that I’ve genuinely felt the weight of that illness beginning to lift. Though it may seem backwards, the more selfies I take, the less concerned with my appearance I feel. Maybe it’s simply a matter of habituation— the more pictures I see of myself, the more clearly I’m able to see myself just as the world sees me— as I am— rather than the twisted image my stupid brain has been torturing me with for years. It’s not stressful to look at a picture of myself the same way it is to step on a scale or stare into the mirror; that may not be true for everyone, but it’s true for me. And maybe it’s because with these pictures, I’m in control of my own image. I’m choosing to take that picture and deciding I’m worth seeing.

Each selfie I take is a step toward giving my body the same consideration I give that half-built dresser. By posting a picture of myself online, I am liberated. By exposing my vulnerabilities to the world, I am liberated. The weight of my fixations is lessened when I’m not trapped inside my body but seeing it from the outside. I’m finally beginning to see myself as a “work in progress” as casually as I do my half-dresser; neither of us is perfect, but we’re good for now.

There should be no shame in selfies. Posting a picture of myself, fully dressed or in my underwear, does not detract from my intelligence, my ambition, or my self-respect any more than having a messy room does. My room and my body belong to me and no one else— if you don’t like what I do with them, that’s fine; I don’t need your approval. I have my own.