The selfie that I write about below was taken exactly four years ago, and came up in my Facebook memories. This inspired me to share a story I wrote in my journal a bit ago.
In reading the comment threads on this Vice article, I became inspired to continue a blurb on selfies that I started a while ago but never finished. There is a common assumption that people take selfies for attention, and that those who enjoy taking and posting selfies suffer from some variation of narcissistic personality disorder. But really, I find this notion wrong and hypocritical for a number of reasons.
First off, it’s funny how women and girls are constantly pressured to be perfect and skinny and tan and pretty, but if we express pride in our looks in a barrage of selfies, we’re labeled as being vain and superficial. Strange, huh?
Secondly, there is a misdirected disdain of selfies from older grown-ups who claim that they never did that kind of thing (as the Vice article states, they did do the exact same thing; they just hid the polaroids under the bed instead of posting them on the internet). They brush it off as an act of narcissism when that’s only a small part of the equation. Surely there are many people whose prime motivation to post selfies is to be validated by hundreds of internet friends, but that’s not everyone.
I am certain that people would not believe me if I told them that I don’t take selfies for attention. I’ve never tested this theory by engaging in a discussion about it, because I honestly don’t feel like having the argument. Personally, I take selfies to constantly redefine myself to people who allow their assumptions to cloud their idea of who I am.
This goes way back. When I was younger, I was the baby of the group. I was always cute little adorable Kelsey. As I got older, this got very tiring very fast. And as I finally started to grow into my looks and explore my sexuality, my friends began to feel intimidated by this new version of myself. I was the ugly duckling, and as I grew into a swan, I got much of the male attention — arousing resentment in my small circle. In turn, my sexuality was quelled. I was not allowed to be hot. I was only allowed to be awkward and child-like, and any time I tried to step out of this designation, they humiliated me and put me right back into my place. They were bitter and jealous, but I was too naïve and self-conscious to understand why. Therefore, I internalized the idea that I was not pretty or sexy; I was just ugly and awkward.
When I graduated high school, I finally started to grow out of this. I cut off the tangled hair that plagued my entire youth. I figured out how to become proud of my brown skin and small yet shapely frame. I even dared to do some nude modeling in my new adulthood. Posing naked on the internet was my way of giving all of those people a big fat middle finger. Still, I did not figure out how to embrace the “sexy” version of myself until I was in my mid-twenties. I was still cute little adorable Kelsey to everyone I knew, and I hated it.
I clearly remember the first selfie I posted to my Instagram (above). I was 26. I had such a hard time getting the right picture because I was self-conscious about looking too “hot.” At the time, I don’t think I was comfortable with my own attractiveness. I knew that I was attractive, and I’d get tons of unwanted attention for it. But in a way, I feel like I embraced my awkwardness as kind of a defense mechanism to deflect this attention. I was self-conscious about dressing up too sexy to go a club, or wearing a high heel that was too high, or a dress that was too flashy. I downplayed my looks, though I’d never admit it at the time.
So I finally got the perfect picture that made me look good but wasn’t too provocative, and all of the comments were something like, “Aww” or “You are adorable.” And I FUCKING HATED IT. I couldn’t believe how much I hated it. I was shocked by how much I hated it.
After that, I gradually figured out how to become more comfortable being maturely sexy — even coquettish — in front of the camera. As a result, the confidence that I cultivated in selfies has spread to my confidence in real life. I now have no problem wearing that flashy dress, or being gloriously overdressed to a casual event. Now, I live for that shit. Through taking selfies, I have learned how to assert my own true idea of who I am, much to the chagrin of those who find my beauty and confidence “intimidating.”
Through selfies, the lamb has become a lion.
So I think it’s really stupid when people say that those who take selfies are narcissistic. These people make the foolish assumption that I take selfies to impress other people, when really, I started taking them to impress myself.
Funny how thin the line is between diffidence and narcissism. The second that you finally start to like yourself, they label you as “vain.” Ha. Fuck em.