Writer: Alysse Dalessandro | “People who take selfies all the time are self-centered, narcissistic assholes,” my good friend to said to me over a plate of cheese fries. I had just written a story about being Instagram-obsessed so I assumed this was supposed to be some sort of shade. I fit the description by their first admission as a person who takes selfies all the time. The new iPhone has a feature that categorizes your images and my phone, which is about three months old, has 324 photos currently under the selfie category.
This opinion that my friend expressed is exactly why so many people still fear posting their selfies. But selfies to me were a huge part of my self love journey and becoming comfortable taking my own photos helped me learn to love myself. If you would’ve looked at my phone two years ago, there would’ve been maybe 10 selfies. I rarely took them. I have always considered myself to be photogenic. I have a friend who when she first met me nicknamed me “Magazine Face” because she said I took such good pictures. And yet, I didn’t feel comfortable taking selfies. I feared that taking too many images of myself would make people think I was a self-centered, narcissistic asshole.
I have been fat mostly my whole life. My sister, who was not fat, was a cheerleader and a model. So when my sister went to her modeling classes, I got signed up too even though I was painfully shy. I learned to do all of the things that she did but while it came natural to my sister, this kind of attention made me uncomfortable. I was much happier staying at home with my friends and dressing up as the Spice Girls than I ever was walking a runway at the mall. And while I watched my sister ham it up wherever she went, I had no judgement for her but I did feel that kind of visibility wasn’t something I was worthy of receiving. At least that’s what I convinced myself of for years.
About two years ago, a friend of mine told me some advice about social media that she said would help transform my business. This was the third creative business that I had ran and I had always been involved behind the scenes and I was by no means ever the face of my brand as I am today. My friend told me that staying behind the scenes was to my detriment and that as a small business, I am my best asset. She asked me to post a photo of myself at least once a week on social media. This request terrified me. I feared that people only really liked my business because they didn’t know me and if they did, they would no longer like my business. This idea sounds absolutely ridiculous to me now but I really believed that my best role was one that kept me hidden.
I remember exactly where I was the first time I took a selfie for the purpose of sharing it on social media because my friend had challenged me to. I think I took maybe 50 before I got one that I liked enough to post. I knew that my friend was holding me accountable to this so as uncomfortable as it made me feel, I took the selfies and I posted them. And the more selfies I took, the easier it became. I quickly began to see the only person who wanted me to stay hidden was me. I became determined to fight that voice in my head that said I wasn’t worthy to be seen; that people wouldn’t like me if they saw me too much; that I would be judged for being self-centered. I fought that voice everyday for months.
Now more than two years after I first started taking selfies, someone was telling me exactly what I had always feared. But after what I would guess is that after close to thousands of selfies, I knew my friend was wrong. My love for myself doesn’t make me selfish. In fact, I fell in love with myself through this process. I learned to feel worthy and strong in my own fat existence. Here I was a person that society would rather not exist; not only existing but thriving. That felt and still does feel like a major victory. Taking these photos didn’t make me an asshole. They made me admirable. I feel proud of the insecurities I overcome to be able to take these photos.
I knew that my journey was probably not unlike other selfie queens so I asked a few other folks, both plus size and straight size, to share their favorite selfies with me and tell me a little about their own selfie journeys.
Katana Fatale, Model
“I think people like to give others a hard time for taking selfies, people who aren’t celebrating their own selves will be the first to catch you taking a selfie and say, ‘what are you a model now because you take selfies?’ But, yes. Yes, I am. I literally had a career in modeling fall into my lap because of my selfies. My first publication was in Marie Claire Brazil and they used my selfies to feature me, as that’s all I had at the time- selfies. They noticed me because of them. I became a Chubby Cartwheels model from my damn selfies. So, I always tell people to laugh in the faces of those who would mock their acts of expression (which is what a selfie is), because it can literally turn into a modeling a career. I am a living testament to that.”
Find her selfies on Instagram: @katanafatale
Leah Vernon-Rashad, Blogger/Stylist
“Selfies, for me, are great confidence boosters. Whether my face is beat or not, I take a selfie to capture a moment. A moment of success, or happiness, or maybe even frustration or sadness. I post it for all the world to see. I’m proud of my face and the moments–flaws and all.”
Find her selfies on Instagram: @lvernon2000
Megan Hodge, Body Positive Waxer/Model
“I think taking selfies allowed me to see the beauty I never saw before. I used to only feel empowered by selfies when I had a great outfit or really good makeup that day. I now feel great without makeup and taking selfies. I love my selfies with Liam [her son] where I’m smiling, that is one thing I haven’t gotten comfortable with just yet, is smiling in photos…it’s crooked and super noticeable in photos. So when I see photos of he and I smiling together, they’re my favorite.”
FInd her selfies on Instagram: @bronzeexcuses
Rachel Matheson, Blogger
“… I always enjoyed taking selfies but i wasn’t always comfortable sharing them with people. Like you i was scared people would judge me and think i was self centered or vain. Taking more selfies has greatly improved my confidence. Getting positive feedback from friends and strangers is awesome. Also knowing that my confidence (even if it’s only assumed that I’m feeling confident in the picture) is directly affecting other women and inspiring them to feel better about themselves feels awesome. I never had a fat role model growing up so knowing that people look to me as a source of fat representation is extremely gratifying.”
Find her selfies on Instagram: @Girthakitt
La’Shaunae Steward, Blogger
“I was never fully comfortable taking selfies! I never wore make up and I never knew the correct angles and my pictures never came out the ways I wanted them to and as I got older and learned more about being confident in myself, my photos turned out better and better and felt a lot better too. Taking more selfies allowed me to show off my confidence with all of my friends and the rest of the world! If I’m having a really good face day, I can take a selfie and feel even more greater and express it with everyone else. Nothing like taking a selfie and being told you inspire someone.”
Find her selfies on Tumblr: http://luhshawnay.tumblr.com/
Margot Meanie, Blogger
“I guess I’m still in the process of opening up. I see my friends, like Katana [Fatale] and she owns the selfie. I see so many IG babes that are 100% unapologetic about their selfie self love. But yet, I still hold myself back; I’m still nervous of people thinking I’m full of myself, even though I would never think that of others. I think every selfie is defiance and rebellion against a society constantly telling women they need to be demure and self deprecating or that they are not good enough. So I’m still working through that, it takes time and effort to unlearn and relearn some things that were ingrained at such a young age. But it’s a task I’m eager to work at.”
Find her selfies on Instagram @margotmeanie
Mary-Morgan Byrd, Hair and Makeup Artist
“They helped my self esteem because for a long time, I didn’t like so many things about myself. Taking selfies made me look at myself more, find the beauty in the little details that make me, uniquely me! They also opened up a world, through social media, of self-love, body positivity, and the whole self-love movement. I was able to connect with so many wonderful people and even met some in person, who helped me find the beauty in myself and love myself more.”
Find her selfies on Instagram: @marymorganxo
So go forth and take some selfies. Chances are, you will change the world one snap at a time.