Confession: I believe in selfies. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. I am a fashion blogger, therefore posting images of myself and my style come with the territory. At first, my mission was to focus solely on talking about what I observed around me: bargain deals on stylish must-haves, current fashion industry trends, and of course, I wanted to dish on the best of the best dressed in the celebrity world. Looking back on six years of blogging, here I am now, a veteran of the selfie. I snapped pics of myself on an old flip phone before the term “selfie” was a blip in the 21st century tech-savvy lexicon. I did this partially because my vision is so poor without my glasses, and I hardly knew what the real, natural me looked like to the world. Essentially, I was trying to see myself.
Some may argue that taking a selfie is narcissistic, shallow, shaming to other women, Kardashian-like even (I shudder to drop the family name, by the way). In an era where social media is the landscape on which it’s a natural reflex to announce updates of our lives, so many questions appear under the public lens, especially when it comes to the appearance of women. While I’ve been fortunate not to encounter too many haters as I’ve developed Style Darling Daily, my exploration of selfie culture started with #selfietherapy and ends with positivity in the fact that I am who I am, I know who I am, and it’s something that cannot be negatively influenced by any outsider. And honestly, the more I listen to Meghan Trainor’s “Me Too,” the more I want to talk about celebrating the self.
I’ve had many conversations with my female friends about the times in our lives when we’ve felt unattractive and out of touch with our worth. We equated happiness with our images to whatever our relationship statuses had been at the time. Then, we discussed the vocabulary associated with our physical selves, which helped me further understand the negativity women (including myself) put themselves through when it came to our faces, weights, bodies, and general ideas of beauty. The words “cute,” “pretty,” “beautiful,” and “sexy” each ranked very differently. During these discussions, it was agreed that “cute” was overall the most frequently identified term for our appearances, and the safest adjective to admit to each other (without exposing our insecurities). We could accept ourselves as “cute,” but not always “pretty,” and hardly ever “beautiful.” “Cute” became such a security blanket that it might as well have meant “okay.” I was never okay with looking “okay.” By the end of the gab session, it was clear that so many women rarely achieved feeling “pretty,” “beautiful,” and “sexy” on their own terms and for themselves. These are friends of mine who are successful, intelligent, and by no means anything less than beautiful (#truth!). I greatly admire these women; they inspire me both personally and professionally, and in some instances, I have a major case of hair envy that I secretly explore in an internal monologue (but you know, in a healthy way… haha). All of this “beauty labeling” prompted me to look closer at myself because after all, I am in control of how I see myself. My face. My body. All of it.
I can’t pinpoint exactly when it was that I began to attach #selfietherapy to my selfie posts on Instagram, but I can tell you about how I recognized that posting seflies became a strategy for positive reinforcement. I’d been in a dragged-out-of-my-mind-for-I-don’t-know-why-or-how romantic situation where my worth was constantly being questioned—not outright using language, but through neglectful behavior of which I was unfortunately on the receiving end. I spoke up often about how I needed to hear from my partner that he cared about me since his behavior showed otherwise; I pleaded that I deserved better treatment. I believed that I’d earned respect, love, and kindness from him (after years of complicated on-and-off-and-on-and-off-ness). I was in my thirties, living on my own, pursuing a Master’s degree, balancing two jobs, and constantly (desperately, really) going above and beyond to cling to whatever there was to salvage with my connection to this person. Life was intact (albeit there was a whole lot of denial happening in there too) and I deserved the obvious reward of acknowledgment. However, after too many breakups and fake-makeups, I realized that what I thought was lacking in what I wanted from my partner was actually displaced. I really needed love, attention, and care from another source: moi. By prolonging this going-nowhere romance, I wasn’t taking care of myself the way I wanted. I was expecting someone else to do it for me, facing perpetual disappointment and lowering my self-esteem in the process.
Simultaneously, I was completing my second year as a graduate student, preparing for the thesis crunch-time on a memoir project. At this point, I was so in touch with my feelings and how to communicate them that the chapters of my memoir were practically falling off my fingertips, onto the keyboard, and appearing in Times New Roman on the screen as fast as I could blink. During one workshop, I admitted to a professor (slash-genius-slash-mentor) that my relationship with said no-good-boyfriend had ended. In return, I was given the infallibly appropriate advice: “The best revenge is to live well.” I snatched up those seven words and with my next selfie, I posted confidently that my life was about living well. That meant I would feel good about me as a person, as well as how the person in that selfie looked. I was taking the time to gain the strength to become a whole and beautiful individual, inside and out.
It’s been well over a year since I’ve been in #selfietherapy, making it my mission to not just capture a good hair day or when being tired and makeup-free reveal a surprisingly healthy, happy Alissa-selfie. I’ll be honest—I’m currently struggling a great deal with what to do with my time now that I’ve graduated with my MFA in Creative Writing and Literature, that the memoir is complete, and what it means to not really have a plan for myself for the first time in three years. I keep coming back to the idea that I have something bigger to say with my blog, something more than about shopping tips for women of every size or the designer duds that celebrities are wearing on the red carpet. While these sides of blogging still interest me, I know now that I’m meant to do something more important with all of these experiences, especially when women’s style, bodies, beauty, confidence, and empowerment are each so presently intertwined everywhere you look. Just google anything about Sports Illustrated cover model Ashley Graham (who is killing it!), Oscar-winning actress Renée Zellweger’s fortysomething face, Emilia Clarke’s petition for nudity equality on Game of Thrones, or Modern Family’s Ariel Winter about her recent breast reduction. The world (and Internet) would be a better place if we concentrated on celebrating the sparkle of being women, rather than spreading any more toxicity for younger generations to absorb.
I’ve written this as a declaration to embrace myself: my strength, voice, beauty, confidence, identity—all of which can be seen in a selfie. Even if nobody reads this post, or I get slammed with spam email because of it, I will continue to participate in the act of posting selfies because I’m not afraid to say that I love myself for who I am and what I look like. There were too many years where feeling like that was basically nonexistent. Also, I want to reinforce to others that self-love, though it can be difficult to achieve and accept, is worth the screen time it takes to get there, minus the shaming or bashing from the less enlightened public.
In case you or someone you know needs some inspiration (and for your viewing pleasure), watch Meghan Trainor do her thing in the music video below for “Me Too.” (If you didn’t know, the Grammy-winning artist removed a previous cut of the music video after her curvy shape was unrealistically edited to a slimmer size. Talk about taking control of your image and sending the right message!)