by Lana Rafaela
I’m just gonna go right out and say it: posting a selfie is a political act.
In a society that profits from your self-doubt, liking the way you look is rebellious. How dare you, a mere mortal, stand amidst all the ads with retouched models, resembling them very little or not at all, and post your own photo because you think you look good in it?
How dare you accept the absolutely ridiculous beauty standards and still choose to believe that you are beautiful just because you think you are? How dare you not seek validation from other people but instead, give that to yourself?
Honestly, yeah, selfies are probably going to come into our homes, turn our kids into memes and steal our cows. So why are we letting them corrupt us? Are we millennials truly so vapid and vain, reduced to selfies, despair and procrastination? Or do we have actual reasons no one cares to think about because it would mean accepting that despite our different ways when compared to our parents’ generation, we actually know what we’re doing?
To write this article, I asked some of my friends to explain what selfies mean to them. I’ve received an array of explanations – ranging from “I like the way I look and I want the world to see it” to “it helps me cope with my mental illness”.
None of their answers could be reduced to the narcissism that is constantly attributed to our generation.
In Bethany’s words, selfies are “a new brand of self-love”. And that’s what it boils down to. I remember being thirteen and teased about my hair in elementary school, I remember asking people not to take photos of me because I wasn’t photogenic, I remember constantly comparing myself to everyone else I’d ever met. Because other girls were prettier, they smiled nicer, their teeth were flashier and really – with them in this world, why would anyone want to see my photo?
And then came the selfies. Then came the era of not giving a single fuck if someone’s going to like it. Because, when you take a photo with your friends, it becomes a matter of collective responsibility. When you take a photo of yourself, it’s just you in the proverbial limelights and sometimes you can’t help but to pick out your flaws in that one photo, hating on yourself like you’re your own worst enemy.
Selfies changed that. Selfies turned from showing off to showing up, standing tall and proud and posting your photo, even though it might have been a bad hair day. Selfies changed from (especially when it comes to girls) waiting for someone to compliment your hair and/or makeup to posting a photo of yourself with a caption along the lines of “loving my makeup today”. Because that’s what matters. You like it.
Beauty might have been thought to be in the eye of the beholder but let’s be real – there are all sorts of beholders out there and it’s just not sustainable to wait around for someone else’s approval. No. You’re going to approve of yourself, validate yourself and that’s all that matters. Because you’re the one who has to live with yourself 24/7, accept your good sides as well as the bad, and damn it – you have every right to feel happy with your body.
I could go on for ages about how the beauty industry is booming every time we feel ashamed for not rising up to trends and current beauty standards. But now we have people who know that their eyeliner isn’t sharp enough to cut a man, but still post that damned selfie because they tried hard and they can see themselves shining from within. Now we have people who choose to like the way they look despite the whole world shouting “you can’t look like that and be in love with yourself” at them. Now we have people whose grandparents tell them that their generation is going to shit with its vanity and narcissism whenever they go to take a selfie, and then they pull them in for a photo, too.
They are comforting, as well. A friend of mine is kicking an eating disorder’s ass at the moment and she says that selfies help her during bad days. They remind her that there are good days, too, that there are days when she likes the way she looks. That she can be pretty even if her brain is telling her she’s not. And she likes it when others take pictures of her, but – in her words – taking the picture yourself is a conscious act, you are presenting yourself to the world because you want to share with others that you feel confident.
I can’t help but to agree with that. Selfies are us saying that we like the way we are and the way we look, and showing that to the world.
There’s a lot of social stigma surrounding selfies because it’s like you can’t give yourself the validation you need but have to ask for it from other people. And selfies mean not apologizing in an age that wants you to be apologetic. Selfies mean saying – yes, I like the way I look. And no, I don’t give a fuck who disagrees.
So, to the guy who told me my lips should be fuller for me to be pretty enough, and to the girl who compared the distance between my breasts to a highway – fuck off, and let me take a selfie.
You can find out more about Lana Rafaela on her author page.