In February, I started a project called #ForYourSelfie with the goal of taking back the selfie for the greater good. In my undergraduate women’s studies course, we had been given the simple homework assignment of taking a natural-looking selfie and bringing it to class. We weren’t informed about what we’d be doing with said selfies, but as we all shut our notebooks and packed up at the end of that class, the feeling of discomfort was perceptible. Now, if I’m being honest, I didn’t have much of an issue with the assignment. I wasn’t an avid selfie taker and I was okay with my “natural state” so I didn’t feel much anxiety about the task. The night before class, I was in the library and I remembered at the last minute that I needed to snap a selfie and print it out. So right there in the quiet room of our library, I took a picture of myself. My hair was in a bun, I had on a men’s flannel from our local thrift shop, and I had no makeup on. Those who know me will confirm that this is, indeed, my most natural state of being.
When we all got to class the next day, we were asked to take out our seflies. There was a collective intake of breath as everyone reached into the depths of their backpacks and dug out their pictures. We were told that we were to place our selfies on our desks, facing out, and that we would walk around in a circle and admire each others’ faces. As we walked, we were to write down one thing that we admired or liked about the person – whether it be about their selfie or about their personality – on a notepad that was left out next to the photo. The grumbling started up immediately but, eventually, we were all moving in a slow, clockwise circle around the room, just checking each other out. Afterwards, we talked about how this (and the actual taking of the selfie) felt. Like I said, I wasn’t a big picture taker to begin with, let alone a big selfie taker, and when it was my turn, I stated that my indifference towards selfies had made the homework assignment relatively easy for me to complete. I was a stark contrast to the rest of my classmates.
“I felt like I was being judged,” said one of my female classmates. My teacher asked her to elaborate on that feeling of judgement and she answered that she felt as though the people around her were making inferences about her character as she sat in the student union and snapped a few photos of herself. Another girl admitted that her roommates had given her a really hard time about her selfie taking, even after they knew that it was for a class. As we sat and talked about the process, I became more and more intrigued about why people care so much about selfie-taking. It seems silly to judge someone else for a behavior that doesn’t affect you whatsoever.
After a few minutes, my teacher steered the conversation towards how everyone felt about themselves in their photos and the conversation turned a little bit darker. While many people copped to taking more than twenty pictures before finding the one that they chose to share, others talked about hating their faces or about all of the problems that they have with their appearances. And yes, my class is made up of both men and women, all of whom expressed similar feelings of self-doubt. “I just don’t think I’m pretty enough to take selfies,” said one girl who sits across from me. “It was uncomfortable.”
The conversation continued in this same vein for quite some time and I felt myself getting upset by all of the self-hate. Then something started to happen within me. I felt this weird, warm sensation in my chest and I became unable to control the wide smile spreading across my face. I was inspired. And so #ForYourSelfie was born. I wanted to do something about all of this low self-esteem and selfie-shaming. It is through #ForYourSelfie that I hope to help redefine beauty, increase diversity and representation in the media, and foster self-love for everyone. Everyone has inherent beauty that should be recognized and shared with the world, and every single person deserves to know that this beauty is within them. Additionally, I believe that, as our society relies more and more on social media to dictate the mainstream media, we can diversify what we see on our television and movie screens and in magazines. We can bring representation to those who find themselves underrepresented in popular media just because they are “different.” Finally, self-love is one of the most important keys to living a happy, healthy life, and I think that if we embrace selfies, we can encourage boys, men, girls, women and people everywhere to just love themselves for who they are.
Selfies do not have to be the evil thing that we make them out to be. Instead, think about why they can be helpful tools for change. Most importantly, even if selfie-taking isn’t for you, you certainly don’t need to tear others down for doing so. Let’s all live and let live and the world will be a better place. If you at all agree with the things I’ve said, I’d ask you to head over to our website and submit a selfie to our growing collection of beauty. And encourage your friends to do the same! The more people we have on board with our mission, the closer we are to making the world a better place: one selfie at a time.