A journalist wanted a photo of me from my teenage-days. I went on Facebook to start looking. I quickly realised that I have never uploaded any photos from my teenage years. Oh well, I went to look through old folders and real-life-photo-albums (yes, I know, I’m an ancient 27 year old. We also had dinosaurs back in the early 2000s.) but sigh – none was to be found. It dawned on me. I have almost no photos of myself from the age of 15 to 21.
In an age where Instagram is a thing, that would seem ridiculous to a lot of people. But I know why. Back then, our phones had the game Snake on them (bring that back!) – but no camera for selfies. Actually, ‘selfie’ was not even a word. A thing. Sometimes you would try and turn a camera around and pray that the photo would look decent 2-3 weeks later when you would go and pick it up from a counter in the mall, after it had been developed. It never did look decent.
So I did not take selfies. I hated how I looked. I was a teenager, but I was also a fat teenager. A fat teenager with constantly static and flat hair, a pointy nose, pimples and years of bullying in my personal baggage. My self-hatred was almost to be expected. No one took my photo because they knew how I would react. One bad photo and I would be in a fetal position for days.
I am still fat, my hair is still constantly static and flat, my nose is still pointy and I still get pimples and I still recall the hurtful words from the bullies. But – through years and years of therapy and contact with the body-positive online community, of reading about mental health, of learning to love myself and my body and my little pointy nose, I can honestly say that I love the way I look.
Ever told people that you think you look hot? It is frowned upon, usually. People lift an eyebrow and make sure to let you know that arrogance doesn’t suit anyone. It is not arrogance. It is a personal struggle ended. It is a defiance against the beauty industry and horrible kids all having done their best to break me and my spirit. All having been part of the force that sent me to a psychiatric hospital at the age of 17. When I say I love myself, that is a fact. When I say that I love how I look, that is somewhat of a miracle. No one ever told me that. I am not repeating a large group of people’s praise. I am repeating the sentence I had to tell myself repeatedly to not end in a bottomless depression-pit which I would never leave. If a fat woman with pimples, a pointy nose, flat and static hair, says to you that she loves herself, that’s a goddamn fucking brave thing to say, an important thing to say – and the truth. I think I am beautiful, therefore I am beautiful.
So I take selfies. I take loads of selfies. Sometimes I wear make-up in them, sometimes not. Sometimes they are taken from an unapologetically flattering angle, sometimes they are not. Sometimes I take 40 and post one, sometimes I just post the first one I take. Sometimes I filter them to the point where I’m almost unrecognisable, sometimes I leave them untouched. I take selfies in which I am smiling, I take selfies in which I am genuinely crying. My Instagram-account is full of them. Every selfie I take is a fuck-you to a culture that wants women to loathe themselves, so they are too busy buying mascara and push-up bras to, oh I don’t know, ask for a raise or consider running for president. Why not stop spending your time and energy on hating selfies and selfie-sticks and the consumers of these? All it does is magnify your own insecurities for the world to see. What does it say about you if you need to criticise people celebrating self-love or attempts of self-love in a world where we’re all taught to be insecure? Why not just be happy that I look fucking gorgeous in a photo, that I think I look fucking gorgeous in a photo and that I tell people that I think I look fucking gorgeous in a photo?
Maybe take a hard look at yourself. Figure out why you need to bring others down. Hey, you know a really good way of looking at yourself? Take a selfie.
Remember that the second episode of our podcast The Guilty Feminist is out now. Find it via iTunes or through our website guiltyfeminist.com. And if you are anywhere near Leicester, I am doing my 2015 show ‘Bubblewrap’ on the 5th and 7th of February 2016.