Behind The Scenes: #selflove2k16

Since January, I’ve been posting one selfie every day on my personal social media accounts. I have had countless people ask me what this challenge is/where I found it/why I’m doing it, etc. And since today is National Selfie Day, I figure now is a great time to explain what’s been going on for the past six months. 

The Background Information

There are a few quick things that you need to know about me in order to understand why I developed this challenge for myself.

When I was a kid, I was bullied. I was told I was ugly and fat. I didn’t feel as though I had many friends, and when I didn’t get inside jokes some “friends” had, I got laughed at and called stupid. As I got older, the struggle with my appearance continued. I needed to get glasses in middle school. When I got to high school, I hit teenage hormonal hell and developed truly terrible acne. Add to that the fact that I was still trying to figure out who I was, and you have the crazy equation that carried me through most of my college career.

Thankfully, I found true friends in middle school, high school, and college (you all know who you are). I found a nice pair of glasses that compliment my fashion sense (which I also finally figured out). I ditched the acne in sophomore year of college (there aren’t enough praise hands emojis in the world to express how happy I am about that). And, most importantly, I'm starting to treat myself better.

The long and short of this backstory is that I still struggle with my appearance to this day. I’ve figured quite a few things out, but I know I still have some ways to go. Which leads me to the convenient series of events that led me to my new year’s resolution, and the #selflove2k16 challenge.

1 Medium Article + 1 Christmas Gift = A “Crazy” New Year’s Resolution

Three things happened in relatively short succession that led to the creation of #selflove2k16.

The first was an article that I read on Medium about selfies, mostly out of curiosity. The author, Rachel Syme, discussed the power of selfies in a world where everyone is searching for the worth of the body they’ve been given, an adventure she experimented with herself.

Selfies, she argues, are for “[t]he millions of people who do not fit the mold for what capitalism defines as physical perfection, whose skin or height or gender or personal aesthetic might have kept them out of the hallowed halls of Those Who Get To Be Seen before selfies existed, those who would not have seen themselves in photo albums a decade ago because no one ever wanted to take their picture, those who go their own way.”

And that resonated with me, quietly, though I wouldn’t know exactly how just yet.

Next came a gift from my roommate, after one too many times where she complimented the way I looked and I brushed off said compliment in a play at humility. For Christmas, she gave me a mirror with a note challenging me to look myself in the mirror every day and find one thing that I liked about myself, as she wanted me to see myself in the way others see me. Needless to say, I cried. Nobody had ever tried to do anything like that for me before, at least in my memory.

Everything came together on New Year’s Eve of 2015. My friends and I were talking about what we wanted to do for ourselves in the new year. Eating healthier, exercising more, the usual suspects. 

When my turn came around, I rambled. I told my friends about my roommate’s gift, and how it reminded me of the article I read. I told them about my struggles with my appearance (which greatly surprised them—both thought I was very confident). And I absently tossed out the idea of doing some sort of daily picture challenge to help me improve my self-image. Almost immediately after doing so, my friends said, “that sounds like a great idea, let’s take your first one at midnight”.

The Challenge

The challenge I have since properly refined boils down to this:

  • I take at least one selfie every single day for the 2016 calendar year 
  • I post one selfie every day to Instagram (though I also cross-post to Facebook)
  • I do not edit my selfies, aside from tweaks like brightness, etc/–no FaceTune

At the time of posting this, I have completed 172 of 366 pictures for the year. Which is a whole lot of my face.

Looking Back

So far, I’ve learned that taking a selfie every day can be simultaneously gratifying and very difficult. There are days where I have to force myself to take a picture because I haven't left my apartment, or I’m having a rare breakout and I don’t want anyone to see. On the other hand, there are days where I feel like I look great, and I delight in finding out how to best document my look for the day.

I sometimes worry about “bothering” people by consistently posting pictures, at which point I have to remind myself that this challenge isn’t for anyone except me, and I use social media as an accountability tool—a way to look back and see my progress. Ultimately, this whole challenge is a way for me to confront myself and say that I am worthy of being looked at by someone somewhere. By family, by friends, by strangers, and by me. Some days the confrontation is easier than others, but, like most things in life, you cannot have good without bad. And so far, it’s been pretty good.

Looking Forward

Going forward my focus is not on worrying about my project’s impact on others and instead on myself and those who want to witness it (or even take part, if that’s your cup of tea). I want to focus more on self-confidence, courage, and finding beauty than any other negative things I won’t deign to spell out.

It is important for me (and anyone) to remember, as Rachel Syme says, “your selfie is an artifact and a gift. People in your own time might not see it that way. They will call you narcissistic for giving birth to hundreds, maybe thousands, of fractured little selves. They will wonder why you need so much confirmation, so much attention, so much visibility. They will experience your face as an assault. Pay them no mind.”

If you are interested in joining me, whatever your reasoning may be, post your pictures up on Instagram using the #selflove2k16 tag. My face will be right there, along with yours. 

As for the rest of you, I’ll see you all in December with my final thoughts on the project!