If you’ve kept up with me so far, it is possible that you have noticed that I do not pay much attention to my appearance. I sometimes grow my body hair and choose not to wear makeup, and I have often been guilty of pretending the pajamas I wore the night before are an acceptable outfit when presenting myself to peers and professors alike. To me, a body is nothing more than a bag of skin that we are forced to live in until we eventually die.
As you might imagine, the concept of “selfies” is alien to me.
My appreciation for my body has always been one of function over form. The ability to compete, to run 7 miles, or to lift someone during a judo throw all matter more to me than size or shape. None of this is to say that I don’t harbor my own deep-seated insecurities, because I doubt there is a human in the world who isn’t plagued by self-consciousness; rather, I just shy my focus away from how I look in pictures or mirrors. To me, what use is a body if it doesn’t have the power to accomplish what is demanded of it?
Upon dyeing my hair earlier this summer, I developed a heightened awareness of my own appearance, which stemmed from paranoia that people may judge my character based on my appearance. As someone who prefers to observe rather than bask in the spotlight, the thought of someone analyzing me from afar was scary.
As much as I didn’t acknowledge my appearance, others did. Suddenly, how I looked to strangers, to the people who hadn’t invested time talking to me and learning about my accomplishments, what I valued and what I could do, became impossible to ignore. So, slowly, hesitantly and buoyant with embarrassment, I attempted to do the one thing I never expected myself to do: take a selfie.
Each time I take a selfie, a piece of my soul dies. When I pick up the camera, there’s no blissful lack of self-awareness; I am plagued by a crippling sense of my own self-absorption that I hope to wash away with the camera’s flash. Then the addiction sets in. The ability to reinvent yourself with a slight twist of an angle and better lighting is almost impossible to resist. Selfies turn into an obsession.
Yet at the same time, visible beyond the conceit and egocentrism, is ownership of the self, an unapologetic embrace of the observable aspects of one’s body. In a world where people are constantly reminded of their physical value, where shutting yourself off from your own appearance is completely unavoidable, where is the problem in fostering a healthy appreciation for your looks? Sure, the body is nothing more than a bag of skin that we are forced to live in until we eventually die, but it’s the same bag of skin that we are each stuck in for the rest of our lives. If you’re with something for eternity, you might as well appreciate it.
I would be lying if I didn’t say that now, at least a third of my last 100 pictures are selfies, and I firmly believe that these numbers are not indicative of narcissism. Selfies are inevitable, existing somewhere in the grey zone between good and bad, just like nearly everything else in the chaotic tangle we call the world. Do I feel ridiculous taking one? Absolutely. Do I still take them despite of this? Undeniably yes.
It all comes down to deconstructing the selfie; where is the line between narcissism and self-acceptance, attention and appreciation?
Our generation is habitually portrayed as self-centered, vapid cyborgs whose devotion to the Internet and all its forms of social media has become an epidemic. The selfie has become an entity of its own, selfishly embracing identity, displaying flaws for any Facebook friends or followers, and yet it harbors complexities beyond that. It functions as a form of validation, appreciation or declaration of yourself. If these types of online declarations of self-worth are viewed as a crime, then I am certainly guilty too.
Taylor Bond is a sophomore in the College. TAYLOR TRIES THINGS appears every other Friday.
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