So I take horrible photos, I always have and I always will. It is a law as old as the universe as far as I am concerned. I just cannot seem to look good on demand, some might venture at all but they’re jerks, and largely I’ve accepted that. The rise of the smartphone and modern photoculture thus has been rather a challenging experience me. At the tender age of 23 my reluctance to be photographed or engage in the old Snapchat made me feel rather prehistoric.
Then someone came into my life who would sow the seeds of change for me on this topic. A girlfriend who tried daily to convince me that I needed to love myself more. I thought this was stupid at the time. I thought that my method of ignoring a problem and brutalistically forcing myself to ‘be stronger than my fears’ was enough to be a healthy member of society. But this modern trend showed me a small slice of how and why I was wrong.
This girl wasn’t a show off nor was she so much a digital native as to be inseparable from social media or her electronic devices. She was just more comfortable in her herself than I was. She still felt self-conscious about her body but she didn’t let that hold her back or create negative self conceptions.
One night, we were out at a law mixing ball with a group of friends. We had both gotten ‘dolled up’ for the event and looked far ‘nicer’ than normal. I had begrudgingly consented to be photographed at the small gathering for pre-drinks before hitting the ball. When we arrived my girlfriend want over to the table and picked up the place card and motioned for me to lean in for a selfie. It was at that point that I delivered the second most scathing rant of our relationship. I told her that it was entirely inappropriate to take such a photo and staunchly refused to be a part of it.
I was had let my fear and self-hatred hurt someone special.
I said sorry several times over the following months but never really relented in my opinion of photo culture. Some time later i started my adventure as an amateur bodybuilder. I knew friends who posted a daily selfie to Instagram as a way of ensuring they were accountable for their gym attendance. With serious reservations I began posting to Instagram daily. Selfies once every 3 days and always with sardonic jokes about the self indulgence of it all.
Over time however I began to confront my fears of the selfie and of seeing myself in photographs. As I ran out of clever ways to hide my fear behind humor I was forced to examine myself in a way I had been invited to by my ,now ex, girlfriend. I found that when all had been said and done she had been right.
I had hated selfies and photos because I had held onto so much self loathing. The process of normalizing the photos of making myself accountable through them had forced me to see that it wasn’t the medium that wass the problem it was what it was reflecting back at me. the image not of a body that I was not happy with but a self that I couldn’t stand to be.
It was then that my daily post balance started to shift more towards images of me.
It was that day that I made a commitment to not only take daily steps towards making my body better but to making myself better and taking the time to acknowledge that whilst I wasn’t where I wanted to be yet, that I was working on it. That acknowledgment freed me in a way that I had never been before. I no longer needed to be bigger than my fears, or stronger or more brutal. I could surrender to my own imperfection and still be OK, still be loved because in some small corner of my heart – I had begun to love myself.
Understanding that we are each flawed, imperfect and fundamentally broken humans is the start to realizing that everyone has worth. Everyone is worthy of love. Another thing my ex used to say to me was that I couldn’t possibly love another until I learned to love myself. Similarly I thought she was full of it at the time – but each and every day now I feel my capacity for love growing. I feel myself accepting more and more of the beauty in the imperfections of those around me and I hope in some small way that these words can help you in the way they have helped me. I hope that we might be able to spread just a little more love inwards, and outwards.