My Journey #SeeMySelfie

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A friend of mine posted a selfie on facebook with the hashtag See My Selfie which aroused my curiosity and led me to reading this blog by Free Hand Creative.  The project “See My Selfie” was launched by Girl Gang Manchester. You may be asking what this is all about, and the simplest way to explain is to quote Girl Gang Manchester from their facebook page and the post regarding it’s launch..

“NEW PROJECT: ‪#‎SEEMYSELFIE‬ LAUNCHING IN MAY!
Are selfies a powerful space in which women can reclaim and celebrate their own image or symptomatic of the narcissism of 21st century culture? Do they allow women to publicly exude self confidence, or are we buying into a reinforcement of the fact that a woman’s image is her most powerful asset? It’s all a bit complicated isn’t it- will you help us find out more?!
In May we launch our next project, #SeeMySelfie, a month long social experiment exploring self portraiture, self representation and self-acceptance, including ideas of audience, identity, visibility and societal pressures.
We invite you to undertake a journey with us- responding to various instructions and provocations by taking a selfie a day for the month of May and writing how you feel about your own image and about the act of capturing it.
The project is a collaboration with our sisters at Girl Gang Sheffield and will go on to be a photography exhibition and coffee table book later in the year, so we’d love to feature as many of you as possible (with your permission of course!)
It’s entirely up to the participant whether you undertake the journey privately or publicly, whether you snap pictures on your phone or arrange a whole conceptual photo-shoot- make it your own!
We’re really keen not only to include a diverse range of women in terms of age/ethnicity/sexual orientation/gender identity/economic background and cultural/political interests, but also to include people who love selfies and those who never normally take them.”

For me the taking part is about self acceptance, so many times I delete photos because they make me look too fat, too old, too ugly etc ~ you get the gist. Since becoming chronically ill I have slowly lost my confidence and self-esteem. I have pangs of guilt for not being able to do what I used to do, feel pretty helpless with rages of anger at having this illness which leaves me exhausted and in pain, unable to help out and be active in the ways I used to be which makes me feel a complete waste of space. My family never say or do anything to make me feel this way, it’s just me doing it to myself. So, I decided this was a great project to jump on to and in the process hopefully gain complete self acceptance, and sense of who I am again, something I strive hard to do but have failed. From the start I made a promise to myself that I would only take the selfie photos with my phone and not digitally alter them in any way to remove blemishes or hide something I dislike ~ including using filters ~ eep! The cold harsh truth of who and what I am is conveyed through these images and I am interested to see how the instructions/provocations set for those taking part affect me and the images I take are perceived, not only by myself but by others around me.

The instructions/provocations for the month were:

  1. Introduce yourself.
  2. Selfie with your eyes closed.
  3. Try something new.
  4. Look how you feel.
  5. Take a selfie just after a shower.
  6. Take a selfie from your best angle.
  7. A selfie from your worst angle.
  8. A selfie in a place you wouldn’t normally take one.
  9. A selfie you are most happy with “Feelin Myself”
  10. The first selfie you take! (no retakes)
  11. A selfie which shows your whole body!
  12. A selfie highlighting your best feature
  13. A selfie wearing no make-up
  14. A selfie wearing something that makes you feel good.
  15. A selfie pulling your strangest face
  16. A selfie without adjusting your face for the photo.
  17. A selfie channeling someone you admire.
  18. A selfie which shows some unaltered body hair.
  19. The selfie where you strike a pose.
  20. A selfie which shows the true you.
  21. A selfie eating.
  22. A selfie first thing in the morning
  23. A post exercise selfie.
  24. Your alter ego.
  25. Be your own art.
  26. A selfie showing some skin.
  27. A laughing selfie
  28. A resting bitch face selfie.
  29. A selfie showing something you feel insecure about.
  30. A selfie looking SERIOUSLY ridiculous.
  31. A selfie re-introducing yourself, and reflecting on your experience of the month.

Below are my selfie interpretations for each provocation with a brief caption explaining why. To be frank, I wanted to run away and hide from some of them as they were pretty tough to do taking me well out of my comfort zone.

#1
Day 1 ~ Introduce Yourself: This is just me, I am a mum of 3, wife and leader of a pack of 3 terriers, I have chronic illness Myalgic Encephalomeylitis which sucks, along with anxiety and depression. I love all things purple and this is me in my purple over sized super comfy dressing gown which I slip into at every opportunity!
#2
Day 2 ~ Eyes Closed: Easy, lying in bed prior to getting up, which was perhaps a few hours after  taking this as these things can’t be rushed.
#3
Day 3 ~ Try something new: Trialing the blue light reducing glasses in the evenings to see if they help me sleep, kept forgetting to wear them so not really effective!
#4
Day 4 ~ How you feel: Was in pain and on that day started slowly by GP on increasing dosages of amitriptyline til hit the right level to ease pain, now on 50mg and it seems to be doing the trick as long as I don’t over exert myself and bring on post exertional malaise & added pain.
#5
Day 5 ~ Post Shower: it is what it is!
#6
Day 6 ~ Best angle: Don’t really consider myself as having one so did face on.
#7
Day 7 ~ Worst Angle: reckon with all those chins we can agree this is pretty hideous, also morning hair and cross eyed weirdness
#8.JPG
Day 8 ~ Selfie where wouldn’t normally take one: *cough* sitting on the loo! (and yes I really was!) thank goodness we hadn’t run out of loo paper.
#9.JPG
Day 9 ~ Feelin’ myself: photo with my Hairy Boy, you can only be your best self when with a furry companion, Hubby got Taylor, a Border Terrier, for me after mum died to give me something to focus on and care for, he has been my saviour, fabulous pet therapy, always knows my mood, when I’m ill and need attention, he literally guards me when sick and stays by my side ~ I adore him, also he was named in memory of mum as Taylor is my maiden name.
#10.JPG
Day 10 ~ The first selfie: No retakes, this was the first one I took of all my gubbins ready to go away on holiday. This was me packing light!
#11
Day 11 ~ A selfie of your whole body: tricky when you don’t have a full length mirror, so had to sit cross legged and do my best “squash yourself into the frame” selfie. With legs of little Loki in the bottom corner because he wanted in on the action.
12
Day 12 ~ Your best feature: took help brainstorming with hubby and he said caring and compassion (bloody hell how do you show that in a selfie????) So ended up cutting a heart from a slice of watermelon, added an item from each of my girls that I carry with me every day wherever I go and the tattoo I have on my wrist which depict endless love forever for my family (M for Mawer, intertwined with heart blending into infinity symbol). The lit heart candle is for hope and the flower for love and care.
13
Day 13 ~ No make-up: Not a stretch for me as I rarely wear it, and then only for a very special occasion when I whip out the only 3 items I have of eyeliner, mascara and lip gloss ~ when given the opportunity to try and put on “proper” make~up I end up looking like a scary clown
14
Day 14 ~ Wearing something that makes you feel good: I love my dungarees, they make me feel young and frivolous, like wearing a larger romper suit, plus hides rolls of fat and lumpy bits (no need to wear granny knickers to hold everything in, underneath the bib it’s all hanging out baby!
15
Day 15 ~ Strange Face: ’nuff said! (thanks snapchat effects)
16
Day 16 ~ Without adjusting my face ~ harder than I thought had to zone out and just relax to do it, makes me look a little mardy!
17
Day 17 ~ Channeling someone you admire: All those volunteers and hard working folk behind the scenes at Invest in ME. (This was just before I did my sponsored walk) If it wasn’t for this charity I dread to think where we would be today, they push forward raising awareness internationally, hold conferences and educate health care professionals whilst continually pushing forward with biomedical research into treatments.
18
Day 18 ~ Unaltered body hair: Okay, hard to show but normally I have hairy legs (but am fair naturally fair so they don’t show up). I only epilate about 5 times a year total as otherwise I get irritated skin and massive flare of dermatitis. #hairylady
19
Day 19 ~ Strike a pose: Trying (and failing) to pout ~ although I will continue to try!
20
Day 20 ~ The true you: Having an invisible illness but for all the world to see I look perfectly well on the outside. So hard to express to others this illness because it is very misunderstood with many myths about it flying around in the media and years of it being called “yuppie flu” and a “psychological illness” ~ thankfully now things are changing and it is filtering through the medical hierarchy that this is a real, physical, neurological illness affecting all body systems and as yet there is no cure.
21
Day 21 ~ Eating: munching on a banana, love ’em green/yellow and won’t touch them if have black bruised bits on ’em, have at least 2 a day #fussy
22
Day 22 ~ First thing in the morning: prior to first coffee, disheveled and discombobulated ~ usually takes about 3 large mugs of coffee to kick start the batteries
23
Day 23 ~ Post exercise: working the tomato face and “glowing” from my short interlude with the Wii Fit instructor! Which for someone with ME takes very little working out to get into this state!
24
Day 24 ~ Alter Ego: For me this would be someone the opposite of who I really am, it would be a “me” who wore full “look at me” make-up, was confident, sassy and down wid da kids aka OG Tonks!
25
Day 25 ~ Be your own art: This is my “artistic” attempt to convey the internal daily struggle with the invisible illness ME which takes away your spontaneity and independence, you combat pain, exhaustion, plus a myriad of other symptoms each and every day. I will not let it control me completely or beat me!
26.JPG
Day 26 ~ Show some skin: THIS one was way out of my comfort zone, I am nowhere near ready to show a full body shot in bikini or underwear, just showing this much cleavage made me uneasy and nervous. I intensely dislike seeing my naked self because it’s old, fat, wobbly and soft ~ so this was very tough just baring this amount of flesh ~ BUT in for a penny in for a pound, I pressed upload and here it is!
27
Day 27 ~ A laughing selfie: This is so much harder than it sounds, how on earth do you take a completely natural laughing selfie? So I made this composite from photos other people had taken of me laughing ~ which are very few as I usually delete them as don’t like my bottom teeth, double chins and expression when I laugh!
28
Day 28 ~ Resting Bitch Face: Easy peasy!
29
Day 29 ~ A selfie showing something you are insecure about: see paragraph below..

For me this was the hardest because I had to really think hard about what I was willing to share and admit to. This led to me debating internally about what I am most insecure about, my size, my thighs, my stretch mark ravaged stomach, my floppy stomach and non-existent pelvic floor due to muscle damage (from split muscles along the length and breadth of my stomach during 2 pregnancies requiring a special support belt and double prolapse repair and bladder electric shock therapy to try and get some muscle tone afterwards ~ which failed!) my bingo wings, my double chin, my weird toes, my feet which blister and get sores randomly for no reason ~ the list is endless. What I realized though, in the end,  is something that is hard to depict in a photo and it’s my worst insecurity. Which is being visible in the real world outside of my bubble (my home and family) ~ when out in public and also social situations, I try to shrink within myself and disappear, feel terrified and out of my comfort zone ~ not that anyone would know by the over the top blustering act I put on. I am insecure with how I fit into social groups, and in public places in general. I feel that people are staring at me, making judgments on my appearance. Am I boring? Do I nervously whittle on too much and end up oversharing to fill in pregnant pauses? Do I irritate? Am I a nuisance or a burden because I zone out and tire so easily? Regarding my appearance; are they judging me on my lack of make-up? Do I look butch or mutton dressed as lamb? Am I looking particularly fat and ugly? Should I have worn this outfit? I get so that I feel physically sick going out socially, on top of the other issues regarding my M.E., so I rarely do. When I do make it out I have the constant urge to void my bladder frequently. Then I find myself hiding in the toilets not wanting to venture back out. I DO however feel comfortable within the security blanket of my family, they understand and support this side of me and only go where I feel comfortable and ensure that it is at times when it isn’t busy. I am extremely self-critical and judgmental, my very own worst enemy, always ready to see faults within myself, inwardly and outwardly. Do I deserve to be loved by the people around me, am I deserving? This is why I am participating in this project to try and overcome my internal monologue of negative criticism and learn to sit on it and squash it to oblivion.

30
Day 30 ~ A selfie looking SERIOUSLY ridiculous: This had me scratching my head a bit, THEN I spied our pirate hat which we use as a lampshade on a disused lamp (as you do), so decided to harness my inner pirate, along with skull of slain adversary!

And now *insert drum roll* we come to the end and the final selfie ~ A selfie re-introducing yourself, and reflecting on your experience of the month.

31
Day 31 ~ A selfie re-introducing yourself, and reflecting on your experience of the month (see below)

What I have learnt from this is experience is that after taking all those selfies, flattering and not so, I do actually feel a little more confident inside my skin, there is more to me than my illness and insecurities ~ this is nothing monumental perhaps, but baby steps, I am, even more relaxed now about having my photo taken even when I don’t look great in them. I am what I am, trying to avoid seeing the truth isn’t healthy and in my case it causes me to hide away from seeing people and participating in wider social situations due to my deep insecurities, body shame, anxiety ~ about letting folk down and not being enough, especially when needing to excuse myself because of my illness and  the lashes to my self-esteem by  my own self~criticism.

The whole project has also helped me process my feelings and acknowledge that, yes, I have a chronic illness through no fault of my own, this has resulted in me being a big girl with issues, but going further ~ why am I letting this control me? My body has carried me through multiple emotional and physical traumas, 8 pregnancies, of which 5 miscarried. I suffer from stress, anxiety and chronic depression they have been my companions for so many years. I use food as a comfort, I drink way too much and whilst I was capable of exercise my body could cope to a greater extent with these issues. However, with the onset 2 long years ago, even before I knew the cause, dastardly ME was messing with my body and I could no longer physically manage to exercise in order to combat my excesses. That plus a combination of medications for my depression and pain caused my weight to soar. Which lead me to realize that I will not and SHOULD NOT feel guilty about my size. I am aware not everyone knows my story, they haven’t walked in my shoes, so why should I care how they judge me?  Those who know me love me for who I am, along with my issues and limitations and don’t care what I look like. When the dark demons come out to play I will endeavor to hold on to that thought to banish the demons back to whence they came.

So my valuable lesson from all this, which to be frank I should know from all my past experiences is that self-love comes before anything else. It is how you feel about who you are, how you live your life , what you believe, it is the core, the part of you that makes you you. How you look on the outside is to the most part beyond your control, you were born that way. Accept the body you were given and thank it for all it has carried you through. Be grateful that you have been able to live each and every day and hopeful that you have many more. Seize each day and make the most of it. For those with a chronic illness it may just be taking a shower, or talking on the phone to someone you care about. Weight loss, for me, is something I am hoping to achieve, all be it slowly, just a pound a week if I’m lucky. The weight loss isn’t for the sake of vanity though, although it would be a bonus. It’s for my body, it’s health, to ensure that it can continue to do it’s job and carry me forward to experience a multitude of as yet unknown adventures.

One day I hope to achieve full body confidence and self love, to be able to show my body in a bikini and say, yep, look at all this, it’s covered in wrinkles, stretch marks, scars, wobbly bits and bruises ~ these are all footprints of my past, etched onto my body and isn’t it amazing?

What I have enjoyed throughout this month long project, is the sense of support, love, friendship and community from others. So thank you Girl Gang Manchester and Girl Gang Sheffield for coming up with the See My Selfie Project ~ I have found it to be empowering, frightening at times ~ clicking on that upload button ~ but most of all beneficial as it has helped me address my own identity and self acceptance. The road is long but I know now more than ever that I’m not alone. If you want to stay up to date with all things Girl Gang then head on over to their website here.

x~X~x

5 thoughts on “My Journey #SeeMySelfie

  1. charlyfreehand

    This is incredible! You are incredibly brave and I thank you for sharing things that might have been hard, I’m catching up but then I might copy you! Your images and words are wonderful, it’s rare you get to see so many facets of people 🙂

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    1. thank you so much, it’s very much a learning curve for me and blogging and being out there and honest seems to be a useful tool in moving forward with my issues, it was actually a therapist I saw who suggested it to me 🙂 xx

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      1. charlyfreehand

        I’m so glad you stuck with it and at times I found it so hard and provocations actually upset me but it was interesting to explore and try and be witness to my emotions.
        It’s really been helpful on my journey, trying to be very open about my mental health. I found so many people feel or have felt the same. I look forward to reading more!

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