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:
- Introduce yourself.
- Selfie with your eyes closed.
- Try something new.
- Look how you feel.
- Take a selfie just after a shower.
- Take a selfie from your best angle.
- A selfie from your worst angle.
- A selfie in a place you wouldn’t normally take one.
- A selfie you are most happy with “Feelin Myself”
- The first selfie you take! (no retakes)
- A selfie which shows your whole body!
- A selfie highlighting your best feature
- A selfie wearing no make-up
- A selfie wearing something that makes you feel good.
- A selfie pulling your strangest face
- A selfie without adjusting your face for the photo.
- A selfie channeling someone you admire.
- A selfie which shows some unaltered body hair.
- The selfie where you strike a pose.
- A selfie which shows the true you.
- A selfie eating.
- A selfie first thing in the morning
- A post exercise selfie.
- Your alter ego.
- Be your own art.
- A selfie showing some skin.
- A laughing selfie
- A resting bitch face selfie.
- A selfie showing something you feel insecure about.
- A selfie looking SERIOUSLY ridiculous.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.