Self-love is an important journey we all must at least attempt to undertake in our lives. It’s not an easy one. It is an arduous one, and more often than not, it’s ugly because it’s so real. The truest parts of ourselves get revealed and pried open to be accepted and eventually dissolve. For me, I found self-love in my selfies.
But not in the way you think.
I’ve been a fan of filters ever since I discovered them. I love changing the hue and vibe of my photos – selfies included. I love playing around with the photos that represent me, and my life, on social media. I’ve pretty much always used filters, but the way I use them today is way different than how I used them in the past.
Initially, as a teenager riddled with insecurity and self-doubt, I found solace in filters that dramatically altered what I looked like. I thought that making myself look whiter, smaller, and prettier somehow made me look ‘better.’
I loved how different the filters made me look and I edited my selfies to the extent that my friends often said that my Instagram and my real self had no correlation. I used to make my nose look smaller, blur the edges, soften the hardness on my face, and make myself look… unreal. I was virtually unrecognizable in my selfies. But I still didn’t realize what I was doing.
The whole process used to be so interesting and fun, and maybe it was, in that period of time – a form of self-care for me. But in the long run, it wasn’t helping me build a healthy body image and self-esteem – it was only demeaning whatever existing shred of self-confidence I did have.
I was distorting my own image in my mind and I was unknowingly doing more harm than good to myself.
When it comes to personality and the self – this is workable. We all have aspirations and goals to be better and do better. You can work on your personality and become a better person. But when it comes to physical features – this can be disastrous. And it can do some serious damage.
As it did for me. I was already an anxious and insecure teenager. Using filters to a ridiculous extent just made it so much worse. I was so wrapped up with this ‘ideal’ of beauty that I’d been exposed to through films, television, and media in general that my own face was ugly to me.
I wanted white skin, light eyes, a skinny physique, high cheekbones, and the perfect pout… among other things. I could never feel beautiful in my own skin so I found solace in an alternate self that I constructed deliberately.
However, somewhere along the way – things changed. I started getting comfortable, but ever so slightly and gradually, in my own skin.
In all fairness, the entire routine got too tedious for me – editing photos to completely revamp myself wasn’t quick or simple – it used to take up time and energy. Once school ended and college started, I didn’t have that kind of time anymore. I was an adult now, with real responsibilities. And I was on my own. Editing selfies wasn’t exactly a top priority anymore.
As I dove deep into college, internships, socializing, and generally having a life, I realized I wasn’t editing my selfies as much as I used to. I was still pretty regular on all my social media – Instagram and Snapchat included. I just wasn’t aggressively editing my photos and making myself unrecognizable, and I was okay with that.
The busier I got – the more real my selfies got. It’s almost like the burden of academics and adulthood worked in my favor. I didn’t care what I looked like anymore. I was too busy working my ass off – trying to do something significant with my life. It reflected offline too.
I wasn’t so obsessed with how I looked even when I was stepping out of the house anymore. This isn’t to say I looked like a straight up mess but I just wasn’t conscious of it in the way that I was before.
I wore what I liked, combed my hair, put on some lipstick and slayed. I didn’t overthink it anymore. The same went for my selfies. I stopped overly editing them altogether. Except for adjusting the contrast, highlights, etc. here and there to alter the color scheme and vibe of the photo.
And of course, some hipster VSCOCAM filters.
I’ve come to realize that I don’t feel like a fraud anymore. Maybe because even when I thought I was enjoying those overly edited selfies, I honestly wasn’t. I knew that the girl in those photos looked nothing like me, but this strange need for validation had consumed me.
Now when I look at my selfies, I see a strong, confident, beautiful young woman who isn’t afraid to speak her mind and get what she wants. I see myself, and I love myself. The day I stopped editing my selfies is the day I truly embraced who I was – gloriously imperfect and a brilliant mess.