Smile

I’m coming off of the accidental blogging hiatus I’ve been on to share this photo (below) and explain why it’s so gosh darn important to me right now.

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I used to hate pictures being taken of me. Hated it. I felt like all a photo did was capture every crappy flaw I felt I had, and preserve it for all of history to see. I’d look at photos of myself and verbally tear them to shreds. Sometimes the negativity would just be in my head, but most times I would say it out loud to the people looking at them with me:

“Oh lord, kill it with fire!”

“This is awful, I have like six chins!”

“Ugh, I’m so gross in this one.”

“Delete that from existence please!”

This was the kind of smack talk I’d dish out about m y s e l f. My self esteem was a living nightmare. I’d allowed countless taunts and being bullied in my formative years to change my perception of my own body into this hideous, inaccurate, not-me-creature that I couldn’t stand to look at. But as time has gone on, and selfie culture has griped the 21st century tight and propelled us all into a world of omg-look-at-me #SelfieSundays, I’ve fully embraced the idea that taking photos of oneself can be extremely therapeutic, and help us to see ourselves in a way that makes us more confident, self assured individuals.

People can hate on selfies and those who take them all they want, but it doesn’t change that snapping a good picture of myself, makes me feel amazing. It’s not about the likes and the comments (which while encouraging, are not necessary). It’s so I can see myself how I want to see myself, which is as a bamin’-slamin’ confident queen of my own universe, dammit!

Caring about others is immensely important to life as a human being, but I think there also comes a time where we must remember that we are human beings too. We are individuals who need love, and not just from external sources. There’s got to be self love as well. As my homeboy J.C. once said:

Love thy neighbor as thyself.

Note the thyself in there. We’re supposed to love other people as we love ourselves, but how can we be expected to reciprocate to the world what we don’t feel for ourselves? That’s just not a thing. So the selfie above, for me, embodies that. It’s about looking at myself, and seeing a person who’s worthy of love instead of someone who’s face needs to be hidden.

Looking back at older photos of me, I’ve realized how much I used photoshop the heck out of them or crop them as close to my face as possible. And I would never, ever purposefully smile with my teeth. Lack of health insurance kept me from getting braces growing up, and the way I used to see it, my face was bad enough without the crooked teeth, and so my smile suffered. My smile wasn’t honest, because my happiness with who I was wasn’t honest. And apparently its so noticeable that I even had a friend of mine text me yesterday about it. She had just gotten my new number and was adding a contact photo of me, and only had two she could use – one from last year when we first met, and one from just a few weeks ago:

The other pic I had was from Leaky last year and you’ve just come so far that it didn’t even look like you anymore.

While I still have a long way to go, the photo above – with me smiling so genuinely because I woke up that morning feeling fan-freaking tastic – served as a realization that I’ve come pretty far from where I started. The text hit home, because it’s so true. Year ago me would never have the confidence of the girl in the photo above, and to me, that’s a wonderfully mushy mix of exciting and beautiful.

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My first selfie? This pic is about 10 years old. Me, my self esteem and smile have com a long, long way.

Old me used to believe confidence was a destination, but the reality is, being confident with yourself is not an arrival point or finishing line that you cross. It’s a journey. One that we must continue on through our lives, full of the same pot holes, pit stops, flat tires and tolls you’d find on a regular old road trip. But journeys are also beautiful, let you constantly see things you never did before from new perspectives, and lead you to people who make the whole adventure one worth having.

So for any of you reading this and not feeling so hot with who you are today: my advice? Take a selfie. Pick your best angle. Put on your best outfit. Wear that hat you love. Do the duck face, the peace sign or whatever else makes you feel ten shades of fabulous. Because you have the right to feel incredible about yourself. And most importantly friends – please remember to smile.
(PS – Writing this has got me determined to complete the blogging from my London vacation, so expect Breakfast at Hogwarts this coming Monday!)

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