Confidence And Failing My Way Through Selfies

group of people taking groufie with face paints on their face
Julián Gentilezza / Unsplash

I know I’m probably alone on this, but for the life of me, I can’t master the selfie. Every woman has nailed this by my age except me.

I’ve taken countless practice runs in an effort to find my good side. The deleted folder in my iPhone looks like a sad cemetery of awkward self-directed poses. At 31, I have no choice but to embrace the fact that I don’t have coordinated beauty. Mine is a look that is accidentally achieved. I’m only pretty when I don’t try.

It’s one of the biggest disconnects I feel with my generation: the selfie. More than the actual act of taking a photo of myself, it’s the idea behind it that I feel disconnected from. Self indulgence. Self love. It’s not that I hate myself, but I never walk out feeling myself so hard I MUST take a photo and share it with the world.

My relationship with my beauty has always been a seesaw of ups and downs. I grew up an ugly duckling in middle school, quiet and shy, and despite swanning sometime in high school, the feelings of being unattractive remained. Like a strange muscle memory, no matter what, I never feel beautiful enough. Definitely not to the level of the fashionable entrepreneurs that fill my feed with their #OOTD posts and #GIRLBOSS lifestyles.

When I graduated from college, selfies were just becoming popular and I was starting to experiment. I only felt comfortable taking group selfies because I was far too self conscious to pose alone. This is when taking photos for social media began to take up an extensive bit of my time. I was single at the time and instagram was becoming popular. It was a way to showcase myself online to potential suitors. I needed to look well rounded, sophisticated, into the outdoors… fun! I made sure to ask whoever was taking the photos to use a downward slanting angle so as to desentuate the remaining baby fat in my cheeks. God, those cheeks. I lost nights of sleep thinking about how fluffy my cheeks were.

“No matter what, I could be so skinny, and unless I am at my absolute thinnest, my cheeks will always be too puffy,” I’d say to myself anxiously looking into the mirror poking my face with my hands. Someday, when my cheeks go down, perhaps I’ll take a decent selfie, or maybe they’ll go out of style. I hope.

Ten years later, the selfie craze is going nowhere and I still can’t quite nail it down. I gave up on them all together, until recently as I focus on becoming a writer. Why, you’re thinking, is a selfie relevant to becoming a writer? Well, several editors and reputable resources tell me I must build a following and part of that includes letting people into my life. And what, pray tell, do people want to see? Apparently, my face.

Sometimes I’ll waste as much as 30 minutes of solid writing time trying to take the right selfie in hopes I may post that and get a caption in there about my writing. Usually, this effort goes south quickly as I sit on my desk trying to look pretty yet casual and literary. I only take a break to answer my mother’s unwelcome phone call, “Yes, mmhmm, Mom let me call you back.” In a huff, I eagerly review my work–– OH MY GOD why is my right eye drooping like that? And, are those crows feet on my eyes?

As you may imagine, in my search for the perfect selfie, I haven’t taken the time to acknowledge my weight is at its lowest completely eradicating my chipmunk cheek issue, which plagued me for the better half of a decade. Now, my hair is the real problem. And my new droopy eye.

What am I doing wrong, is a question that haunts me. How will I ever be taken seriously as a writer when I can’t seem to build a following? Why am I even trying, I think as a hunch back in my chair and delete 22 selfies… quickly re-checking the deleted folder just one more time to be sure one can’t be saved with the right filter. Negative.

It hits me suddenly that I have been trying harder to be perceived as a writer than putting in the actual time to write, a realization that tugs at my insides because I’ve always prided myself as being above that. I’m not. Not even a little. Zero chill here.

It occured to me that this is the sinking place people describe when they don’t ever feel good enough. It’s embarrassing to admit that I want that validation, that it’s hard to see how some people can so easily use social media as a platform to catapult their careers, yet it’s a big struggle for me.

I’ve heard several podcasts discuss the issue of people wanting to be prominent without working towards the thing to make your body of work worth the prominence. I never considered myself part of the epidemic, but as I face a sea of shameful selfies, the truth is unavoidable.

It makes me mad to live in a world where a million followers and a solid selfie could mean the difference between getting a book deal or not. It makes me even more upset that instead of forging my own path focused on becoming the author I know I am, I’ve bought into the lie and wasted a lot of precious time.

Live a life not a lifestyle, the words are clear in my notebook. I wrote it to myself when I was fatigued watching a feed of perfectly curated lives. The word lifestyle, while perfectly neutral and innocuous, has become a buzzword for living your best life, a PERFECT formula: 1 part hustle (#GirlBoss), 1 part self care (#TreatYoSelf), and a majority of perfect selfies to prove you’re doing the work… while travelling the world (#LifeGoals). Everyone is an entrepreneur with a food or fashion blog and awesome boss lady friends.

Please don’t misunderstand me. As a freelancing entrepreneur with a blog, I technically fall into this group. I’m genuinely thrilled there are more opportunities now than ever before for people to free themselves from the traditional work construct, but it’s admittedly all starting to blend together. What makes people unique anymore? What makes my feed any different from the next? What makes a life worth living, not a lifestyle worth showing?

These are the questions I ask myself as I stare across a vast expanse of the Smoky Mountains. I’ve come here for the weekend to disconnect my mind, my iphone and my plight to build a following. Nevermind my impulse to add this view to my Instagram story #ViewsOnViews.

This is a place of connection, this feels real to me. I can touch the wood deck with my hands and squeeze a navy blue berry off a tree. I hear a silence that is so emptying, I can actually feel my heart, this miracle organ that has been keeping me alive every day. It asks for no acknowledgement in return for allowing me to breathe in this crisp air with a slight scent of pinewood. The conifer trees tower over me. They’ve been here for hundreds of years enduring, still standing, stronger than ever. It’s a beauty so pure and timeless, it erases my insecurities. In their place, clarity comes rushing in and I can finally listen.

At some point, I got lost. I moved away from my purpose distracted myself by the affirmation of others and the enticing lure of showcasing a life online. I became motivated by different things than sharing my stories because it is my chosen path, my gift, and the best way I know to serve and inspire others.

You are whole, perfect and complete. You are good enough.

Tell the best story you possibly can. It’s always about the craft. You forgot, and it’s okay, don’t judge yourself. Come back to your truth.

Life is a miracle. Take a deep breath in and let the air hug your lungs. Let it all out. Breath in the anxiety and then release it. Let it be. Let it go. And let something bigger than you take over. TC mark

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