I’ve become one of those women who posts a LOT of selfies on my Facebook. Sure, I refrain from ‘ducking it up’, but still, I cringe when I think of the impression I’m making on my audience. I’d like to think I have sound rationale behind my blatant social media narcissism. Doesn’t everybody?
Up until a couple years ago, I did not post current pictures of myself. If anyone tried to take a picture of me…friends, family, you name it…I protested. Loudly. Usually with threats of bodily harm. I was absolutely terrified. I was afraid I’d have to see me as they saw me. And that what they saw no longer resembled who I used to be. Who I still see in my mind when I study my reflection.
My weight changed. I’d gotten older. The features I used to think might be considered attractive, disappeared behind the face of a middle-aged, heavy set, completely unimpressive woman. When I went anywhere, I realized I’d become fairly invisible amidst the crowds. No one sought me out. No one noticed anymore.
Focusing on writing allowed me to forget that, sooner or later, I’d emerge from my cocoon, only to discover that I stopped paying attention to my appearance. And while that sounds perfectly acceptable, (and for most, it IS perfectly acceptable), for me, it was a heartbreaking disappointment. But before you brand me completely superficial, hear me out.
My experience in middle school was a continuous nightmare lived out over the course of two years. Pure torture. Puberty didn’t just hit- it beat me to a pulp. Imagine an entire school ripping into you day after day. Calling you cruel names. Whispering behind your back. Thrusting you into the center of all their jokes. You were THE school reject. It sounds so petty now. But after so much time spent humiliated and betrayed time and again, I entered high school completely terrified. I was crippled by insecurity.
All I wanted was to be liked. To have friends. To not be ‘Pizza Face’ for the next four years of my education. I wanted as much distance from the girl that everyone hated as I could get. So I hid. I hid behind a curtain of heavy hair. I hid behind a desperately applied mask of makeup ANYTIME I left my house. That meant at least an hour every morning just piling that shit on. It wasn’t that I was trying to look “pretty”. It wasn’t that I enjoyed the feel of all that gunk seeping into my pores. Or the expense of carefully budgeting my money so I wouldn’t run out of makeup. As you can imagine, that would’ve been a true crisis for me.
But I just wanted to look normal. You know, normal as in ‘unexceptional, but still not freakishly plagued by bad skin’. I should have been grateful for big blue eyes, and naturally straight teeth. But I couldn’t get past my skin. And I didn’t think anyone would accept me for what I was.
“So, what’s with all the stupid selfies, Jezzy?”
Even as an adult, I still don’t have perfect skin. And now, just to make it that much more fun, I have crows feet, laugh lines, those creases between my eyebrows from squinting in the sunlight. I look older. I’ll admit, I may not look quite my age, but I definitely look closer to my age than I used to. And while that shouldn’t matter, and maturity should have graced me a certian amount of self assurance, I am still that terrified woman who looks at her image and only sees the signs of time. I don’t see past the wrinkles and gray hair. I can’t see past the scars left by so many years of chronic skin troubles.
I warn people all the time, I am so far from perfect. I constantly complain about being ugly. Most times, I am told that I’m not ugly. That I should take them at their word that I’m a reasonably attractive individual. I want to be able to see that in myself. But I’m regretting too many things that are beyond my control.
I regret the loss of youth. Even though we all lose that, regardless of what we do.
I regret the loss of physical awareness. I allowed my weight to escape me, and now finding that smaller me is a serious struggle.
I regret, perhaps most of all, that I never learned to appreciate the qualities I did possess before I woke one day to realize they were long gone. And that, had I realized how fleeting it all was, I could’ve been comfortable in my own skin. I could’ve been that girl who was confident.
Imagine how successful I could have been, if I didn’t constantly see myself as a requisite failure.
This is me today. This photo is not filtered. I wear makeup, yes, but I no longer need a mask of it. And maybe I’m no Olivia Wilde or Scarlett Johansson, but I’m not grotesque. I take the selfies to learn to accept who I am, and who I am no longer. I post the selfies to show people that I am willing to put myself out there. I’m willing to be more than just a name on a screen. I am willing to let you see that while I’m not perfect, I am real.
And I am not a duck.