For as far back as I can remember, I always dreaded those class photo ops in school. That annual reminder that I was not exactly made for the camera pinched me even at that age. And when the time came to purchase one for keepsakes, I’d always make up some excuse and avoid it. What was the point of spending money on a picture you didn’t even look good in?
It was never easy being the fat, below-average looking girl, with slightly dusky skin and thick glasses. Body shaming was what girls like me ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday.
We could never dream of having boyfriends. Oh no, that luxury was for the pretty ones who managed to make even school uniforms look like runway wear. In fact, much later on in life, I realised why I had so many guy friends but so few girl friends. I was the DUFF = Designated Ugly Fat Friend who guys would come to for help to get the girl they wanted. Or at least that’s what a teen movie told me.
Posing for group pictures with friends during trips or school events was awkward. Sure, my friends too were acne-prone teenagers as compared to the Kylie Jenners of today. But still, my self-esteem took a hit every single time somebody exclaimed, “Say Cheese!”
I couldn’t see the appeal, even in college. TBH, we all looked horrible. Our fashion sense was still struggling to find good footing, winged eye-liner was not a trend yet and even trendsetters like Bebo wore sparkly lip gloss!
So wait, why were we taking photos of these horrible times which ten years later we would have a cringe fest over?
And then it happened. The biggest, most powerful phenomenon of our time. It changed my outlook towards photographs and cameras and the concept wasn’t so terrifying anymore. We know this device as The Selfie. Or as psychologists like to call it, a legit mental disorder that’s gripping all millennials.
Despite what Paris Hilton might say, the selfie was not her baby. The Internet says the selfie trend dates back to the 1920s but the term got coined somewhere in the early 2000s.
11 years ago today, Me & Britney invented the selfie! pic.twitter.com/1byOU5Gp8J
— Paris Hilton (@ParisHilton) November 19, 2017
I didn’t care about the trivia. All I cared about was what it did for me. And believe me when I say this, it did a whole damn lot.
It started when I got my first camera phone. The pictures were grainy, but for the very first time, I liked what I saw. I was still the same overweight, below average looker but still, it felt like looking at myself for the very first time.
There were no filters or selfie sticks yet so it was all mostly trial and error. But I realised that raising the camera made my round face look more angular. Parting my hair a certain way would give me a whole different result. My posture, slightly bent forward, and my chin, a little tilted, could make so much of a difference. And of course, getting the lighting right was paramount.
You’d argue that I could’ve learnt this at a photography class or simply, get a good photographer to shoot me. But we both know that rush of emotion you feel when a selfie turns out to be good, right?
I found out that I had a good side and a bad side, as opposed to thinking that the art of photography was never on my side and all my photos would just turn out to be bad. that did wonders for my confidence.
Enter: The Pout. Annoying, fake, cliché and yet, if you got it right, a game changer.
My mother made fun of it. My guy friends mocked it. People trashed it by calling it ‘duck face’ and what not. It’s not like I posed for every picture with a pout. But they were a fun pose. They made for great display pictures, which were now needed in abundance considering the sheer number of social media platforms that had popped up!
It’s been years since my first selfie, and things have turned sunny side up!
Validation came from all corners: likes on profile pictures, right swipes on dating apps, friends telling my I looked so nice, etc. But it wasn’t just validation I sought. Knowing that I could look good made me feel more confident while posing for regular pictures too.
It’s probably how I was able to maintain a healthy balance between regular photos and selfies. I know a selfie addiction is literally a mental disorder and many people have fallen prey to it. But I made sure I never overdid it. I learnt a long time ago; excess of anything is bad.
What selfies did for me was change the way I perceived myself. It showed me that everyone had a flattering angle that they could look great from. All you had to do was find it.
People, and self-help books, will tell you that you need to appreciate the beauty within. Believe me, I did it. But somehow, it wasn’t always enough of a self-esteem booster as I imagined.
Sometimes, you need to be reminded that however you look, you’re beautiful on the outside too. Because there’s a thin line between being idealistic and being in the real world. And YOu cannot deny that the real world is a sucker for outer beauty.
It doesn’t mean you’re being vain or fake or misleading anyone, least of all yourselves. A little harmless vanity that makes you feel good about yourselves never hurt anybody!
Besides, you you know how people say, “If you want anything done well, do it yourself”? Well, hello there, selfies!
So, every time I hear Ed Sheeran’s Photograph, where he sings “So you can keep me inside the pocket of your ripped jeans...” I’ll be like “But first, let me take a selfie!”