Taking a selfie is a funny thing to do. It feels a bit odd – not just the act of taking the photo, but the posing, angling your head, trying to get the best angle and outcome. Selfies can be seen as vain and fame seeking – in self effacing Britain more than anywhere, where we love to put people down and criticise success; it’s seen by some as vain, shallow and showing off.
However according to Ofcom, a third of us take selfies. Celebrities lead the way with self snapped shots, demonstrating themselves in real life as opposed to professional photoshoots. Social Media is loaded with selfies too, whether posing with a friend or showing off a new outfit. It’s fast become part of our pop culture.
I felt reluctant to join in initially, I don’t generally like seeing photos of myself (ok, I like my wedding photos, but they were taken by a professional and edited within inches of their life). Normally my eyes are closed, I’m mid speech or generally looking rough (mostly all three)!
However, as friends and readers of the blog know, fashion is a passion of mine and I enjoy participating and contributing to the world of Instagram fashion. In order to demonstrate different styles and looks, a selfie became necessary. So I bit the bullet and posted a few selfies on Instagram inbetween my flatlays and product posts.
And guess what….? No one criticised me or put me down. I wasn’t the laughing stock of Instagram. No one ignored me on the school run or crossed the street in town. Instead I received some lovely feedback from friends and it made me feel good about myself. It was a great feeling, I have to say.
Why is that I wonder…? It’s an important question for me as I have an impressionable young daughter who I want to grow up with a strong sense of self worth and esteem. She is already experimenting with selfies, as are many of her school friends, so it’s crucial that parents understand how this global phenomenon is impacting young people.
I think the reason I feel good about taking selfies is a combination of taking a photo of myself that I like (please be aware that this does actually involve taking about 20 bad ones first and then obviously posting the nicest one) and feeling confident enough about it to put it out in the public sphere. Yes it’s nice to receive likes; I don’t necessarily need the likes, but it is a part of the human psyche to receive affirmation and approval. The main thing for me is finding my self-esteem and embracing the way I look. At 43 my skin is changing and I’m showing signs of aging but interestingly, I feel better about myself now than I did when I was mid 20s or 30s. Taking selfies makes me more aware of myself and happy with the way I am – I feel more confident which is amazing for me, having been fairly shy and self conscious earlier on in life.
Half the articles I read whilst researching for this post claimed selfies are damaging for young people, whilst half claimed they actually boost self esteem. One thing I do know is that Social Media is not going away any time soon and neither are the selfies, so it’s important to prepare children in the right way.
I will positively encourage my daughter to take selfies if she wants to (she already does, as do her friends). I will tell her it’s a great thing to do, she looks amazing and I love her. I will encourage her not to need feedback from others, I will encourage her to see herself positively, to empower herself and be independent. I want her to have a good relationship with herself. I will not tell her she shouldn’t take photos of herself as it’s vain, narcissistic, or superficial – these are all things that feed the insecurities of young women. Instead I will teach her that confidence is an indication of self perception and positive thinking. Obviously it’s all about balance – having a good offline social peer group, parental support, hobbies and education, plus not spending too much time online.
For further reading check out this brilliant article in New Scientist which explores how a touch of healthy Narcissim leads to greater self-belief (it’s subscriber only but you can read the first bit for free)- the article is also referenced in this piece from yesterdays Telegraph Stella magazine by Leah Hardy.
If I’ve inspired you to take a selfie (come on, most of us have Facebook profiles at least, so if you haven’t already, why not pop up a photo of yourself instead of an animal or your children?), here are the key things I’ve learnt in my vast selfie career (!):
- Location – Choose a good spot to take the selfie. The background shouldn’t interfere with your image. I tend to use a bathroom mirror and crop out the background.
- Hair & Make up -– think about colours that suit you the most. If you haven’t got time to get ready, wait and take your selfie before you go out one evening (early evening light is best I find)
- Lighting – as mentioned, early evening light is perfect right now (September) but this will probably change as autumn creeps in. Natural daylight is far more flattering than articifial light. I find a window and play around with selfies at different angles until I find what works the best.
- Angle – again, experiment as you’ll find what works specifically for you. I tend to raise the camera and shoot from the side into a mirror. You can hold the camera directly in front with both hands, or use a selfie stick, raised slightly above eye level.
- Experiment – try a different expression. I felt like a complete IDIOT the first time I did this, but you’ll only need to do it once to understand what works. I can’t take selfies without a smile, I just look like a miserable git. So for me it’s all about a big cheesy smile.
- Selection – take a few, just keep snapping, trying different things, then go back through and work out which looks best.
- Filter – there are tons of photo filtering apps you can download these days. I tend to use Valencia filter on Instagram, but I also have VSCO on my phone. Try cropping in on your selfie, cutting out the background where you can.
Happy Snapping! 🙂