I’ve always paid attention. I’ve always been aware of the needs of those around me and it’s a rare day that someone’s insecurities pass by me unnoticed. Because of that, I learned early on that women felt that they weren’t supposed to be thick, they weren’t supposed to be pale, and they weren’t supposed to be tomboys. Rather, the style that existed during my formative years was the glorification of the Kelly Kapowski prototype. Thin, tan and delicate. As you can imagine, growing up as a plump, red-haired, fair skinned little girl who only wanted to be just like her brothers left me feeling less than adequate. As I heard the women in my life put themselves down I realized everything they hated was something that I possessed and often in a more dramatic way.
I was scared of feeling sexy from an early age. A combination of my religious affiliation and my fear of looking foolish at the attempt, left me quick to hide my body and my personality. Every time I looked in the mirror I thought of the way I could be beautiful if I could just change something. If I could pin my ears back, get a tan, scrub away my freckles or cut away at my thighs. I’d suck in my stomach at the instruction of my elders and never left the house without make-up because I didn’t like the way the truth looked back at me.
When I was graduating college with a degree in photojournalism and an over-active flickr.com account, I started a project called 365. It was 365 self-portraits, one for everyday of the year. This was pre-smart phone for me and pre-selfie for society. I was exploring my self in a medium that I’d used to document so many others before and it was revolutionary.
The photos are old and not up to date with my current skill set. But, they are still meaningful to me. It was one of the first times that I truly saw myself as someone worth seeing.
Fast-forward to the end of my marriage and the loss of the one person that I truly knew had loved me and found me attractive and I knew I had to fill the hole left by his compliments with my own affirmations. I had to see myself as worth loving and all of that hard work that I’d put into my self-esteem was about to be put to the test hard with first dates and dates gone poorly.
Often, a man rejected is a cruel and horrible thing.
(not every man of course, but, it’s more common than I’d like to think.)
Also, walking into a first date when you’ve felt ugly and useless and judged for most of your life, well, it’s vulnerable.
Not in direct correlation, but, mostly out of the fun of it, I’d started a hefty #selfie hobby. I found them silly and fun and when you have a face you always have a photo subject for shots you may want to try. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that for me and for other women that I’ve known, the sexy selfie has served us and served us well.
For two reasons:
1. It’s an excuse to delight in ourselves.
It’s often popular belief that selfies are posted for the approval of the audience. However, in my experience and in the experience of others that I know, that’s far from the case. While compliments are nice, it’s more about being brave enough to put myself out there and not just doing that, but, feeling good about it.
I hold onto the belief that if I stare at anyone’s physical features long enough I will find something that I’m attracted to. After even longer, I am sure that they will become all around beautiful to me. The same has held true for myself. The more I look at my person the more I recognize that my skin and bones aren’t so bad after all. Not only that, but, they’re the only ones I’m ever going to get. Why not celebrate them now?
Not only celebrate them, but, delight in them. I want to relish in the rich form that I’ve been given to live my life in. The smile that is unique to me that displays my particular brand of joy, the eyes that I use to convey my attention to what the important people in my life are saying, and more.
Beyond that, I was told for the majority of my life that I wasn’t supposed to be a sexual being. Not only that, but, the attempt at doing so would be embarrassing for me. Seeing other women with bodies similar to mine mocked for showing too much skin was enough for me to hide the majority of my life.
The sexy selfie has given me the outlet to delight in my sexiness, to dance on the planes of sensuality in a new way and to show other women like me that they’re allowed to feel sexy.
Which brings me to…
2. It’s allowed us the opportunity to see other women do the same.
I think there are two ways we react to people living their lives with fervor and with confidence.
Either we resent them and we find ways to not like them because they’re threatening to us.
Or, we allow them to inspire us to do the same.
Finding women on instagram with similar bodies to mine delighting in their skin and sharing their sensuality freely, quite honestly created a small piece of liberation in my soul. It’s an amazing thing to see someone possessing a body ‘flaw’ that I also possess, to see it photographed and to realize that it in no way took away from the beauty that I saw in her. In fact, it added to my respect for her and made her more beautiful to me.
Maybe you won’t take a sexy selfie today. Maybe you’ll never publish one.
But, I urge you to consider looking at yourself a little closely. Allowing yourself to feel sensual and do it in the way that works for you. Perhaps you draw a portrait of yourself, perhaps you write something, maybe you stare in the mirror long enough to express gratitude for the outer shell that houses your being.
Whatever it is, I hope you find it beautiful, I hope you delight in it and I hope you never let anyone tell you that any part of you is ever worth hiding.