Selfie Esteem: An Invitation to the Captured Life for Shy People and Bears

Hey you. Yeah, you with the modesty. You, with all the photos of your friends, the candids from the office party, and the beautifully edited shots from vacation. You’re the one capturing life all around, but who’s taking photos of you? If you’ve been avoiding taking selfies, it’s time to emerge from your cave. We’ve got a few reasons why and some tips to get you started.

With celebrities like Miley Cyrus, Kim Kardashian, Justin Bieber, and James Franco on the interwebs, there’s no shortage of hot shots taking hottie shots of themselves. And we all know people who post so many selfies of duck-lipped smiles and annoying poses, it’s hard to believe they have time left for actually living. They’re the reason selfies have a bad rap. But a selfie can add up to much more than a narcissistic flash in the pan.

A selfie can define your relationship to a person. Two-person selfies are theater; you make big faces and deeper sentiments are revealed. Imagine a mother and daughter posing, stiff-backed, in front of a tripod. Now imagine the same pair mugging for a selfie: which photo better shows their complete delight in each other?

double selfie photo of Karen and daughter
A selfie can define your relationship to a place. Does the photo of a rocky gorge say as much about your trip to Utah as a photo of your face, soaking up the craggy wonder of it all?

photo of Jenn and Jamie in Utah
A selfie can define your relationship to a moment. By design, selfies are casual and spur-of-the-moment. You’re less likely to make a rigid, plastic smile when you’re capturing an an elated fist pump at a football game or a proud moment at a bowling alley.

selfie photo of Jonathan at the bowling alley

Selfies, over time, tell the story of your life in a way that the outward-facing camera lens does not. Like a strobe sends pulses of light across a room, a stream of selfies capture your attitude in context, across time.

Here are a few get-up-your-nerve prompts to get you going:

  • Think about it as self expression not self promotion.
  • Don’t be too serious; a smile goes miles!
  • Capture goodness: take the selfie when you’re already pumped and in a good place, and your task becomes a simple one.
  • Don’t try to get it perfect. You’re capturing a slice in time, not chiseling in marble.
  • Your face doesn’t have to be front and center. Shadow selfies and where-I-stand selfies are completely legitimate and fun.

And here’s the most radical idea of all: you don’t have to share it! Take it for yourself. There are a million stories of people who threw away a photo from an earlier chapter of their lives, or burned diaries, only to regret it years later. Let this photograph be a love letter to your future self: here I am, at this time, in this place. Some flaws, yes, but a whole lotta mighty.