Last week I talked about how I’m working to improve my relationship with my body, so this week I wanted to share a body/self-positivity project that I participated in recently: the “I See Me” project.
October was a HUGE collaboration month for me, and as a relationship- and people-oriented person, I loved it. I worked with several different bloggers on projects, interviews, guest posts, and wherever else I could get involved. One project in particular really pulled me out of my comfort zone, though. Across my social media platforms, I strive to follow as many body- and self-positive accounts as possible. Everyone can use an uplifting message now and then, especially when you suffer from depression, an eating disorder, and the ever-present imposter syndrome.
When my blogging/Twitter buddy @sarahdanne suggested the “I See Me” project, I enthusiastically threw my hat into the ring. Very similar to a campaign that Dove did called “Real Beauty Sketches,” this project challenged the way that we see ourselves by showing us how others see us. We would swap selfies, unposed and without makeup, along with our feelings about ourselves and allow others participating in the project to comment back their thoughts. We are our own worst critics, after all, and sometimes all it takes is a fresh perspective to change the way we see ourselves.
The biggest challenge would be sharing an unposed image for others to see and comment on. Would I be able to comfortably do that? For someone who has been (overall) successfully avoiding mirrors for over a month now, the thought of participating in a project like this was rather daunting. I never pass up the opportunity to lift other women up, but would I be brave enough to share a picture of myself?
When I originally shared the below selfie with the other participants of this project, I debated if I should send them an old photo. I do have a selfie in my phone reserved for when I need to send out a good picture of myself, but as it was a posed picture from the past, I felt as though it would be dishonest to use that. Instead, I took a current selfie from my desk at work under the historically-super-amazing-fluorescent lighting. As I usually do when I take selfies, I cringed as I looked at my face. I often feel lucky that I’m not one of the people who has to look at it too frequently.
I held my breath as I typed out my feelings about the selfie and clicked “send.” Not only was I sharing my face, but also my very vulnerable thoughts about both my personality and looks. Sharing my face was one thing, but it was another to point out my own insecurities so openly. Typing out my own thoughts about myself made me nauseous. Reading them back was even worse, because I was disgusted with myself for my own self-hatred. I was exposing myself in a whole new way.
Here is how I See Me:
I see me as a poser. Thinking I’m sexy and badass and cute, but not hitting the mark at all.
I see someone undesirable. Someone who will walk into a bar with her friends and be the only one who doesn’t get hit on.
I see me as overweight. I’ve always defined myself by my weight and I have to struggle very hard to take pictures where you can’t see a bunch of fat under my chin.
* * *
Not fun at all, right? I assumed that there wasn’t anything else to really say about my selfie. It was just, you know, my face. I knew that the other participants would say something nice, but could they say anything that would actually make me feel better about myself? Then I read their lovely responses:
Spirited. Adventurous. Loving. Friendly. Fun!! Love your hair and smile. You really light up the room. 🌸
I see a bright smile that lights up the room. I see smiling eyes that speak volumes on happiness and celebration. I see a slightly edgy, but not overpowering sense of style. I see confidence. I see a person who walks into the room as her true self and that is more than enough.
You are so cute. I love your smile! You look so happy and confident. You better think you’re sexy, badass, and cute, because you are!
You are absolutely beautiful and you’re more desired than you think. I’m sure of it.
I’m proud of you!
* * *
As a participant in the “I See Me” project, I shared my feelings about the selfies of the other participants as well. To hear other women worry aloud about how they looked was discouraging and upsetting, of course. It pained me to hear them share all of the insecurities they felt when looking at their own selfies. At the same time, I felt accepted in this community. We all see our flaws, and often those are all that we see. But we were able to see something wonderful in each other’s pictures, even if we couldn’t see that in our own. I wasn’t alone in this, and I also wasn’t seeing myself clearly.
I think what may have surprised me the most about the responses was that…I couldn’t quite disagree with them. While some people can see a selfie and comment on how attractive the person looks (a compliment that I would take with a blush and assume was said for the sole sake of being nice), these comments were about my spirit and my personality. They didn’t see my crooked smile or buck teeth, they saw a smile that would light up a room and an open and warm personality. As someone who strives every day to create a space for others to share their feelings with me, it was wonderful to hear that I was giving this vibe off even through a selfie. This compliment meant more to me than a comment about my looks ever could. Also, “slightly edgy” is probably the closest description to my aesthetic. Undercut, nose ring, but still too tiny to actually incite fear.
Not to speak for everyone involved, but I know that I had a hard time posting this article on my own blog. I internally debated the risk of being so vulnerable. I love sharing myself on this blog, but this was a level of vulnerability I wasn’t sure I wanted to attain. Sharing the inadequacies I feel everyday is one thing, but letting you all in on how much I dislike my own face was hard for me. These amazing women were brave enough to share themselves and their posts, though, so I allowed myself to be inspired by their courage in order to push through my own insecurities.
Please check out the blog posts of the other wonderful women who participated in this project as well as their blogs. They’re awesome! Thank you again, @sarahdanne for bringing us together! This project was truly eye-opening and uplifting. I hope that others are inspired to do something similar and realize that we don’t always see ourselves clearly.
Photography by my talented fiancé. You can find him on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/hope_grows_here/