By Carolyn Shields
(2013) I just uploaded four photos of myself onto facebook. I had a conversation with a male friend a few months ago who adamantly said that the only women who take photos of themselves are selfish and vain. But I disagree. I think the more photos we have of our face on the Book of Faces reveals the measure of our insecurities.
So let me admit it: I'm pmsing. I felt ugly and gross all week, plus my bangs have had a mind of their own for the past few days. I have a big crush on a cute guy and every time I bump into him (you know, like when he tried to run me over with this car in the parking lot yesterday) I always seem to look my worst. And I knew that taking a few nice photos of myself and uploading them would give me the little boost I needed. Why didn't I just take them and not upload them? Why didn't I seek this needed boost before the tabernacle? Why didn't I flee to scripture to reflect on the Blessed Mother?
Good questions, of which I have a pathetic answer: because I'm a woman. Because I need affirmation, and yes, I can find that in other ways than in social media, but it's so easy to find that on facebook. But I need to be told that I'm beautiful, I need to be reminded of that because I always have this little seething voice whispering but you're not, and those little likes on facebook are easy counters to it.
This isn't a post defending selfies by any means, because at the heart of it I still think they reveal our insecurities fo sho, but I'm completely owning up to mine. In truth, I think it's stunning photos some women post of themselves on facebook that adds to my insecurities, and I need to understand that I'm contributing to this degradation of authentic beauty. I believe we all struggle with self image, but here's something to ponder: 30 percent of photos snapped by Millennials are self-shots. Pride is the biggest sin (think Faustus who was so prideful he even spoke of himself in third person), but maybe vanity is the strongest vine that roots from pride.
We sometimes think some friends on facebook look great in every freaking picture, and the only ones we look good in are the ones we take of ourselves. So I guess what I really want to contribute to this big argument on selfies is this: Take a chill pill. And have a bit of compassion. Because I would argue more often than not, when a woman posts a photo of herself online, there's two reasons for it:
1) She's insecure. Or
2) She's vain.
Yeah, I hate it too when women clog up my newsfeed on their latest muscle mass they just built up, and I hate it when there are albums of themselves, but who are we to judge (Matthew 7:1)? And we have that great passage in John 8:7 which is all about selfies (kind of...not really): the one who never took one, go ahead and throw the stone, but remember that you don't understand the depth of that woman's insecurity.
Compassion, people. It's what we should aim for.
A priest once told me that when we get frustrated with ourselves for standing in front of the mirror too long, for wasting countless minutes applying makeup and straightening our fluffy hair and fluffing our straight hair, to pause, step away, and whisper, "Lord, I want to look beautiful for you."
No one else.
But for You.
I by no means excel at making an argument (because there's a few hundred flaws in the one I developed here), and I can easily see a comment from one of you which will persuade me to counter everything I just wrote. You could write, "Hey, selfies are still total crap because xx" and I'd go, "Huh, oh dang, that's such a good point." So I'm open to hearing thoughts, even though I think this whole topic is pretty much exhausted.
The truth is, yeah it helped a little today to get a few likes on facebook, but what can really heal your heart is seeking the beauty in others. I'm so sick of being so self-centered and motivated by self-gain. By logging onto facebook and seeing over a thousand photos of myself. So I challenge you that every time a woman posts a photo of herself to say a quick Hail Mary for her heart, because if she's insecure she needs it, if she's vain she needs it.
And let's get her back to the true source of beauty, what we Catholics like to call the Source and Summit.