I love a good photo, whether its a selfie, a landscape or my food. I enjoy taking photos of other people and I like people taking photos of me. If you’ve seen my Instagram, I post a lot of pictures of myself. Sometimes, I get some comments or questions that seem as if they are asked with the purpose to shame me for posting pictures of myself on social media. While I respect anyone no matter if they post/don’t post, I felt inspired to write a blog post about why I share photos of myself and the role they have played in my own journey to loving myself.
In our world, where we are constantly told who to be and how to look, loving ourselves wherever we’re at is a revolutionary act. No matter what you look like or who you are. Self love is used a lot these days, whether its a hashtag or Instagram caption. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s amazing if anyone pushes through the damaging self hatred we are taught from the moment we are born and can truly love and accept themselves. But self love is more than just a slogan and for me, it wasn’t that easy to build a relationship with.
Most of my life has been a battle with body image issues, disordered eating, unhealthy dieting and mainly, just feeling uncomfortable in my skin. It took a lot of small steps to get me to where I am today, which is no where near perfect but much happier and healthier.
One of the first things I did about 3 years ago was unfollow all of the BS on my social media accounts. By BS I mean the people I didn’t know (but would always stalk…like why!?), the people I knew but didn’t like, the celebrities, the ‘fitspo’ community…all of the people who posted things on the daily that made me feel worse about myself. We literally go through our lives looking from magazine ad to commercial, being bombarded with the idea that we are not enough. So why do we willingly follow people on social media that do the same thing? No more! Then, I started following people who either a) looked more like me (representation!) or b) posted things that made me feel good. For me, this meant following people who posted beautiful poetry, travel photos and pictures of themselves (flaws and all) being happy. Not trying to sell you some product or emphasizing the right angles or filters…just real people posting real things.
This might sound small but for me, this was something that impacted me every day. I started learning new language about body acceptance and self care, I started seeing people who portrayed traits I wanted to embody…I started being able to see that there is a future where you can look like me and be happy.
This also started influencing who I spent my time with, who I allowed to take up space in my life and who I spent my energy on. I’m not the type of person to cut ties easily with people but beginning to be in touch with myself, I was able to feel how negative I felt after I hung out with negative people. Or how my outlook on life was more depressing after being with friends who complain all the time. At the same time, I started to appreciate the people who I left feeling full. The people who shared themselves with me as I shared myself with them. People who just got me and never made me feel less than.
As this was happening, I also started reading more, writing more and finding activities that made me truly happy. All three of these things have helped me little by little, gain confidence in who I am and become comfortable with all of the parts of me. Over time, I began to see traits in myself that I admired. I started to get comfortable with the self love language. Say to yourself right now, “I love myself”. Those were words I didn’t know how to speak, along with “I’m beautiful” or “no, I don’t want to do that”. I never could say no! I didn’t know how. If you do, I applaud you because it is one of the hardest things I’ve had to teach myself to do.
This all came into fruition when I moved to Thailand. It wasn’t this country but it was the act of removing myself from my daily life. I had very few people or things to distract myself with so at the end of the day, I had a lot of me and a lot of thinking about who I am and who I want to be. While I found things I wanted to change, I also found that I was pretty proud to be me. Both literally and metaphorically, I was starting to like who I saw when I looked in the mirror.
I also started liking who I saw in photos that people took of me. I know there’s a degree of insincerity when it comes to Instagram/Twitter/Facebook photos, “she’s doing it for the likes”. I won’t lie, the likes are cool. But I don’t post photos of me because of the likes. I post them because there are very few fat, brown, HAPPY human bodies being posted on social media. I want to show that you don’t have to wait until you weigh a certain number or look a certain way to be happy with yourself. When I see a photo that someone takes of me, and I see someone who is comfortable in her skin, I want to share that. I want to make the people who don’t like seeing bodies like mine uncomfortable (hehe) and I want to provide one example – among the thousands out there – of what happiness can look like. The sexualization of women’s bodies and fetishization of fat bodies are dehumanizing and objectifying aspects of our culture. I’m here for normalizing my body to show that there isn’t one definition of beauty. And that that one definition CERTAINLY isn’t the colonized, white washed beauty that most of the world idealizes today.
There’s another layer to my photo posting, which is to help show that travel isn’t only for white, thin bodies. Before coming here, I had no idea how someone my size or color would live over here. I had wished, at the time, that I could find travel advice having to do with being large or brown but all of the travel blogs have to do with what to pack or some vague article about how to get the most out of your time here. Nothing had prepared me for the stares, photo taking or general discomfort that I have experienced. While it’s all been worth it, I am happy to know that people can see my photos and feel comfortable messaging me their questions.
There is nothing wrong with being confident and loving how you look. We’re taught so many things, like not to be too proud, or the right way to take a compliment (to deny it, right?), or that cute is being shy and timid. So incase you needed to hear it, if you’re magic (and you are!) and you know it, be loud about it! Share it with those around you. You don’t have to give in all the negative self talk and body shaming that’s so popular these days. Even better, help challenge your friends and family to not be so hard on themselves. We are all beautiful humans just for existing and we can help each other see that.
Self love isn’t about being conceited and posting pictures of yourself isn’t about ‘getting likes’ or ‘begging for attention’. For me, photos are one of the things that have helped me see the person that I really am and love the person that I really am. And for others, photos may be uncomfortable and awkward. Wherever you fall, I hope you have ways to love yourself in all of the moments and I wish you lots of love and compassion on your own journey.