Some of you may have noticed that I have been bombarding my social media with daily pictures of myself, after many years of rarely posting anything, let alone my own face. Why? Why am I doing this deeply uncomfortable thing?
Here is my best attempt at an explanation. On a whim—seriously, the thought popped into my head and the next moment day 1 was posted on Instagram—I decided that I needed to get more comfortable with the camera and the way I would do it was by posting one photo a day for my 46th year.
It has been 33 days and I have regretted my decision for about 30 of them.
I’ve hated getting my photo taken my whole life. I am very, very bad at it. I am awkward. I make faces that apparently do not resemble my normal face. For that reason, there are times in my life where I have very little photos of me. A glaring example is my own wedding, where there was one—count them— one of me in my wedding dress (not that it matters anymore, but still).
It comes down to my complicated relationship with visibility. I have mostly felt like I am invisible my whole life, that people do not see me. Invisibility has been a great excuse to not join clubs, sports teams, conversations—if nobody is going to see me, why join? It also gave me a license to think that my actions did not matter, that because I was invisible and unimportant, I could not hurt anybody.
But cameras and getting my picture taken exposes the lie. I can’t get away from the fact that not only is someone seeing me, they are focussed on me. That makes me deeply, deeply uncomfortable. It means I am not as invisible as I thought, that perhaps I do matter.
The complicated part is this: though I feel invisible, there is a part of my that wishes to feel visible, for people to see me. And as uncomfortable as I am with getting my photo taken, I am even less comfortable with this need. You see, invisibility (or at least pretending I am invisible and do not matter) has been my greatest protection mechanism. It is what has allowed me to try new things and go forward. Conceived by my young brain in order to allow me to go out in the world with less fear of fucking up, the idea that people did not see me meant freedom to make mistakes, to try new things, to be me without anybody caring.
Fully owning my own visibility means giving up this rusty old protection mechanism and embracing that I do indeed exist, my actions have consequences and, yes, for better or worse, that is indeed my face. Taking selfies means not only am I owning my own visibility, I am thrusting it willy nilly on the world. See? I am taking a photo of my face and making you look at it! I exist, bitches!
And man, I can’t tell you the existential dread that comes from seeing my face. Is that really me? Do I really look like that? What does that face even mean? I wonder if this dread is the reason why artists make self-portraits? This questioning of one’s own face?
So. My challenge to myself: 365 days of one selfie a day. Hopefully by the end of it I will be able to smile in a way that doesn’t make me look perpetually mildly concerned or constipated. Wish me luck.