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Selfies to Improve Body Image: Friend or Foe?

Uncategorized Feb 13, 2018

It seems that everyone has an opinion on selfies these days. Some people love them, others hate them. Our fitness-fanatical society biases our minds to believe that selfies are those half naked photos of before/ after transformation photos or bodybuilding competition photos. With this skewed vision, it's easy to feel unworthy anytime we glance a view of our less-than-airbrushed, perfectly-ordinary selves. 

Nonetheless, the issue of selfies, body checking, and mirror exposure arise with my patients and clients. Should I look at myself? Should I take more selfies? (I mean, selfies did initially begin in an effort to help one girl gain more confidence with photos of herself.) Or the flip, how can avoid mirrors and photographs? Will I ever like what I see in the mirror or a photograph? So, I figured I should settle things with a few points of my own.

1. Selfies may improve your confidence. 

Most women I work with have highly charged negative emotions around their appearance. Most also do not like looking at themselves in a photograph. By taking regular photos of yourself, you  begin to "desensitize" your brain to these negative thoughts and eventually, reach a place of neutrality toward your appearance: an important part of your body image journey. Also, in a selfie, we can choose to only photograph parts of ourselves, thereby controlling what and how our mind reacts.

2. Avoid posting selfies online. 

That said, while selfies may help you improve your confidence, the constant flood of selfies on our social media platforms is only furthering the problem. Mainly because, most people posting selfies are in fitness or fashion professions. As we know, these professions have highly skewed standards of what "beauty" means and thus, trains our brain to only look at beauty in one dimension.

3. Follow a diverse array of bodies on social media.

Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. This may not directly relate to selfies, but it's important to rewire your brain. No matter the size or shape of your body, it's important to develop a realistic assessment of ALL bodies out there. Chances are, you hold bias or judgment toward bodies of certain sizes or shapes. (It's okay. You're only normal given the aesthetically-driven, fat-phobic culture we live in.) By following a diverse array of bodies, you begin to create a belief that "all bodies fit," including your own.

4. Consider controlled mirror exposure.

Mirror exposure has been known to increase body satisfaction. This includes whether you are looking at  negatively viewed body parts or positively viewed body parts. If selfies seem too intimidating to you, consider looking at yourself in the mirror naked for at least 5 minutes every single day. Allow any and all thoughts or feelings to arise. Feel your feelings and then, let it pass. 

5. Don't seek validation online.

The amount of variability and lack of control we have on social media continues to astound me. We cannot control who sees our posts on Instagram or Facebook. We cannot predict how people will view a certain post or photo of us. Stop measuring your self-worth in Likes and Followers. Social media is so far out of your control. Even if you have the "picture-perfect" feed, you will undoubtedly have some posts that flop. Don't take it personally. And certainly, don't measure your self worth by what someone else thinks of your selfie. 

6. Use a selfie as a way to document your mental transformation.

Today, selfies are mostly used as a way to document a physical transformation. However, what I notice in my own "selfie practice" is the mental transformation. I'm not talking about specifically what I "look like" in a photo and how it was more of a mental transformation to get to a physical transformation... no. I'll stop you right there. That is still diet culture and fitness industry B.S. I'm talking about the day I woke up and wore a pencil skirt for the first time in 5 years. I once believed pencil skirts were "not flattering to my short, curvy figure," but now, I wear whatever the heck I want to because of how an outfit makes me FEEL, not what I LOOK LIKE in that outfit. That day, I wore my pencil skirt with no shame, I snapped a selfie. So, on days when you notice a different feeling inside of your body or a different outlook or mindset shift, THAT is when I want you to snap a selfie.

7. Make it fun!

My favorite selfies are the ones I have taken with my daughter. Truth be told, my phone has about 500 selfies JUST of my daughter. She loves making goofy faces and photographing herself. No doubt in my mind that she takes selfies, because she finds it fun, not because she is feeling unworthy and needing a boost in self-validation. If you allow yourself to be goofy and fun and enjoy the process, you can begin to add some light-hearted nature into your typically dark thoughts about your body. 

Our bodies are just the vessel to carry us through this world. We as a culture have placed WAY TOO MUCH emphasis on what we look like and the size and shape of our bodies. Selfies can be an avenue to help bring to light some deep-seated limiting beliefs that we hold about our bodies. At the end of the day though, I'd prefer if you took the focus off of what you look like in a selfie and focus more on the feeling that it brings you.

Take a step back and bring humor and light into the picture. Face your thoughts and emotions around your body. Take yourself a little less seriously. When you want to capture a great emotion or memory, snap a selfie!


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