Is the Selfie Creative? The Power of the Personal

If you ever check out my Instagram, there are quite a few selfies. In some, I’ve just woken up. Often I’m in the car, waiting at a red light (no distracted driving). Some are silly, some are pretty, and many look alike.

The same could be said about my poetry or fiction. I tackle and share a lot from life events to deeply personal emotions. Heartbreak, success, frustration, and hope: they’re all there. Sometimes I wonder: am I being narcissistic? Am I asking people to compliment me? To tell me I’m pretty?

I have to believe it’s more complicated than that.

Reclaiming my body

you cannot see me

The selfie, or self-portrait, is an incredibly powerful tool for me. For ten years, I struggled with my body image. I believed I was too fat, too loud, too much to be pretty. While I never had a clinically defined eating disorder, I compulsively exercised for years and counted every calorie. My biggest fear was waking up fat.

Self-portraits became an important tool in my quest for self-love and acceptance. Each one helps me see my own beauty, regardless of what the scale or society says. Every day we are inundated with rigid ideas of what beauty is. My portraits are an attempt to reclaim and redefine beauty for myself.  They remind me that the human body is beautiful in all its varieties.

The healing power of words

If you haven’t noticed, I’m emotional. I cry every time I watch Big Fish. Since I’m not ready to have a pet, I have to shut my eyes and run past every pet store.  Combine that with a seventeen year old journaling habit, and you have a writer that focuses on the emotional and personal.

Yet, sometimes I fear that my work is overly personal. Is it too much about me? Is there any real value to my emotional experience for the outside world?

In pure impact, my most successful works are incredibly personal. One essay, The Truth About Depression, is one of my most popular pieces to date. Why is that? As one person once told me, there’s power in putting words to a common experience.  Millions of people suffer from depression every year. In that essay I used my own experience to let others know they weren’t alone in the struggle.

But the personal doesn’t end with literal experiences. In writing characters, I have to put myself in their shoes. I discovered, for instance, that Abraham had a wife after Sarah, Keturah. I became inspired thinking about her emotional experience. What would it be like to follow in Sarah’s footsteps?

Thinking through her potential experience gave me  this poem. Despite being thousands of years old, her story is still relevant. How do you follow someone who leaves such a huge impact? What does it feel like to never be able to measure up?

In both cases my work wasn’t navel gazing. I hope that these pieces are resources to readers. Life is a complicated mess. If I help one person understand gain a better understanding of grief, a troubled relationship, or even mental illness, then my work has been valuable.

When we put words to experiences and feelings, we begin to understanding them. Then we can decide how to react or process them.  Writing is my way of helping crystallize and understand those experiences.

Exploring yourself

bauble musings

Want to do your own inner exploration? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Do your own self-portraits

    Set your phone on a timer and capture yourself in the middle of your day, from putting on clothes to reading a book. Or, try taking a photo of yourself without any makeup on, or after a workout.

    What do you look like? Can you find something beautiful about yourself in these images? If not, ask yourself: Why do they make you uncomfortable?

  2. Retell your story

    We tell ourselves stories every day, from our role in our families, to who we were in high school. For instance, were you really the goody-goody in the family? Write down an experience when you broke the rules.  Or skip writing: turn on a mic or a video and record yourself instead.

    Undermining your personal myth can be a great way to begin defining who you really are.

  1. Trace your body

    Body tracing doesn’t have to stop at Thanksgiving turkey hands. Whether you trace your whole body, your legs, or just your hands, it’s an easy way to connect with your body without a large investment.

    Doodle, paint, or even write a poem or story inside your outline. The opportunities are endless and a lot of fun.

  1. Answer a question in a collage

    Who are you? What do you value? What do you want your life to look like? Any of these can be answered with a collage.

    Grab some old newspapers, some magazines, and maybe a few old books and start cutting and pasting. You may just be surprised what answers you come up with.

  1. Create a playlist

    Curation can be a powerful creative act. What songs make you think of your childhood? What songs do you associate with old lovers or friends?

    Whether in iTunes or on YouTube, it’s easy to create a playlist about yourself and even share it with others.

Do you have your own favorite tools for self-reflection? Share yours in a comment below!

3 Comments

  1. I usually don’t struggle with my appearance, but I have friends who do all the time. Thank you for sharing this words; mixing creativity with the issues that we all encounter sometimes is a great way to bring together two things that we should love.

  2. Hey there! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would
    be ok. I’m absolutely enjoying your blog and look forward to new posts.

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