Kim Nelson: In Defense of the Selfie

Kim Kardashian, professional selfie-taker, just released a book of 445 self-portraits titled Selfish. In articles and on social media, people are quick to slam her and call her a self-absorbed narcissist. Some articles even go as far as to link taking selfies to mental illness. But, as a sometime-selfie-taker, I don’t think they are all bad. In fact, I’m even willing to align myself with the duck-facing teens and James Francos of the world and publicly admit that I am a selfie fan.

Why do so many people brush off the selfie as self-indulgent wankery? At first glance, it appears generational. Millennials embrace the selfie, but they’ve been texting since they first learned to spell. Often condescendingly referred to as the “everyone gets a trophy” generation, they exude self-confidence I never knew at that age. As a Generation X-er, I grew up enveloped in ennui and X-Large flannel shirts from the men’s department at Old Navy. I spent a good part of my teens and early twenties self-conscious of how I looked: I never felt thin enough, pretty enough, blond enough–the list goes on. I would’ve rather died than turn a camera on myself while holding it slightly raised for a more flattering angle and silently mouthing the word “prune.”

My self-loathing attitude changed as I got older (thank God). I grew more capable of embracing who I am and what makes me unique, and stopped giving a shit about what the cover of stupid magazines struggling to stay afloat in a dying industry said that women should look like. There are things about my appearance that I grew to appreciate, and even love. I also learned that my looks would always change; fine lines started to creep around my eyes and mouth. Gray hairs are making their presence known. But I’m not fighting the passage of time; instead, I want to celebrate each moment as much as I possibly can. And you know what helps me do that? Taking a damn selfie.

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sunnies in the car selfie

So call all us self-snapping photographers narcissists if you want, but I like to think of us as celebrators. Maybe you really nailed your liquid liner today, or woke up with perfectly tousled bedhead. Is it so bad to capture that moment? I think not. Flexing in the mirror at the gym? Hey, you woke up at 5 am every damn morning to get that muscle tone; you’ve earned that selfie! If a night rolls around that I assemble a cute outfit to go out somewhere–well, this look isn’t gonna show off itself. I might take a selfie to celebrate the fact that I changed out of my daytime pajamas.

I can see how it can be easy to want to tear down Kim Kardashian for taking hundreds of pictures of herself, but I also think it’s important to look a little deeper into that reaction. WHY are we mad/annoyed at women who think they are hot? Why do we think women need to be meek instead of confident, or unhappy with how they look? I’ve been there, and it didn’t feel great. What does feel great is capturing a moment where I look good, I am happy, I am healthy, and I am loved. Our social media timelines are online journals that show the moments in our lives that we want to share and remember. The ubiquitousness of cell phones and the ease of uploading to social media has democratized the self-portrait, and I think this is a very good thing. Only 1% of the population will ever look like the cover of a magazine, but that doesn’t matter. Each of us can still look damn good at times, and that’s worth embracing.

So I encourage all of my loved ones to embrace the selfie. Don’t care about what the naysayers think. If you’ve just finished a half-marathon, visited someplace cool where you’ve never been, or finally got your winged eyeliner to match on both sides (#victory), let the world in on the fun. Capture it for posterity. Share it. I want to celebrate your moments with you.




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