The #selfie experiment… What it was, how it changed, what it meant

What started out after one of those office conversations that must have started about something Serious and Journalistic and then turned out into a rant about why-do-people-who-just-post-selfies-get-so-many-extra-Instagram-followers, my “#selfie” experiment was intended as purely by-the-numbers game.

My intention was to post a selfie a day to my Instagram account for thirty days, and count the mundane things like likes and new followers.

And then I realised something pretty fundamental for the #selfie movement: I really, really, really do not like the way that I look.

This is not a fishing for compliments post. There are people that think I’m pretty/attractive/sexy/whatever. Most of the time, I just don’t happen to be one of them. (I’m also well aware that there are people who find me equally unattractive etc etc).

But that is still not the point of this post. It’s about how much I dislike feeling vulnerable. Or judged. (Which, if I ever get the courage to post The Post, will be explained shortly). And so, for me, the biggest discovery about my #selfie experiment was not my physical insecurities, but rather my emotional ones.

Three things, though, to kick you off: I didn’t get a single negative comment on my Instagram feed. Not a one.

Most of my selfies were taken at home – any of the ones I took in public were snapped very surreptiously. As in, look, I’m pretending to take a photo of the scenery etc. Because I was that embarrassed. And that convinced I was likely to be judged by a passer-by. Heck, even my friends.

And as soon as I realised how insecure I felt about posting, I started posting the “anti-selfie”. The idea? Selfies of me as natural and as vulnerable as possible.

When we think of the selfie, we generally think of young women, layered in make-up, cleavage out, in a totally-nonchalant-but-absolutely-sexy pose. Even the not-teeny-bopper selfies are still carefully constructed to show the person in the best light as possible – artfully done make-up, gorgeous hair, hipster-esque shots, oh-look-at-me-being-all-nonchalant (again).

Yeah, I tried. That’s not even a little bit me. And so as soon as I realised this, I started posting pictures of myself in my most insecure moments.

I didn’t make 30 days. There was no way I could. I’m not a selfie person (unless it’s for a very memorable event). But I learned a lot about myself – and the world – in the 15 days I did take them.

I think there are maybe two in which I’m wearing make-up, perhaps? (One of them was for a 90s dress-up – I’ll leave you to spot which one). But there’s me with mussy hair, me on a bus midway through a 14-hour trip, me on the way back (red-faced and exhausted after my hike home), me dying of my cold, in bed, in my dressing gown, soaked to the skin and very grumpy after standing in the pouring rain waiting for a lift back to my car at Smits. And yes, one hipster one thrown in for good measure.

And so, a “real” snapshot of my life, perhaps. Although, of course, all of the selfies are constructed in some way – every photo is.

And, interestingly enough, it was those photos of me looking like – well, myself – that garnered the most likes. Not the ones where I’m dressed up to the nines, or the ones that I thought were the most “selfie-ish” of all of them.

Surprisingly enough, in a world where physical beauty is held up as such a great standard and even the most beautiful men and women alive are Photoshopped to remove a mole or a scar – any defining feature, really – we’re slowly learning to appreciate reality and honesty more.

At least, I hope so.

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Take it and leave it

After a hellish few weeks – some of the most stressful that I can remember – I finally managed to sneak in a teeny bit of leave. And I say a teeny bit, because I ended up working a ton around it (yes, I know, I’m an overachiever. you can shout at me later. I almost didn’t take the leave at all – I compromised and took less than I should have.)

Also over the last two weeks in particular, I’ve felt my handle on myself slipping. Nothing dramatic – I just needed to remind myself that gosh darnit, I am awesome. And I needed to hear it from myself, and not from anyone else. You know how it goes. (I’ll stop rambling soon, I promise.)

So I set myself some targets for this week. I had some gift vouchers for a manicure and a facial that I needed to use, so there was that. I wanted to take a trip out of Cape Town – within driving distance, on my own, to go exploring. I wanted to go to a yoga class. I wanted to go to a coffee shop and have a coffee on my own and try not to care. I tried to check my Whatsapp only 15 times a day instead of 50. My email embargo flew out the window, alas. But I tried.

But I did all of this and a decent amount more, I reckon. Who needs Eat Pray Love? I did my own version. With jellybeans, mild road rage and the most kick-ass floral pants. Girl needs her floral pants.

On Tuesday, after rushing into work for a bit, I finally managed to get into my car to head off on my travels. I left later in the day than I had wanted, so I had to cut my trip short. Below, essential solo travel supplies: Jellybeans, neon glasses and kickass floral pants. R50 from Cotton On. Best. Sale. Buy. Everrr.

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Decided to explore Cape Point And Surrounds. The game became this: Whenever you see a little brown touristy sign, go forth and explore. If it was free. Because I forgot to draw cash.

But first photo stop… Just outside Simon’s Town (Missed the Naval Museum, Boulders cost R45. Damnit, I wanted to see some penguins!)

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Should’ve brought a hair tie… Though I kinda like how crazy and wind-whipped my hair is here.

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Scarborough beach. Dodgiest public bathrooms ever (not pictured) and what I’m sure was a drug deal in one of the cars (also not pictured). Pictured: Beach.

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Beachy toes and kickass pants.

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I don’t do selfies very often, as you may have guessed.

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Lighthouse near Kommetjie was closed for maintenance. Laaaaame.

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Also not pictured were the troupe of baboons I came across near Cape Point (R90 entrance! Fuck me!), the ostrich farm (ostriches terrify me), Die Kom, Misty Cliffs and the random Rastafarian on Ou Kaapse Weg.

*Edit: Was asked about the road rage. Truck going pretty much going -15km/h up Ou Kaapse Weg. I never claimed to be patient.

Heading home.

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Hardly an epic journey, but it was good for the soul. Good music, pure and total alone time, and around three hours on the road.

I also went to my first ever Bikram yoga class (totally not pictured). I’ve done Vinyasa before, but not for a long while, so there were a few severe learning curves again. I didn’t throw up, and almost only fainted once. Success!

Then, today, I ticked off the facial (my poor skin, so many extractions!), the manicure and the coffee shop. (Note slightly smudged nail and chocolate cookie of deliciousness from the coffee shop. Worst nail polish ever, jeez. Took three hours to dry).

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Also signed on for my sixth and final (sniff) egg donation with the wonderful, inspiring women at Nurture. There will be a decent long post once I’ve nailed down some of the details. But for now, I rest. ‘Cause life, from tomorrow, is going to get wild.

Who needs sleep, anyway?