confessions of a narcissist

May 3, 2011 | 17 Comments


Seflies. My corner of the interwebs is flooded with pictures of me. Taken by me. Posted by me. Looked at (mostly) by me. Embarrassingly so. (Not that I plan to slow down anytime soon.)

It’s not that I think I’m all that. Sadly, it’s often the opposite. But I’m working on it.

The mental self-portrait I carry vacillates between the awkward, pimple-plagued me from the 80s and the sometimes chubby, large-foreheaded, thin-lipped, thin-haired, acne-scarred, harsh-featured me from the present. I don’t generally walk around feeling all kinds of fantastic about myself.

But there are moments. Moments I walk past a mirror and do a double-take because the image of my mind’s eye and what the mirror reflects don’t jibe. The mirror is all, “Shan, this cute kid is you. You’re adorable. SEE.”

A blog I read said it well:

You know how sometimes you turn around and catch a glimpse of yourself in a reflective surface and before you realize it’s you, you have this moment of “my, who is that attractive stranger?” and then you realize it’s you and you waver between feeling terribly vain and terribly attractive?

I’m not a vain person. I have good hair and a nice smile and I think I’m pretty good with people. But that’s been about the extent of my gut-level belief in my own attractiveness.

I finally, I think, really believe that I’m pretty. I don’t mean that in a vain way, either. It’s just such a direct contrast to the image of myself as repulsive girl that I’ve carried most of my life. I feel good today. I feel a little less plagued by all the voices of judgement I carry with me.

In my case it’s good eyes (great, actually) and a nice smile.

I catch an attractive glimpse of me and my knee-jerk reaction is to take pictures (approximately eight hundred and fifty thousand) until I land on one I like. I then share it with the world to capture the cute for all of eternity in an attempt to rewrite the track in my head that says I’m a hideous beast.

I often worry about meeting people in real life with whom I first established a relationship online: all they’ve been privy to are pictures of me during my campaign for The Fight Against Ugly Thoughts. While I can honestly say I’ve never once edited a picture of myself (short of adding a filter in, I generally only publish the good ones. Occasionally I’ll share something slightly less flattering, but only if it’s charming. So, sure, I’m cute and slowly accepting it. But no where near the all-the-time-cute my vast picture portfolio would suggest.

I wrote to explain away my apparent vanity, only to discover that I absolutely am vain. But for a good cause. Long live the selfie!

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Join the conversation

  • Jocelyn

    Hi! I was an early adopter of the 365 project on Flickr in 2006. I participated for two years, but kept myself as the subject for many photos on Flickr until a year or two ago. The full scope of the project was valuable in every way. At the time, I wanted to document a year in my life – I’d lost my Mom in 2006 and starting a photo project for me felt really indulgent. It was really therapeutic – I documented all the things. Like the blog post you shared, I consider these photos an opportunity to grow into myself, and a more accurate perception of who I really am, whether I liked that photo at the time or not.

    What’s really cool, now, is looking back on the photos and I’m full of questions to myself – especially when I see pics that I hated then that I love now.

    So, never shy away from self portraits but I want to encourage you to post a pic on bad days and good days. It’s a document, right?

    • Shannon

      Yes! I write about this in another entry: trying to be okay with whatever pictures show up of me. Did you read that one? If not, I can try to find it. It’s really interesting to hear the impact that project had on you. Thanks for validating my picture-taking frenzied self. :)

  • Annabelle

    1. You are SO GORGEOUS

    2. I hate seeing pictures of myself

    3. No but seriously SO PRETTY.

    4. I think everyone does the whole only-publishing-good-pictures-of-themselves!

    • Shannon

      1. THANK YOU

      2. I love it, if they’re good. Does that make me weird? I’m sad when I miss out on being in a pic.

      3. But seriously THANK YOU.

      4. Phewf! I thought so… but, when you live in your own head so much you’re never really sure.

      5. Thanks for showing up here so much and for cheering me on and challenging me and being super smart and writey.

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