In defense of selfies
by Nancy B. Loughlin
(Published in News Press, October 14, 2014. Posted with permission.)
The first photographic selfie is attributed to Robert Cornelius in 1839. I have been unable to determine if he was diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (or the 1839 equivalent).
One of my favorite CNN.com features, Selfies of the Week, is topped with a headline, “Look at me!” That tone is clear: The selfie is a teenaged immature quest to be validated and noticed.
A selfie is, by definition, a photo we take of ourselves that we present to the world, usually over social media. In 1966, Buzz Aldrin snapped one in space, and it was, indeed, broadcast to the planet.
The selfie proclaims, “Here I am.” We are entitled to be recognized and loved, and the selfie captures our shifting moods and experiences. Thanks to modern technology, we don’t have to have the talent of Vincent van Gogh (at least 36 self-portraits) or Frida Kahlo (about 55). We have the smartphone front-facing camera, and we can control how the frame boxes us in our worlds. We are the most important people in our lives, and no one is going to recognize us until we recognize ourselves.
But the selfie can be a spiritual wakeup call. It’s a tool to identify the preoccupations of the ego. Before you Know Thyself through your selfies, a few points:
⦁ There is a difference between your self and your self-concept. In yoga, the ultimate, ongoing quest is self-realization, discovering who you are. Who you are is your divine and infinite nature. You aren’t your job, hobbies, style of dress, your diction, where you travel, the friends around you or your family.
The selfie captures the cult of your own personality, not your spiritual self.
⦁ You cannot not communicate. Everything you do is an extension of your ego. You cannot hide how you perceive yourself.
⦁ No matter how carefully you communicate your self-concept, others will not necessarily interpret it as you do. People perceive you through the filter of their own experiences, emotions and biases. They are the sea, and, if they are calm, they’ll reflect a placid sun. Yet, a stormy sea reflects a most discombobulated ball of fire. Your intent with your selfie will float on the waves of interpretation.
⦁ How you perceive you isn’t accurate, either. Your mind is cluttered with patterns of past programming, emotions and language. You become synonymous with your moods when you say, “I am angry.” You become your job when you say, “I am a lawyer.” In order to know yourself, you must step away from this spiritual ignorance.
Separate from your mind, become an observer, and choose three selfies that you have presented to the world. Practice identifying the obsessions and patterns of your ego.
Must you be likeable? Is that why you are surrounded by people in your selfies?
Why do you take so many pictures with your significant other? Must you be desirable? Are you insecure in your relationship?
Are you fashionable? Are you a traveler? Are you sexy? Materialistic? Are you a powerful person with powerful people?
Must you be perfect? Is that why you Photoshopped yourself?
Are you capable? Adventurous? Are your selfies loaded with marathon finish lines, mountaintop summits, underwater scuba shots and award ceremonies?
Meditate on the frequency of your selfies (or lack of selfies). You can also draw conclusions from a friend’s selfies. Just understand that what you notice will reveal more about you than your friend.
There are always some people who smugly proclaim, “I never post selfies.” How wrong they are.
Look at the article links, photos, and the “What’s on your mind?” orations. How clear the self-concept will be.
A pivotal step out of spiritual ignorance is to release all the myths you spin about yourself. You are separate from your ego. An evolved intellect knows that you’re separate.
Nancy B. Loughlin is a writer and yogi in Ft. Myers. She can be reached at NancyLoughlin@yahoo.com or Twitter @NancyLoughlin