Selfies, you either love them or you hate them and I understand why! They are vain, narcissistic and 9 times out of 10 you can hand your phone to a stranger and avoid the "but first let me take a selfie" pose. What's a little strange though is that we are acting like the world is seeing selfies for the first time. Selfies aren't a new thing. Here's a selfie I took when I was just a small little thing looking adorable. If anything, this selfie was probably 10 times more annoying than adorable because it cost my parents a couple bucks to get it developed.
This morning I had the pleasure of talking with the incredibly wonderful Drs. Dennis Cardone and Guillem Lomas on their weekly Sports Medicine Show on Sirius XM Radio's "Doctor Radio" channel. We talked about my journey to becoming a marathoner when, of course, the topic of selfies came up. (For those of you who don't know my background, I take selfies as I run marathons often times with handsome gentleman in the background. Hence the name Run, Selfie, Repeat.) Why? Because it's a really great way to entertain and distract myself while I run ungodly long distances.
I had a very odd thing happen in my life, I went viral. Going viral is one of the strangest things that can happen to you. I was just going to let it all blow over. Then I was encouraged to put a blog on its feet. I didn’t want to blog. I didn’t want anyone knowing my story or what I’d been through because of the shame I often attached to it. I was (still can be*) ashamed of my weight issues, ashamed to cry in front of people when I grieve, ashamed that I suffered a loss, ashamed to admit that I struggle, ashamed of failure, ashamed of hardships, the list goes on and on and on. One of the reasons I struggled with my weight was because I was bottling up my shame. I tried to be this perfect, confident, radiant thing that didn't have hardships or flaws. Then the bottle exploded and something had to change. I couldn't be that girl anymore. I didn’t want to be that person anymore so the floodgates opened and out came my truth.
Last night Caitlin Jenner received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the Espys and something she said really resonated with me-
“If there is one thing I do know about my life, it is the power of the spotlight. Sometimes it gets overwhelming, but with attention comes responsibility. As a group, as athletes, how you conduct your lives, what you say, what you do, is absorbed and observed by millions of people, especially young people. I know I’m clear with my responsibility going forward, to tell my story the right way — for me, to keep learning, to do whatever I can to reshape the landscape of how trans issues are viewed, how trans people are treated. And then more broadly to promote a very simple idea: accepting people for who they are. Accepting people’s differences."
Now I may not have an audience of millions but I do have a following. I put myself out there and asked people to care about my story and what I have to say. I maintain this blog and share what I've struggled with, gone through and continue to go through because I think I have something to give to the world. That’s not narcissistic or self-absorbed, that’s me wanting to help someone who want through what I am going through. That's me hoping that I can make someone who is dealing with loss laugh or someone who is struggling with their weight understand that there isn't one way to get healthy.
Now here’s the flip side to that coin, thanks to social media we all are putting ourselves out there and the things we do, say and present do influence others. It doesn’t matter if you have a following of thousands or dozens, what you put out there has a direct influence on everyone around you and you have a responsibility to maintain your authenticity. Social media has become a way to present a “perfect” version of yourself. It’s a way to highlight all the extremely cool things people do. It's a way to make people jealous of your life. But life isn’t that exciting so people tend to present an alternate reality. That’s something I try really, really hard not to do. That's why you see makeup free, sweaty selfies of my acne scarred face.
My goal is to inspire people to be transparent with their lives. To set incredibly intimidating (and possibly impossible) goals and then strive to accomplish them anyways because LIFE’S TO SHORT NOT TO CHALLENGE YOURSELF, BETTER YOURSELF AND TAKE RISKS!
I love selfies. I am probably one of the world’s biggest fan of them but I have a really huge issue with airbrushing and manipulating of images so that they appear flawless. Flawless and perfection aren’t real, they’re shame in disguise. What you’re saying when you manipulate your appearance is, “I am ashamed of how I truly am so here is a mask.” When you have tweens, teens, young adults and adults alike AIRBRUSHING their perceived flaws, that’s a problem.
The real conversation we should be having is about what we’re presenting, not the amount of selfies we are taking. We all have a responsibility to present our true and authentic selves. In order for anyone to accept one another, we have to accept ourselves.
Until next time, #RunSelfieRepeat.