I'm standing in the bathroom of our time share exchange on Block Island. The sunlight is coming through the window and I'm admiring my tan in the mirror; the first glow that makes me feel healthy and happy. I look good. And, you know what? I don't always feel that way. Let's just say that "youthful glow" is not my strong suit. But just look at me now! I'm radiant. I'm glowing with vitality. My eyes are shining and my hair is curling delightfully around my face. I feel beautiful, and that feels good. I want to remember this.
In the background, my husband is calling to me, "What are you doing in there? Aren't we going out to dinner?"
Can I tell him how good I look? Would he even notice? Would anyone else around me care? (My mother would have noticed, but she has passed on). I know this moment won't last forever: In two months I will feel as tired and muted as last autumn. But what if I just took a picture of myself to capture how fantastic life seems right now? Mmmm. I have the iPad in the other room.
I come out of the bathroom and my husband totally ignores me. He is now into the newspaper. I grab the tablet. He looks up for a second, sees me (and yet doesn't see me) then asks how long it'll be until we leave.
I make my final decision. The person who supposedly loves me the most doesn't even notice my glow, or else he doesn't care care. Well, I'm going to go back into that bathroom and take my own picture!
I return and start experimenting. I see immediately that as I turn and pose, even the slightest bit the light from the window either enhances or hinders my expressions, depending on how I move. Every tiny change I make captures me differently. (This obviously means I need to take more than one picture). I look down, I look up, I smile, I look enraptured, I look serious, I change the angle of my neck. This is amazing! 20 pictures later I actually see myself in a way that I have to admit only I could have captured.
I'm thrilled, even though my backdrop is a shower curtain. I finish up by deleting the few pictures that seem to do strange things to my nose and eyes. That surely isn't a representation of how great I feel and lovely I look, so best to delete the evidence. Otherwise, I am captured forever!
Never again will I have to rely on someone else to record my face on a good day. Never again will I have to hope that my husband, children or grandchildren beg or even ask to take my picture. Nope, I can record my own existence! I am in control. I can keep my own visual history of my life, on my terms now.
True, I was a little deflated by my husband calling me a narcissist and not understanding at all why I would want pictures of myself in the bathroom. And my daughter later questioned my sanity. One picture was okay, she said, but 10 or 20 or 30?
It got me thinking: Why would I take pictures of myself in my bathroom? Why would I start snapping photos later that summer, on my way to visit my college roommates in Connecticut, and in again Grand Central Station when I changed trains?
Why? Because I felt so alive that day, anticipating great talks with dear friends. Why? Because I liked the black and white sundress I had on. Why? Because Grand Central Station made me feel young, vital and as if I was on an adventure. Why? Because no one else would bother to record my adventure. Why? Because I felt able to take charge of an important part of my life; that I no longer had to give it over to someone else.
If I want a visual memory of how I look and feel on any given day, I can now make that image for myself. I don't have to ask or explain, or feel vain for requesting a snapshot from someone else. Think about it: No one explains why they keep a diary, so why should taking photos be any different? This ritual is part of my diary: a part that technology has finally made possible.
So today, camera phone in hand, I stand proud and announce: I support the selfie.
Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein, Positive Psychologist and Happiness Coach
Websites: www.drbholstein.com , Enchanted Self, TheTruthforgirls, www.newshortfilmthetruth.com Next Year in Jerusalem
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