What Happened When I Stopped Taking Selfies

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What Happened When I Stopped Taking Selfies

If I stare at my picture long enough, all of my positive features begin to fade to the background while my imperfections zoom in and laugh at me. I love selfies, but they mock me.

If I'm the one taking the photo, I have to take between fifteen and twenty before finding a decent one, all while muttering, "No darling, that's wrong, so wrong. Try a new angle. Don't smile like that. Don't grimace. Why is one of your eyes more open than the other? Don't open your eyes so much, you look like a crazy person."

I started living when I stopped taking selfies. I also stopped looking at other people's selfies, which made me like them more.

I weaned myself off the selfies when I realized I was spending an hour a day primping so I would look presentable if a selfie opportunity presented itself, even if I didn't have to go anywhere. I would then spend ten minutes tinkering with filters, and many spurts of seconds checking in to see the "likes" rack up and what people online were saying.

It was an exhausting time vortex that drained my creativity and productivity. I calculated that selfies were taking around two to three hours of my day (primp time included). If I spent that time writing every day, I could have the next great American novel written in less than a year.

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The first day I vowed to divorce the selfie and marry my time to the moment (sans iPhone), I felt like I wasn't really living. "If I'm not capturing these average moments that I could make look so epic on camera, do I really exist? Does any of it matter?" Crazy, right? 

I force-fed myself the "live in the moment" cliché, because, well, I couldn't take a picture of the moment. 

Because I wasn't going on Instagram to make my contributions, I wasn't seeing other people's "fabulous" pseudo-lives. No images of the perfect latte on a rainy day, a child basking in the glow of his mother's love as he shows off his homemade onesie, a perfect-haired lass leaping in an unknown forest, a green smoothie with a side of "I'm healthier than you"  there was none of that. I was just left with my life.

At first, it was monotonous. I craved the highs and lows I surfed throughout the day as I felt envy over one selfie, smugness over another, unwarranted pride over my own, and a touch of confusion over what to do with myself when I put my phone down.

I also found that because I wasn't seeking out "selfie-worthy" moments, I had to carve out my own beautiful moments that were for my eyes only. I had to learn to live a lovely life for my own sake — and it wasn't easy.

Because I used selfies as a substitution for journaling, I had to find another outlet to examine my day and (sometimes neurotic) moods. So I started journaling. I started walking. I started sitting outside without an eye for what would make a good photo. Giving up selfies made me claim my day and get creative in regards to how I would add texture to it when I wasn't crafting it for the examination of others.

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My cold turkey month of no selfies rewired my brain to be content with my unfiltered self and left me with troves of fresh writing time. I stopped blow-drying my hair and trying to choose between the Hudson and Juno filters.

I still take the occasional selfie to document an especially brag-worthy moment, but I've lobotomized the part of my brain that compulsively feels the need to click, crop, filter, and post every time I'm standing in front of a sunset, an interesting piece of tree bark, or latte foam art.

But, if I take a trip to a legendary vacation location  watch out selfie-land, I'm coming for you.

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Bailey Gaddis is the author of Feng Shui Mommy: Creating Balance Amidst the Chaos for Blissful Pregnancy, Childbirth and Motherhood. She has written for Elephant Journal, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Woman's Day, Good Housekeeping, Scary Mommy, and others.