It happens every time I take a selfie, even if I’m only in my own driveway, I feel gross.
I don’t like how I cock my head a certain way, stretch a not-too-much-but-not-too-little smile across my face, and gravitate towards my “good” side. Clearly, my motives go beyond a simple picture to remember the moment. Eventually, I’m hoping for someone, anyone, to like me, to see and approve of me. Is it okay to say that? I mean, we’re all thinking it right?
Marketing and all types of self-promotion make me uneasy too. Pointing you, the reader on the other side of this page, towards my words each week never comes without a fight. No matter how we try to cover it up, there will always be an agenda. Be it for more sales, or to spread awareness, or gain traction, we can all sniff it out a mile away.
It seems as though our culture has become more and more shameless about showing our faces and sharing our businesses. Or at least social media makes it feel that way.
Selfies may be on the rise and promoting our work is as easy as a few clicks these days, but have you noticed, even the most reticent among us will naturally want to share their heart, vocalize their dreams, and let you look into their eyes while you sip a hot drink together.
It’s the way we humans were created. We thrive on engagement and interaction with one another, which happens as we gracefully sway between the rhythms of giving and receiving.
I’m learning to watch for those rhythms more intentionally now.
If I stuff down my critical heart and judgmental spirit, I see them everywhere. The girl in front of the gym mirror taking a photo of her sweaty body isn’t doing it to show off or even because she’s insecure and needs someone to affirm her value. No, I’m choosing instead to see her through a new lens. What if she is learning to be at home with herself, to receive the person she is today?
Though slightly awkward, she is simultaneously giving us her heart and instilling freedom in us to be ourselves as she welcomes her own beauty.
“Will you accept me?” she seems to say. The words flow off my lips at the same time.
Later, I will give her a compliment, a smile, or a high five, and recognize her needs are also mine.
Like the girl in front of the gym mirror, I long to be seen. In pouring out my time, my fragile emotions, my unique ideas, my affection, I too want to be met with open arms. There’s no guarantee of reciprocation or relationship or reward. Giving is always a risk. But I keep up the practice of offering myself, be it in the form of a selfie or a quiet supper with friends.
Call us narcissistic or self-obsessed, but I wonder if you and I are simply coming to terms with our innate neediness for one another.
Could our selfie-crazed culture could be stumbling upon the sacred?
More than a cropped photo, a selfie consists of all the moments when we dare to pour out our heart, share a dream, show our business, be it through written or spoken words, a camera lens, or in the quiet of our living room with a few friends. Oddly enough, what we assume to be only about ourselves reaches further.
Selfie moments, as I’m calling them, serve to normalize the need.
The need we all have to be feel at home in our own lives, while also being welcomed with grace and acceptance by another. This should come as no surprise to us.
Gerard Manley Hopkins describes the root of our need well, “for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.”
Our faces, our features display the mystery of Jesus. It’s no wonder then why we must take time to tenderly behold ourselves and companions on this earth.
Anne Dillard encourages us, “We are here to notice each thing so each thing gets noticed. Together we notice not only each mountain shadow and each stone on the beach, but, especially, we notice the beautiful faces and complex natures of each other. Otherwise, creation would be playing to an empty house.” (emphasis mine)
What if we noticed our collective need more than analyzing the motive behind the woman telling her stories and voicing her ideas, or the girl taking the quick selfie, or the friend parading her heart in front of us.
I have a hunch our posture would turn from cynicism to celebration.
It is time to see the great neediness in our culture, in our own soul, as an obvious signpost reminding us to press in closer to our fellow humans.
I think we might be on the precipice of a revolution! A people who give and receive all in the same breath, who flow in extravagant generosity and openness as we share our lives and work freely with each other.
Our Creator does the same. He never stops extending Himself, exposing His need for relationship with us, promoting His goodness and beauty into the world for all to enjoy.
Madeleine L’Engle writes, “The people I know who are the most concerned about their individuality, who probe constantly into their motives, who are always turned inwards towards their own reactions usually become less and less individual, more afraid of the consequences of giving themselves away. They are perhaps more consistent than the rest of us, but also less real.”
The invitation to realness awaits when we give up obsessing over our motives and instead give our hearts to each other in a sundry of ways. When we warmly receive the entirety of who we are, flaws and all, we also receive everyone around us.
Yes, the studies might be right, we are a me generation boldly looking inward at our own soul. But we’re also an incredible we generation, clearing the way for those in our midst to step out of hiding too. We hold both in an imperfect tension, and together we listen for the song of relationship rising up from within .
This post is part of The Sway Series, where we’re learning to leave behind clean-cut answers, the certainty of either-or, and instead step into the mystery and sway in the tensions of life.