The selfie; some feel compelled to take them, many pour scorn on those who do and dismiss them as narcissistic. In truth, behind those selfies is probably one of two things: sadness or celebration (or a mingling of both).

The selfie can represent and temporarily fulfil the need in us to be loved and adored. How many likes we get has become the barometer by which we measure our beauty and desirability. For me this exposes and confirms a deeper underlying issue, we, as a people, do not love ourselves enough. We seek to fill that void externally first, seldom realising that it can only come from within. We have to love ourselves, first and foremost. And if we can’t, we owe it to ourselves to learn how.

My relationship with the selfie is an important one, and formed an important phase in the journey towards truly loving me.

I spent my 20’s pretty much unable to look at my face, and when I did, I saw no beauty there. Leaving behind an unhappy and damaging marriage (that I’d chosen to be in) when I turned 30, I started to slowly learn how to love myself and to see myself as the beautiful person I truly am, both inside and out.

That in itself wasn’t easy. From being happily invisible and avoiding all photographs in my 20’s, it wasn’t until the age of 32 that I finally started to become okay with having my photograph taken at all. Prior to that I would reluctantly oblige, and describe myself as looking like a ‘potato’ in the photos with no sense of irony – I was absolutely serious.

Any photos you will see of me from around that time (around the time I got all over social media), will have been filtered multiple times, as though I wanted the world to see me, but still didn’t really think my face was ‘good’ enough. I also caked on make up with a vengeance and categorically would not leave my house without a full mask. In fact, even made sure I was fully made up when working from home. Solo.

I finally began to fall in love with my face when I was 33, and subconsciously spent the year documenting it. There is something quite profound in going from being unable to look at ones face in the mirror, to feeling so positive about it that you feel able to share it with the world. A gesture of ‘this is me world, and today I feel beautiful’.

Given I was completely new to loving my face, I needed that reassurance from the rest of the world. A, ‘yes Penfold, you look great today’, ‘your hair is awesome’, ‘keep doing what your doing’, ‘keep evolving’. I too fell foul to being fed by the like count, and that’s not healthy or sustainable, but it was important stop on my journey towards loving me, to check with everyone else that what I was seeing was real.

From selfies to portraits, silly snaps to photo-booths, you name it I did it. I shared my face on an almost daily occasion, and became increasingly proud of my beauty, proud of whatever new hairstyle I’d created or whatever lipstick I’d chosen. Proud of me.

What was most incredible of all is that I had no idea where this compulsion came from or any awareness of why I was doing it, but felt delighted by it on an abundantly joyous level. I also failed to recognise the stark contrast to the Penfold that existed only 12 months prior.

That was two years ago, and my compulsion to share my face has become less and less. The change that has happened is that I have learned to love and be kinder to myself. My evolution is continuous, but I am now happy to be in a place where I can look in the mirror and feel sure that I see beauty looking back at me, without needing confirmation of that from everyone else.

How do you learn to love yourself? Little by little, and by being as kind to yourself as you can possibly be. I make sure I have enough time every day to make sure I can leave the house feeling amazing. That means I wake up super early, and make sure I have everything as well planned as possible the night before. Because I go to bed early, my lifestyle supports that. I buy myself things I adore and I wear clothes that I love, and exist in an environment that I find fulfilling.

For me, learning to love myself has made me realise I always want to always feel my best, and I try be the best version of myself, each and every day. I eat amazingly well, I exercise and I get plenty of sleep. I don’t drink alcohol or caffeine, and in doing so I can listen to my body and what it needs. I’m still learning how to rest but I am getting better at it.

I also am happy and unrepentant that my journey of evolution is etched all over the internet. I am still happy to share and pose for silly photos as I see fit, but the motivation is different for me now and I feel that.

The growth I have experienced in the past 5 years has been nothing short of revolutionary for me. I feel and view myself as more beautiful and become more confident with every day that passes. Long may that evolution continue. My make up is becoming increasingly minimal, my hair is becoming increasingly natural (as fun as all the hairstyles can be) and I am learning I don’t always need filters for the pictures I choose to share.

So the next time you see a selfie, perhaps pause and consider what the motivation might be. Let’s try not to pour scorn on people who share pictures of their beautiful faces (regardless of their facial expressions!) but instead try to view them without judgement. Whatever their reason might be for doing so, let’s not condemn them for the place in their journey that they are on, whatever that journey might be. Instead; let’s show them a little love and kindness, and in doing so, hopefully learn to do the same for ourselves.

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