Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Feeling Myself (and not Feeling Myself)

Really, really feeling myself when I wear at least one half of this ASOS brocade suit I bought this month. 

I'm grateful to Nicki Minaj, Beyonce, and Kim Kardashian for bringing some new vocabulary into 2015 which really hits the nail on the head when it comes to celebrating self-love. I'm thinking "I was feeling my look! Can I live?" and Feeling Myself. I like the multitude of meanings covered by Feeling Myself. To me, there are three major strands: of feeling your baseline, familiar self, and inhabiting your body, rather than tagging along behind it, which is how it can feel on self-conscious days. Then there's the simple notion of feeling your look in the moment, or of touching yourself physically and revelling in it. 

Feeling Myself is a more accessible shoulder-shrug version of "I woke up like this." Not everybody feels smoking hot when they wake up. When I'm Feeling Myself, it's usually because I've washed my hair, and I'm wearing my favourite orange lipstick, or because I've just had a great catch-up with a friend. Or because I'm dancing. It's not because it's how I woke up. Those things aside, having a neat go-to phrase which simultaneously sums up unabashed personal confidence and references a cultural zeitgeist of women publicly hair-flicking together gives a name to the power in thinking yes and so uploading a photograph of yourself on Instagram. I love that the act of taking a selfie has reached the point of being about self-love, rather than mistaken for pure vanity. A fear of vanity can do a lot to stop women celebrating themselves, and a selfie symbolises that the person taking a photograph of them-self and uploading it, has bulldozed through some of those associative barriers.

I've been thinking a lot this week about Feeling Myself, and not feeling myself. As somebody who has blogged for almost 10 years, from the age of 15, I've thought about how Feeling Myself (and all that entails, selfies included) changes as you get older. Without realising, I rarely post selfies, or photographs of what I'm wearing on this blog anymore. That's because during this blog's lifetime I have transitioned from teenager to 'real life adult person living in a world of potential employers' and unconsciously pandered to a sense that I should temper posting photographs of myself. A sort of 'you're not still doing that, are you?' niggle. Last year at work a marketing manager from one of Manchester's large arts organisations said in a meeting that he'd found my blog and enjoyed reading it, that he felt he'd visited my flat after seeing photos I'd uploaded of myself in my sitting room. On the one hand, I rated his honestly for saying that, rather than feeling obligated to this strange social code in which none of us are sure the extent to which we're allowed to reveal that we follow each other online. On the other hand, I was at work, and unsure if it undermined my professionalism. It made me feel sort of vain and unserious to have that brought into a work context. That's the reality when you share things about yourself in such a public forum, as so many of us do. There were moments like that, and there's the matter of being in a relationship in which there's a large age-gap, and of seeing selfies as an indicator of being the younger, less serious of the pair. Selfies as being something 'young people do', and that his friends, or colleagues might find online and not really understand. The thing I realise is that I am utterly serious. Serious about Feeling Myself, and as many women as possible Feeling Themselves. And I miss posting photographs of myself and what I'm wearing on my blog. I think there's a tendency to view Feeling Myself as a baseline state that grows stronger as you get older, and doesn't need to be pronounced in public lest that be mistaken as a defensive act of bolstering. But I think it's a mistake to view selfies and public acts of self-love with that mindset. 

Feeling oneself isn't a constant, unchanging state of mind. It's really fragile, and it's easy to distinctly not feel yourself. This month I've had emotionally wobbly moments, and have really not been feeling myself. So much of the time that comes down to treating yourself with a merciless judgement you wouldn't wish for anyone you care about to be under. So it seems sort of incredible to be able to veer so far from one direction from the other. Taking stock, and having moments of striding down the street, mentally dusting off your shoulders like I've got this, has gone some way to alleviating those feelings for me. It has also affirmed the importance of 'Feeling Myself' as being an act that takes place online, as well as in public IRL. It feels even more important to keep posting selfies beyond teenage years if it helps to undo a concern that these photographs symbolise a frivolity rather than the hefty whack of a flagpole going into an earthy mound, and a declaration of Feeling Myself unfurling in the breeze as bugles play into the intro of Run The World (Girls). On a Monday morning. 

I went through my laptop's Photo Booth archive this week. Taken over the last four years, it charts changes in hair colour, bedrooms across different cities and countries and varying levels of comfort with posing. It was affirming to look at these photos and think you looked great. I don't do it so much now, but I used to have a tendency to look at photos of myself from two years ago and idealise my weight, my skin and my hair at that time, and to think that was the ideal. I realised I was constantly applying this logic to my two-years-ago self, and it followed that I should be celebrating my current self now. Yes, why not just start now. Let yourself feel good, and make a head-start on when I'm doing it two years down the line anyway. 

Final thanks to Christina Aguilera and Lil Kim, Nicki Minaj, and Beyonce for providing an intensely motivational soundtrack while I wrote this. 


Unknown said...

I love this. Thank you.

Unknown said...

I love this. Thank you.

Chuck said...

I woke up like dis - An entire day spent at home, sans bra, having inappropriately long baths, reading great books, watching whatever I want on Netflix and wilfully ignoring all external demands. Getting down with me.

Feelin myself - Nailing my make up, wearing clothes I legit love, admiring my capable, lumpy body, marching forth and BURNING THE WORLD TO THE GROUND.

Megsy said...

Oh I loved this - really articulates those days / moments where things fall together and you feel not only OK, but good. As yourself.

I love your description of selfless too. It's always how I feel when I post them, but there's so much drama and negativity attached to that idea of them, that I worry I'm being indulgent or narcissistic when really I just want to say, 'this is who I am today and it feels pretty good'. I have a thing about always smiling in pictures, I wonder if that goes towards this point…