The Social Importance of The Selfie (and The Agent’s Selfie Catalog)

In addition to the Summer Solstice – the longest day of the year and my official start of summer, today is recognized by us digital denizens as National Selfie Day. And I felt that the day provided an opening for useful commentary on human psychology and sociology.

Remember not too long ago when just the word ‘selfie’ conjured up a bevy of negative images in our heads? We associated the selfie with vapidness, vanity, and egocentric narcissism.

However, while that stigma has persisted to an extent, I feel people are slowly understanding the importance of the selfie in a modern society. The simple act of taking a photo of yourself says so much about you and your life.

For a start, it’s a proclamation of pride in your achievements – no matter how small. By going out into the world and snapping a photo of you at the beach or in the crowd at a concert, you are proclaiming to the world, “I was there. I saw the world HAPPEN in front of me and contributed to it.” A brief look at history will show the need to document our actions. Selfies are just a new evolution of this process that replaces long-winded words with an image that speaks thousands at a glance.

What’s more, it’s a statement of self-love – a form of love that seems in sadly short supply these days. I’m part of a body positivity group on Facebook; body positivity being a big deal to someone like me who is about to begin a gender transition. I can’t tell you how helpful it is to receive loving encouragement from friends, family, and kind strangers when coming to terms with my appearance. And judging from the response of others, I sense I’m not alone in that feeling.

So, make it a point today to go out, put on the best you that you have, and proclaim your existence to the world. Show – don’t tell – that you are here and that you matter.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a proper National Selfie Day article if I didn’t celebrate along with you. So, for those that don’t or can’t follow my actions on Twitter here’s a collection of my recent selfies. I wish you all a lovely day celebrating your beautiful selves.

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The Agent on Diets and Calorie Counting (or “A Case For Body Positivity”)

It’s not a good sign when you identify with the people in photos of a study on starvation.
Source: BBC News

I’ve made it no secret that I am deeply in favor of the notion body positivity. I believe that a person has the right to be happy in the flesh they’re in without feeling like they have to remold themselves to appease others. And if they DO remold themselves, it should be of their own volition – because they want to see themselves become their own ideal; not the ideal of others.

Unfortunately, there’s always been one aspect of body positivity that I’ve always failed at and struggled with – namely, applying it to myself.

You know the old saying by now; “You are your own worst critic.” And quite frankly, I’ve always been guilty of harshly judging myself; sometimes to the point of self-hate. I could talk at length about the various flaws I see in my personality, but this is about hating my body and I have plenty to talk about in that regard alone.

I hate how flat my butt looks in a mirror. I think that my pudgy, Scottish chin is disgusting. Seeing the thick, masculine carpet of hair on my arms and chest makes me feel unclean. I’ve always felt physically weak and pathetic compared to other people; especially when compared to my father – a former U.S. Army Sergeant and body building enthusiast with access to training and conditioning I could never hope to get and I doubt I could even live through.

So, last week, I lost that positivity and self-love. I caved in and started a strict calorie counting regiment.

I didn’t even make through Sunday before I remembered why I needed that positivity.

This diet was VERY tight. I was barely eating over 2,000 calories a day and burning more than TWICE that much through my day job and regular exercise which consists of a daily 3-mile (just under 5-kilometer) power walk through a heavily forested park. I knew that this was a stupid idea, but I stuck with it because I hated myself so much that I was going to see myself change or destroy myself in the process.

Combine this forced malnutrition with a sudden heat wave in the area, stress from work, a lack of a consistent sleep schedule and guilt at taking my frustrations at ALL OF THIS out on others, and it’s no surprise that my moment of realization at what I was doing to myself came to me in the form of a bout of sleep paralysis and vivid hallucinations involving nauseating fractal patterns, faces contorted in agony and (inexplicably) a leopard-faced man that I’m still trying to figure out whether he was supposed to be the demon Flauros or King from Tekken.

The most absurd thing about all of this though is that I should have known better. This is a similar scenario to what I went through back in middle school when I would skip lunch because of people taunting me. It left me pale, sickly, thinly drawn and so weak that I couldn’t even leave the house some days. I had forgotten that my self-hate had nearly killed me over 20 years ago and I almost let it try to do me in again.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that, in terms of health improvement goals, you really need to pay attention to your body instead of the criticisms of yourself and others. The numbers that your Fitbit churns out might give you some insight as to the whys and hows, but they can’t tell you what you ACTUALLY need. Push your body to new levels, but not to the point of self-destruction. Know your limits and steadily condition yourself over time.

Remember, it’s YOU and no one else that needs to want the change and change requires time. Clarity, patience, and effort; those are the keys to self-improvement and self-love.

Protein Princesses: 3 Awesome Muscle Women In Fiction

Now, I know that a lot of you are expecting some kind of reflection on the election. But, I’m not doing that. I make it a point in politics to not complain about people regardless of what I personally think of them as I feel the REAL problem is in the mechanics of government. And since I’ve already made my point on that front, I’m not going to repeat myself (Side note: I did actually break my own rule and vote this year in a vain attempt to demonstrate the problems with the system so I have every right to complain).

Besides, I promised happier topics last week and I intend on delivering. So, let’s talk body positivity.

As some of you may have known/guessed by now, I’m pretty big on the idea that your size, shape, color, etc. doesn’t define you as a person. As a result, I get a lot of stories about men and women taking pride in their various forms.

But you know what story I almost never see? Women proud to be built like battleships.

There’s almost no talk about body image pride among muscular, athletic women. And that saddens me because I can think of tons of buff ladies that I admire. Ladies like…

Pvt. Jenette Vasquez

There’s something beautifully satisfying about the image of a comparatively small person with an over-sized gun…
Source: opensketchbook.tumblr.com

Aliens was the first time in my life that I was given the idea that a woman could be just as much (or more) of an ass-kicking titan of awesome as any man. But, in an odd twist, it wasn’t Ellen Ripley that I gravitated to. That honor went to Private Vasquez.

Ripley may have been the hero in the end, but I always felt like she was cowed by the machismo of the Marines. Not so with Vasquez; She took it all in stride and constantly proved that she could dish out whatever others gave her – as evidenced by her most famous retort.

Sure, she errs on the side of the butch stereotype, but she makes it clear that it’s her choice to be who she is and she owns it every step of the way.

Jennifer Walters; The She-Hulk

These muscles were forged in justice. Source: TV Tropes

These muscles were forged in justice.
Source: TV Tropes

An obvious choice, I’ll admit. But you don’t get as big (no pun intended) as She-Hulk without good reason.

See, Jen isn’t just a pretty face and/or mounds of muscle – she’s also quite brilliant. Remember, when she’s not running with The Avengers or subbing for The Thing on The Fantastic Four, she serves justice the old fashioned way as an expert defense attorney.

Basically, she will always be loved as long as she remains the proof that you can have brains, beauty, and brawn in one glorious green package.

Bismuth

There's nothing like the feeling of a satisfied customer. Source: Steven Univerce Wiki

There’s nothing like the feeling of a satisfied customer.
Source: Steven Universe Wiki

Have I mentioned my Steven Universe obsession yet? I feel like I may have brought it up at some point.

Firstly, to all of the Jasper fans out there, yes; technically the Big Buff Cheeto Puff qualifies for this list with her 80’s glamazon image. but I’m not counting her because, as a character, she’s not very sympathetic to me and has rejected every chance for redemption. Remember, this list is about RESPECTABLE muscle women.

Bismuth, on the other head, is a great example of a sympathetic antagonist. She’s not truly vicious and obsessed with strength and control like Jasper, she’s simply misguided in her attempts to protect the ones she loves. Once you get past that, you can see that the biggest muscle on her is her own heart.

Add to that that she’s a steel worker and a blacksmith – labor that is traditionally considered to be “men’s work” – and she’s a great role model that teaches us to, in her words, “… choose to do whatever [you want].”

We’ve only seen her a handful of times so far, but I look forward to doing BISMUTH with her again in future episodes.