Selfie Exploration

IMG_9656I’m usually the one behind the camera when my family travels, so there are lot of photos of my daughter — and some of my husband — but very few of me.  I’ve gotten better about trying to get at least one photo a year of the three of us so I can use it on my New Year’s card, but this last year, while the kid has been so sick, I haven’t wanted to take many photos.

That’s not entirely true. Maybe I just haven’t wanted to keep many.  The kid is documenting all her medical tests on Instagram, so I’ve taken photos of her — by request — every time she gets a new IV or they attach her to some new machine.  Those aren’t the kind of photos you treasure.

I’ve taken selfies only a handful of times: At the starting gates when I walked Bay to Breakers alone. When the Horror Writers Association did a selfie promotion. Last Christmas Day, when the kid and I went sledding at my parents’ and our cheeks were pink with the cold. More recently, one fine day at China Beach.

IMG_9691Selfies feel awkward to me.  I had modesty trained into me when I was a girl, so I’ve never been able to see past my flaws.  For the most part, I’ve always felt invisible.  I don’t even see myself in mirrors, unless I force myself to focus.

Last month I bought a bundle of work-related books and e-courses, mostly for Charlie Gilkey’s Momentum Planners (which, while not lovely, are absolutely the best. Here’s the link. I’m not affiliated with them; I just find them really useful.)

One of the other things that appealed to me was Vivienne McMaster’s Beloved Beginnings course on taking selfies.  What I was hoping for was a lesson in how to take professional selfies, to record myself working and share my joy in writing.  What I got was a lesson in facing my own self-criticism.

The homework was to take selfies every day for 10 days and post them online.  Each day, Vivienne sent a prompt and some words of wisdom. The best thing she said was to take a bunch of photos and delete the ones you don’t like.

IMG_9653The first assignment was really hard for me: she wanted us to take a selfie with a hand on our hearts.  First off, I’m really sensitive about my hands look.  They are much more wrinkled than my face: too many years of harsh cleaning chemicals and no idea I needed to sunscreen my hands.  Since my thyroid has started acting up, my nails are brittle and break really easily. There’s nothing beautiful about my hands.

And the position was really difficult. I had to balance my phone at arm’s length, look at myself in the mirror view, and take a photo without jiggling anything. It was hard to get my hand and my face in the frame at the same time, especially since I wanted to tip my face upward to minimize my double chin and the hollows under my eyes.  In the end, I just couldn’t make “hand on heart” look natural. It felt too much like pledging allegiance or hugging myself. I looked stiff and uncomfortable.

IMG_9674Vivienne had an interesting take on what a selfie is. She suggested that we use it to connect to the world, recording things we touch, where we stood, how the world reflected us.

In the end, I took some photos that I like.  They don’t show me as beautiful, but they reveal me as I am.  I’m not sure why I hoped that 10 days would be enough to learn to take perfect selfies, but I do feel like I learned to not be so hard on myself.  My kid is sick. I am worn out. Still, there were moments of beauty in my week. I have the photos to prove it.IMG_9708


About Loren Rhoads

I'm the author of 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die and Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel, as well as a space opera trilogy. I'm also co-author of a series about a succubus and her angel. In addition to blogging at, I blog about my morbid life at
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4 Responses to Selfie Exploration

  1. Thanks SO much for sharing this Loren! It means a lot to know how the experience of taking the class was for you and to get to see your photos. Indeed, a lot of folks take my classes hoping to learn to take the perfect selfie (as that’s what we’re taught a selfie ‘should’ be) but I love that you felt like you learned to be less hard on yourself and shake up what being in a photo can be in our life….it really can be these glimpses of our hands writing or our smile at sunset. To me these are actually more powerful and worthy than any selfie we could take that might fit into the ‘perfect’ category. I hope you keep taking them! Taking LOTS! And I hope it helps you continue to be less hard on yourself and more compassionate (and I bet you’ll get lots of photos you can use for your work in the process)!

    Thanks again for sharing this and sending it to me. Mighty grateful!!!

    • Loren Rhoads says:

      Thank you, Vivienne! I think these are lessons I’m going to have to continue learning, which are really the best kind of lessons. Thank you for inspiring me and reassuring me that things will turn out all right.

  2. Indeed you did find some beauty, Loren! I love your new short haircut as it seems to fit your free spirit and makes you seem ready for anything. And I enjoyed your selfies on FB. My arms are too short for selfies! TGIF to you. I hope your daughter is doing better.

    • Loren Rhoads says:

      Thank you, Jo Nell. She’s had a rough week, with an endoscopy on Wednesday, but it proved what I’ve been saying for months: the medicine for her headaches is irritating her stomach. We don’t have a solution yet, but at least I feel vindicated. It’s going to be a quiet weekend, which is probably the best kind.

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