5 Lessons from a Year of Selfies


I’m a big fan of sweeping statements and grand gestures. I don’t really half-ass anything. (That’s a lie, I half-ass a lot of things…) But what I really mean to say is that I just suck at moderation.

When I begin to realize that I watch too much TV, I can’t just “cut back on TV” I have to give up TV straight for two months, delete my Netflix account, and block any streaming sites on my computer. I’m a big fan of sweeping gestures that do a lot in a little amount of time or effort.

Last year on January 1st, I decided I was going to take a selfie every day. It was around 10AM –  I was still wearing pajamas and had no intention of getting dressed that day – and I’d just spent New Year’s Eve with some girl friends drunk with the delusional promise of 2015. I’d been unemployed for about 8 months, was running a (let’s admit it) SEO cemetery of an internet blog, and wasn’t really sure what was next for me.

“Should I take a selfie every day this year?” I asked Annie, my best friend, while admiring my bed head in the front facing camera of my iPhone.

“Sure, why not?”

And so my selfie Instagram account was born to little fanfare.
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I expected the experience to teach me a lot about my self-confidence, finding personal beauty, accepting myself – all the things that selfie culture is supposed to teach you. But in fact, after a year of taking pictures of my own face, I learned more about what it means to do the same thing daily. How committing to something every day, something even as trivial as uploading a photo to social media, can really get you into a routine and also give you a sense of accomplishment.

So here goes! Check out these five lessons I learned from a #yearofselfies.

1) As the old adage goes, “something, something, something, failure, something, something, stop trying.”

As we probably all know from our own failed diets, abandoned New Year’s resolutions, and forgotten “get my life together” blogs we’ve created, failure is an active decision. No one wants to fail, but lots of people seem to think anything but Perfect Attendance is failure. True failure is quitting after a misstep. It’s an active decision to abandon something you’ve wanted to do, without giving yourself the grace to make a mistake.

It was about two months into my selfie adventure that I had my first cop-out selfie:

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This is clearly a failure on my part. I forgot to take a selfie before heading to bed, and then just sort of said “screw it.” But that didn’t mean I ditched the whole project. Giving yourself room to mess up means you’ll have the opportunity to keep going. Perfect Attendance be damned. Last I checked all they gave you was a sheet of paper for that award anyway.

2) Goals should be achievable – feel free to half-ass every now and then.

Not every selfie was a glamour shot, or even worth posting:

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 9.45.56 AM

And not every picture was an exploration in self-love. Some pictures were born out of “crap, I forgot to take a selfie today, it’s almost 10 o’clock at night, I’m in my pajamas, let me take one while eating a piece of bread.” Sometimes, you just have to cop-out every now and then. It doesn’t lessen the success of your endeavor, but shows your commitment to finishing a project. First drafts are valuable. No one writes the great American novel the first time they sit down to write.

3) Doing something every day is a great way to track your year.

This year, a lot happened. I got a job, I moved to another state, I traveled, and I saw lots of friends:

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 9.50.31 AM

It was a whirlwind adventure of a year. And while not every day was a total high-stakes experience, it was a really awesome way to chronicle my year. Plus, now I have an alibi, should I ever be suspected of a crime in 2015.

4) Your self-worth is not (and should never be) measured by the success (or failure) of your projects.

This is something we all, as adult, should pretty well have under wraps at this point, but it still begs to be written down: not every project you do is going to be a raging success. In my case, that meant my Instagram stats were pretty dismal (not everybody liked every selfie – hell, some people didn’t like any). That number (or that success) should not account for any of your self-worth. My selfie blog currently has a total of 69 followers (I can feel your thirteen year old cousin laughing over your shoulder at that number), but the average amount of likes was around 10-15 per photo (yep, she’s still snickering).

But I didn’t really create the account for likes, or to even get Instagram famous (though, it would have been a nice perk). I wanted to try something new and stick with it, and a few people thought it was a good idea. That, in itself, is a success to me.

5) 365 is a big number, even if it’s only 365 selfies.

Doing something every day of the year does something to you. It makes you
that person. For a year, I was someone who took selfies every day. People would ask if I’d taken my selfie yet that day – if they could be in it. It was an introductory tool my friends used to help me meet new people. “This is Emily – she takes a selfie every day.”

If you want to change something about yourself, the easiest way to do it is one day at a time. Really terrible at making your bed every morning? Just do it for one day before heading into work. Want to have a cleaner apartment or house? Just clean one tiny part of one room every day. Want to make videos every day? Just make one small Instagram video – fifteen seconds.

This year, I wanted to be someone who writes letters. So every day of the year I’m to write a letter to someone I care about. Have I already screwed up and missed days? You betcha. Are the letters long? Nope, they’re probably only 100 words each, if I’m being generous. Have I quit yet? Absolutely not!

If you want to change who you are, skip annual resolutions and massive goals. Just do one new thing today that works toward that goal. And then do it again. And then again. And next thing you know, you’ll be that person. And who knows, maybe someone will even gift you a selfie stick.

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For the curious, the selfie Instagram account has graduated to become a weekly video series. You can check out my continued adventures here.


Have you ever worked on something every single day for a year? What was that experience like?

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