A Study of the Self

Published June 7, 2013 by Fat Heffalump

Well hello!  Welcome to the plethora of new readers I have gained recently.  It’s so good to see that there are more people out there ready to think outside the dominant paradigm when it comes to bodies and weight.

Before I go on any further, a quick zine update – it’s shaping up nicely.  I’m just waiting on a few artworks to come through, and then I can finish work on the layout, with production following after that.  I shall continue to keep you all posted.

So today I want to talk about selfies.  For those of you who don’t know, the word “selfie” is colloquialism for a self portrait, mostly these days taken by smart phone and uploaded to social media, like Facebook or Instagram.  With cameras ubiquitous in phones, especially now that many have front facing cameras, and most of us having connectivity to the internet, selfies have become something of an everyday occurrence.  I’m sure you’ve all seen one.  If you haven’t, here’s one I took yesterday:


Freshly pink haired.

Selfies get a lot of criticism.  They’re considered vain, posing or childish.  They’re ridiculed, especially selfies of women, and in particular selfies of fat women.  I know mine get stolen off my various social media sites and posted other places for ridicule, because “OMG look at the gross fatty, she thinks she’s people!!1!”

But that’s not going to stop me doing it.  People have been taking self portraits of themselves for centuries – be they photographic or other media.  Do I need to list some names of some famous self portrait creators?  Frida Kahlo.  Van Gogh.  Rembrandt.  Da Vinci.  Warhol.  Basquiat. Vivian Maier.  The list goes on and on, and right back through history.  Have a bit of a Google around and you’ll see everything from the brutally critical to the utterly whimsical.


Self portaits and self examination are important and powerful.  There are several reasons why I take and share selfies.

  1. Until a few years ago, I never allowed anyone to take photos of me.  I was so used to being shamed by people for my weight that I believed I wasn’t worthy enough to be seen in photographs.  Now I’m proud of who I am and am happy to participate in photographs (with my consent – taking photographs of me or anyone else without our consent is douchey, don’t do it) and part of that is from playing around with taking photos of myself.
  2. I don’t see people who look like me in the media.  Fat women are not represented in the media, unless it’s to vilify us.  We’re not represented anywhere in a positive light unless we represent ourselves.  As Junot Diaz wrote “If you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.”*  If posting my selfie on my Tumblr or Twitter or blog gives someone like me some representation, as a fat woman, then it’s worth it.
  3. Looking at yourself a lot from different angles and in different lights and colours helps you remove self criticism.  If you never see yourself, you never see yourself as “normal” (because as my dear friend Ian always says, “Normal is what you are.”), so seeing yourself helps you get used to yourself.  I’ve found I’m far less self critical since I’ve been taking selfies than I was before.
  4. My friends near and far like to see me.  They like to see what my new glasses look like, or what colour I’ve dyed my hair, or just to see my face.  Just like I love to see them.
  5. It’s valuable to have a record of yourself through your life.  It’s healthy to look at how you change and grow through your life.  I look back at old selfies and I realise how far I have progressed in life, both externally, in things like my job and where I live and things like that, but also internally, how I feel about myself and how I present myself to the world.  Selfies tell my story.
  6. Because I discovered, on regular self examination in my self portraits, I’m kinda fucking awesome.

Self portraits, be they taken seriously with skill and care, or a spur of the moment capture of yourself for fun, are part of being human.  Since we first worked out how to scratch on a rock face or in the dirt while looking at our reflections in water, we humans have been taking self portraits to tell our stories, to examine ourselves, to share with our loved ones, or just for fun.  It’s not vanity to want to see yourself represented, either just for yourself, for those around you or in the world at large.  It’s part of marking that you are a member of humankind.

Have fun.  Pose.  Share them with your friends or share them with the world.  Get used to seeing yourself.  Find your own awesomeness.

*Thanks Lonie for posting this one on FB this morning and reminding me of an awesome quote.


52 comments on “A Study of the Self

  • I think the pink tone flatters your colouring ( brown eyes) than the blue. You are kinda f***ing awesome. m

    • Madlizards, I actually don’t give a fuck about flattering. I don’t need you or anyone else to tell me what is flattering, it’s NEVER a compliment. If you want to compliment someone, just say “I like your pink hair”. No need to add the douchey “it flatters your colouring better than the blue”.

      Fuck flattering! I’m not here to flatter myself to please other people’s fucking eyeballs. I don’t colour my hair to please other people, I do it because I like it, be it blue, pink or anything else. If you want to cast judgement on my choices, do it somewhere else, because it’s shitty behaviour.

  • I love your hair! I always envy people who have the patience (and freedom) to dye their hair wonderful colours. As much as I’d love pink hair I just can’t see myself having the patience to bleach AND colour, especially since my usual hair routine is “is it clean? Excellent, it can do what it wants”.

    Also, I love the stripy shirt you’ve got on in that photo.

    • Riley, I am very lazy. I put the bleach on, I wander about the house for an hour, I wash the bleach off. I put the colour on, I wander about the house for three hours, I wash the colour off. That’s it!

      And the stripey top was a gift from a lovely woman who is a fan of my blog/tumblr!

  • Great post Kath! I have noticed that since I started my fatshion blog (thereby requiring me to take regular photos of myself) I have moved from tolerating them, to loving them. I like how I look now. Amazing what a difference in thinking selfies can make. 🙂

  • I agree wholeheartedly Kath – I have learned to like my looks a lot more since I’ve started taking selfies. I have so few photos of me from my twenties to my thirties and it’s such a shame. But no more, I am going to document the shit out of my forties!

  • Awesome post! I should take some new “selfies” – I haven’t taken any new pics of myself in a couple years. Thank you so much for the reminder that we have every right to show pictures of ourselves to the world -that we have nothing to be ashamed of. You really hit the nail on the head, so many of us have internalized the BS that fatties have to hide away. Your reminder that we aren’t only worthy of being seen, but that it is important for fat people to be visible in ways other than the sickening ways we are portrayed by the media.

    By the way, I Love your button!
    And “look at the gross fatty, she thinks she’s people!!1!” made me laugh so hard!

    Really great post!

  • What a great post! I’ve always tried to be the photographer so I don’t have to actually be in any of the pictures. But when I was in a near-fatal car accident a couple of years ago, it dawned on me that my kids had NO pictures of their mother. So I’m trying to be more comfortable with pics, but it’s hard. Thanks for the push to try a little harder.

    • That’s the thing A.J. – if we don’t have photos taken of ourselves (or take them ourselves), where’s the record of our lives? Where’s our representation?

  • Lack of a camera combined with lack of photographic talent means I won’t be making selfies (a word spellcheck keeps wanting – ironically enough – to change to ‘selfless’ BTW), but I love yours.

    Also, the kitty in the second one? Looks just like my special little furball, Jake.

  • I love seeing other people’s selfies. I think seeing how someone smiles or doesn’t smile, poses, wears their hair, dresses, etc. in their selfie is an insight into their personality. It’s a form of self-expression that they are choosing to share with everyone else. And you look amazing! Love the hair. 🙂

  • First, I want your haircolor.

    Second, I am still working up to this. I am notorious for not taking pictures of myself, EVER. I posted a pic shortly after I got my braces off (I was 35 🙂 ) and everyone acted like it was a miracle. My brother,who never calls, made it a point to contact me to ask if I was OK or if my account had gotten hacked. Nobody realized it took me try after try to get that pic just right, hiding most of my double chin and finding a “thin” angle.

    So of course, I haven’t bothered to post or even take anything again. I will add that to my list of things to just get the hell over.

    • sortaginger – it’s Fudge “Raspberry Beret”. I bleach the crap out of my hair and then put the Fudge on and leave it on for about 3 hours to get that intensity.

      Keep practising with those selfies – keep taking them and taking them and taking them even if you don’t post them anywhere. It took me years to gather the courage to post them.

  • Brilliant. I let ten years go by without being photographed – I got upset when people tried. I’d love to have that ten years recorded in photos now.

  • In case you didn’t already know, this world is a better place with you in it. I’m extremely grateful. Thank you.

  • Love your pink hair, seeing your short, colourful hair really helped me get over my internalised crap about how fat people can’t have short hair or draw attention to themselves with bright colours. So selfies have power, plus I love seeing pictures of friends and other bloggers around the world. 🙂

    • Fat people can do whatever we like to our hair, clothes, make-up or any other part of our appearance that we want to present in a certain way. Because it’s our bodies, our hair, ourselves!

  • I’ve been “upping” my self esteem levels these last couple of years because I frankly got tired of hating myself. One part of that has been allowing myself to be photograped and taking pictures of myself when I feel good and think I look fab. I post them on my social networks when I feel like it and my confidence grows by the day. My latest “selfie” (actually taken by my husband because I wanted to capture the whole look) you can see here: https://fbcdn-sphotos-g-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-frc3/971967_10200758838989901_364876640_n.jpg I love it and those who don’t – well screw them!

  • I don’t have the software and all that for uploading pics of myself, but my husband has a pic of me on his phone. 🙂

    • Ahh but you don’t need “software”. You need a camera (or a camera in a phone). Point it towards yourself and take pictures. If you want to share them online, do so. But practice taking pictures of yourself.

  • I need to really take in everything you’ve said here. I don’t take photos of myself, I don’t let others take photos of me, and the idea of posting a photo makes me break out in hives. I’m going to try to change that. Also, I love that button, “Do Epic Shit.”

    • Start with just selfies Madame. Even if nobody sees them, take them. Keep taking them. Work towards posting them on facebook amongst friends. It sounds like something small, but it is EPIC SHIT! You can Do Epic Shit too!

  • I need to try this. I recently had a photo taken of me while I was performing at a show and I was so happy but when I look at it I keep thinking “I look like a goob!” Maybe taking “selfies” could help me learn to let go of that self-judgment.

    • Ok so maybe we look like a goob. But does the world end because we look like a goob Laurel? So what if we look silly – it’s not going to stop the sun rising in the morning. Never forget that!

  • Hah! This post is timed perfectly with my recent selfie-obsession. I’ve hated getting my photography for years, then 2 years ago I worked for a few months in a nursery home and realized I wanted pictures of my young self for when I’m old, wrinkly and hopefully just as cool. But I kept postponing it untill some days ago when I finally figured out how a webcam works, after having computers with cams for about 6 years, haha. It’s so much fun even if the quality is a bit crappy. Seeing my face from the side is something I’ll have to get used to though… but I’ll manage to enjoy it someday, I’m sure.

  • Vedis – you look MAHVELOUS, dahling!!!
    NOOD – true!
    Sleepy – first, an apology: I admit I always thought ‘flattering’ was a compliment, but if it’s just a sneaky way of saying ‘must garner the approval of others’ then yeah – it’s not a compliment. YOU like it, YOU know you look good; that’s all that matters. Second, the glasses, me likey! How were you able to get them to let you do that? That’s a good idea!
    P.S. That kitty pic is CUTE AND FUNNY!

  • Riley, Sortaginger – I’m not totally sure where you guys are located, but here in the U.S., they’ve advertised a product that’s like a (I’m guessing) temporary hair color that comes in a little compact and you use it to paint pretty colors on your hair. (I forget the name of it, I can email it on here when I find out). I noticed it cuz I’d love tado that myself, but I don’t know if I’d have the patience for permanent (or the courage), so this is the next best thing.

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