The Selfie Project- Part 1

For one year I took a photo of myself once per day.  I only missed 3 days.

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As a Photographer I ask people to stand in front of my lens and for brief moments show themselves as natural as possible in order to “get the best shot.”  Many times as these people are getting ready to pose for the camera I hear about their insecurities, physical insecurities.  It is my job to make them comfortable.

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That last sentence is why I did the photo a day project.  If I am to make people comfortable with their insecurities I had to become comfortable with mine.   I needed to see myself beyond my thoughts about my physical imperfections.  I have always disliked seeing myself in photos.

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I actually had larger plans with these photos.  I wanted to be super creative and do fun shots but after the first few I quickly realized that me in raw, authentic form is what was needed to make this work.  I did my best to tell a story from my day and not all the days were exciting or funny.  In fact most days were completely uneventful, some tough, some quite fun.

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In the beginning it was easy.  Smile, take photo, add the date, the story or blurb and post to Facebook.  As the weeks passed it became harder because I began to do the things I had sometimes read about.  Instead of taking one photo then posting, I began to take multiple.  I tried to find the best angle, hide the bags under my eyes maybe limit my double chin.  I would waiver back and forth and some days I would only take the single shot.

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Side note:  Before I began this project I was perfectly happy with my appearance, my smile and who I was.

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It was when I began taking multiple photos before posting the perfect shot that I began picking apart my appearance.  I smiled everyday in each shot except I think 2.  Those 2 were days I was exhausted, too exhausted to even smile.  It doesn’t mean I wasn’t happy those days, just tired. 

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What did I not like ?  My sometimes lazy eye, the bags under my eyes, my scar under my left eye, the cyst I have under my jaw or how exhausted I looked somedays. I hated when I could see how dry my skin was on certain days or the scars I have from small facial lacerations.  I hated that no one would really see what was going on behind my eyes, I hated even more that I did not have the courage to talk about it.   I started to not be comfortable with how I looked.  This is not acceptable.  We are all imperfect and yet we compare ourselves to what we think may be perfection.

 

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The smiles.  Oh the smiles.  The good and the tough days I still smiled in the photos.  Why ?  That is a simple answer.  Everyday, no matter the joys, challenges or feelings of loneliness, I had a reason to smile.  The reasons differed but each day I could smile.  The biggest reason to smile is that I was given each new day whether I deserved it or not.  I was able to smile because each day I was trying to be better a better person than the day before.  Some days I succeeded, some I failed. But I smiled.

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So what did I learn?  So, so much my friends.  Good, Bad and Ugly.  I could probably write a small novel about my lessons and leanings.

 

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I learned just how much one person can really beat themselves up for thier own perceived flaws and how outwardly we can show people how much we like ourselves, our appearance and our lives but inside we question those same things.

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I learned just how easy it is to manipulate our social media presence. 

Through photos, stories and daily posts that our friends see and read we can make our lives seem so damn amazing, meanwhile, the reality is that many of us are lost and our lives are not as amazing as they appear. 

Why would we show our real and Facebook friends anything other than perfection online ?   There were only a few who were able to notice my less authentic days through my photos.

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I learned that it is ok to be authentic. Yes at times I was criticized but who cares, I was me trying to be me.

 

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Authenticity. 

I did my best not to allow myself to create a perfect presence in these photos but I also bet very few people would really know the difference between my authentic smile and the one I forced on the harder days.  With each story that accompanied the photo I shared what I was doing, where I was ( sometimes) and a few of who I was with.  I was as authentic as I could be.

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The Likes. 

After taking time to review each photo before writing this it was clear to see it was almost the same people liking my photos each time.  I found at times I loved getting a lot of likes, it was rush and I actually felt maybe this wasn’t such a bad project.  There is a whole other piece to the likes that I will share in another post.

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Unexpected Impacts. 

Beyond the obvious likes and comments that regularly happened something else pretty awesome happened.  Something that I was unaware of until the photos stopped.  There were people who never liked a single photo, who didn’t comment once but made me aware of how much they appreciated and enjoyed seeing my photos daily.  One person going as far to say that seeing me smile each day helped them get through some of their harder days.  There is more to that story and I will be sharing in another post.  Whether you know it or not, people are watching even when you think no one is.  You can impact someone by just being you.

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People will mock you. 

People will write unpleasant messages, people will block and remove you from their online presence. People will even post almost daily, in a mocking way and not explain in a clear manner why it was important for them to take that 20 seconds to post under your photo.  They didn’t seem to see how it was disrespectful and wrong Even with the mocking posts I still saw true friends who stuck up for me.  Good from the bad right ?

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This project challenged me, made me happy and at times made me dislike myself but in the end I own every part of it and what it took to actually complete it.  It taught me that I need to keep doing odd stuff that people might find odd or intriguing because it gets me away from my comfort zone. 

In the end I have to say this.  I can’t promise I will never look at a photo of myself and be slightly insecure but I can promise that I will see beauty in my smile and what it can do, if even for a moment in mine or someone else’s life.

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Dear Universe. The Love Edition.

 

Universe, I am tired of the Friend Zone and being stuck there.

So. Damn. Sick. Of. it. IMG_2913   So, here it goes, are you ready ? 

Help Me Please.

4 and a half years single.  Yes, that’s correct.  That is the amount of time since I last seriously dated someone.  My last actual relationship definitely de railed me for far too long because I let it.  I am beyond that and have been for a while now.

For the first couple years after it ended I struggled with my own lack of confidence in myself and wondering if I could actually find someone who just wouldn’t give up when life went sideways?

The last couple years it was about my own healing my heart after my heart attack both physically and emotionally.  I am always healing and progressing from that.

I am as ready now as I feel I can be.  Waiting for the “right” moment may mean one waits forever. There is never the right time, nor the right moment so if I keep waiting until “I’m ready” then I may never be ready.  There is no perfect moment my friends.

I want love as much as anyone.  It is the one area of my life that I am really starting to notice the void.   I am actually starting to feel what lonely is.

You see, Universe.  Today I come to you with my Love life.  I am ready.

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You see Universe, I have tried dating and have not succeeded much at all. In some cases it was not the fault of the women with I spent time with.  Dating today is far different than the past. I struggle to adapt.

Universe, If I am to be honest, I have not really cared about dating or finding a girlfriend for a very long time.  That, has changed.

You see Universe, I get shy or as you know, I have trouble showing how I feel even though I do mean what I say. The struggle here is my worst enemy.

You see Universe, I don’t make my “move”, rather I say I am being patient or I make up an excuse for my lack of taking that chance.  I get confused easily by the signs I may or may not be getting from the fairer sex.

You see Universe, the most common question I get after a date is:

“Did you kiss her ?” My answer is always no.  This needs to change.

You see Universe, just once please give me the courage to kiss the girl and stop making excuses as to why it didn’t happen.

You see Universe, I ask you to prepare whomever may be someone special to me to be able to handle me.  I am not easy to love, at least in my mind.

You see Universe, I have not been confident with women or in myself since 2011.  I am now confident in myself but struggle with becoming more than friends.

You see Universe, I ask you to prepare whomever may be someone special to me to be able to handle me.  I am not easy to love, at least in my mind.


ME:

Universe, I need to you open my heart, help me to be open to love.

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Universe, please remove the fear inside.

Universe, help me to not want to run away just when I start to become close with someone.

Universe, I want to be comfortable enough to be myself around her and not who I think I have to be to capture her attention.  I am awesome in my own unique way and worth it.

Universe, help me to own my past, to be free to know that anyone who is not ok with my past health issues is not someone who I need to spend time on.

Universe, help me to not be scared to talk about it. A woman must know for it is only fair to her even if I get hurt in the end and she walks away.  I do not want to waste any woman’s time.

Universe, help me to never not be me because that is I need to love in order for someone to really love me.

Universe, help me to really realize I deserve to be loved, that I someone will see beyond me being just a friend and the nice guy.

Universe, allow me to be free to risk my heart and not be afraid to have it broken again.  In love, I have to accept that risk is always there but the upside to that risk is that there could be a lifetime love awaiting me.

Universe, help me to adapt to this new world of dating.

Universe, I am a traditional man, one who stills believes in romance and  little things.  This is how I was raised.  Help me to never lose sight of that because at times, I have in the past, thought that stuff didn’t matter anymore.

Universe, In the last 2 years I have really met “Me” and I like me, a lot.  I want someone to see that in it’s true Genuine form.

Universe, I am a fun, playful, silly, romantic, serious when I need to be and a very hopeful man.  A man who is in it for real, for the long haul.  I understand this may take some emotional endurance and time.

Universe, I know love is not all puppy dogs and rainbows, I know it takes work.  Always remind me of this. Always.

Universe, allow me to be accepting of her and all that she comes with as no one is perfect and we all have “something” or some baggage..  Help me to fall in love with her imperfections, quirks, dreams and  not just the things that may be perfect, charming, sweet, fun, endearing or great about her.  She is more than the perceived perfections.

Universe help me to not give up when a relationship challenge arises for that is when things really matter.

Universe, help me to learn to free up my time to make time for her.  Help me to want to be less busy and stop avoiding what I consider the emptiness of alone time, for I know, that is when I feel the most lonely.  I don’t want to be busy but I also don’t want to feel lonely anymore.

Universe, as a part of hoping to find someone special please help me keep the drive in my own passions for passion in one thing can lead to passion beyond.

Universe, most of all, open my heart to the possibilities that surround me and give me the emotional endurance to know it may take many dates with many women to find my perfectly, imperfect woman.

HER:

Universe, when it comes to the her, I ask for a little but ultimately just want someone who, when with her, we compliment, encourage, grow, love and challenge each other.  A woman who just keeps being herself.

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Universe I hope she is perfectly imperfect, independant,  confident and her own woman.

Universe, I want to her to have patience, especially because she will need that quality to date me.

Universe, I want her to be able to laugh at herself and be ok with laughing at me because, I am a goof and very clumsy.

Universe, I want her to be active in any manner that is enjoyable for her.  I am active and hope we can support each other in this area.

Universe, I want her to have her own interests as well as some we can share together and grow with.  I don’t just want her to like what I like because she likes me and vice versa.

Universe, open her heart to adventure, quiet nights in, cuddling, inside jokes.

Universe, I want her to be comfortable enough to be herself with me and not who she thinks she needs to be to capture my attention.

Universe I want to her know love and relationships take work and that she won’t give up when life challenges or upsets us.  I really need someone who won’t just walk away when things aren’t perfect or romantic comedy like.

Universe, you know I am done with the previous statement except to say I need someone who can handle the good and the tough.

In Conclusion:

Universe, I believe in love, I believe in you and I believe “my girl” is out there.  Believe in me.

Universe, should it be that I am not to meet someone and be a single man, that is something in which I will understand and always be happy with my life.

Please guide me in the direction for Love in whatever form that may be for the life I am to have.

 

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Dear Universe, Thank You.

 

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Dear Universe,

 Thank you.  On  April 23, 2014 I took a chance and asked you to help me.  I allowed myself to be vulnerable and put something publicly out into the world.

As you know Universe, I was struggling in the area of employment.  I had a 3 month goal in my head.

As you know Universe, you had other plans.  You made me wait, be patient, you had me make a few errors and re asses my worth and what I thought I should be doing vs what I should be open to.

As you know Universe, it took 10 months and a few adventures along the way, even re visiting an old “stomping ground” in July.  Little did I know that would be the start of my turning point.  You knew.

Thank you Universe for being patient with me. 

Thank you Universe for showing me things about myself that helped me regain some confidence.  Confidence in my worth as an employable asset.  As a human being.

Thank you Universe for allowing me to try a few jobs that got my thought process going.  Jobs that didn’t work because I felt constrained.

Thank you Universe for giving me some free time to rest and re charge.  I needed it and I fought it but you made it happen.

Thank you Universe for showing me that asking for help and seeking guidance is absolutely ok and not something to be ashamed of.

Thank you Universe for showing me that the value of my friendships and my ability to stay connected on a human level helping others is karma which can be returned by the right people.

Thank you Universe for testing, challenging and kicking my butt in gear.  I like challenges and you knew that.

Thank you Universe for giving me the strength and ability to realize I can be myself and sell myself in an interview. To just be Mark.

Thank you Universe for making me open to an opportunity that has so far been amazing.

Thank you Universe for presenting me with a job, a place where I finally feel like I fit in and can be utilized through growth and learning that I am finally open to.

Thank you Universe mostly for helping me to see me and putting me on a journey that has just begun. 

Most of all Universe for making me accountable,  thank you for having Faith in me when I was full of self doubt.

In a world where we get beaten down, lose confidence in ourselves, we fail to take a shot when we need it most.  It is scary and you can be judged.  Do it anyway.  The only person you are battling is you.  You are all that matters.  In the end succeed or fail, you gave it a shot.  Don’t give up.  Thank yourself and the Universe when you see the direction in which you may have been blind to before.

 I took it, I made it public.  I made myself accountable to what I asked.  It wasn’t easy but I am here, I am thankful and I have a job I am finally happy with again. 

Thank you Universe for opportunity.

Thank you Universe, I put it out there and you showed me the way.

Sincerely,

Mark.

 

 

 

 

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