How a Selfie Becomes a Measure of Happiness


One thing I love about the turn of each year is reviewing my online “year in review” montages. I really enjoy remembering the delicious veggie lasagna that I cooked, the hilarious candid of my sister, and all the beautiful hikes Leben and I went on. However, I realized this year that I basically never take a selfie.

I post six pictures of the back of my head before I share a single one of my face.

(That may be because I’m an obsessive braider… but still!)

Watching my lame “Selfies of 2016” video (which lasted about 10 seconds… including six seconds of intro) made me realize that I don’t take nearly as many selfies as the average girl on Instagram. I have friends (both real-life friends and Insta-famous “friends”) who basically post selfies and nothing else. Their entire feed is made up of pictures of their face, cropped in interesting ways or shot from different angles and, of course, with different makeup looks.

Why do I not blend in?

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The Real Power of Makeup

Looking back at the few selfies I did take in the past year, they all have one thing in common: I was dressed up (and made up) for some special occasion. My hair was beautiful from the front as well as the back, and I had plenty of makeup on.

These days, that’s a pretty unique circumstance for me. Over the past year, I’ve basically stopped wearing makeup altogether. I put on a little eyeshadow and mascara once a week, maybe—and I do more than that about once a month. I stopped wearing makeup in my last semester of college, and I haven’t looked back since. I thought I was ok with not wearing any.

But am I?

Many of my selfie captions mention that I’m “feeling beautiful.” Am I not feeling beautiful the rest of the time—when I’m not wearing makeup?

For kicks, I opened my phone and tried to take a selfie. I didn’t like how my eyebrows weren’t defined. I didn’t like how my eyes looked without darker lashes. I couldn’t find a good angle, so I put the phone down, no photograph taken.

Maybe baring my natural face every day really is affecting my opinion of myself.

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We Take Selfies When We’re Happy

There must be some other explanation.

It has to be more than the lack of makeup. If I felt so decidedly not-beautiful without it, I wouldn’t be going barefaced every day. I hang out with friends and even go on dates without makeup—so clearly that’s not the issue.

It’s not that I think people will see me as less beautiful without makeup on.

I think that I only want people to see my face when I’m feeling happy.

When my captions state that I’m “feeling like a princess,” “feeling Irish,” or “feeling beautiful,” what I’m really feeling is happiness. My cup is overflowing in that moment, and I snap a picture. I want you to see me.

I only want you to see that side of me, when I’m happy-go-lucky, perfect Mandi. Because even after years of trying to be authentic and upfront about what I’m really experiencing, that’s who I really, really wish I was.

I wish I was her all the time.

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Perfect Mandi Strikes Again

Who is Perfect Mandi? She’s the girl who spontaneously goes to a poetry slam, wears novelty prints, and models her hairstyles off of inspiring fantasy characters. She’s feisty, energetic, and funny, with a loud voice and a million things to say. She’s a performer and loves talking to strangers. She skips on every sidewalk and smells every flower.

I am Perfect Mandi. But I’m not her all the time.

Perfect Mandi doesn’t binge watch YouTube, eat cereal for dinner, or feel too tired to brush her teeth at night. She doesn’t leave dishes in the sink, and she doesn’t stay home every Friday because she wants to go to bed early. She never gets tired, and she is always doing something new, fun, and productive.

Perfect Mandi is on, 150% of the time—and that’s how I tried to be for most of my life.

I denied that any other part of me existed. I fooled everyone, including myself, into thinking that I was the most energetic and enthusiastic human on planet earth. I didn’t need rest, and I didn’t care that I struggled to relax and slow down.

I was proud of Perfect Mandi. When others wondered if my happiness was “fake,” I felt offended. I beat the other parts of me into silent nonexistence.

These are my only selfies because that’s when I actually feel like who I want to be. That’s who I want you to see.

The rest of the time, I’d rather not fake it—so I just don’t take the selfie. As you can see by my Instagram feed, Perfect Mandi only resurfaces about once every month or two.

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Happy Mandi Underneath It All

I’m confident in saying this, and I’m fairly certain that it’s true: even though Perfect Mandi only gets a selfie every six weeks, that doesn’t mean I’m miserable in between. Not anymore.

These days, I feel a quiet sort of happiness—a contentment that I hadn’t ever experienced before. I’m enjoying my routines, moments outside, and cuddles with Leben. I’m not ecstatically joyful, but I’m not sad either. I’m existing, and for once in a long time, I’m glad to be.

I think that I should start taking more selfies. Not because I want to join my phone-addict peers, but because I want to encourage authenticity in my life. I want to post selfies when I’m not all done up, and when I’m just being the real me. I want my Instagram to reflect my real life—not just the parts of my life that I want to highlight. And, apparently, taking selfies has been proven to make you a happier person. Go figure!

I’ll work on that for a month or so and see what I can come up with. You know I’ll be updating you along the way!

Have you given much thought to your selfie-taking habits? Do you take “too many,” or none at all? I’d love to start a conversation in the comments below.


“When you take a photograph of someone, you take a portrait of their soul.”

Winna Efendi




  1. Reading this inspired me to look back on my camera roll and search for selfies I had taken of just myself. The last selfie I took was the day after I got engaged… it was mostly me being goofy, featuring the new sparkler on my finger. I sent that picture to my mom. The next selfie I found was on the day I graduated from college. I was having a good hair day. I sent that picture to my mom. Neither of these photos were posted on social media. I guess I do not take pictures of just myself very often. I tried to think of a reason why and mostly came up with that I would rather share the moment with someone and have them in the photo with me than take a picture alone. Keep up the great writing and self-reflection!

  2. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who doesn’t take selfies!!! Thanks for sharing your story, Bethy. <3

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