Monday, June 27, 2016

10 Must-Follow Self Love Instagram Accounts

Alright, I'm not gonna lie to you... I'm pretty much over Facebook. It used to be an amazing place to post activities, share photos, and keep in contact with people from high school. Now it's just an overwhelming plethora of opinions, which everyone else thinks they have the right to comment on and fight about. I find myself more frustrated when I log off than socially engaged. Actually, I usually just log off with a lot of anger. Usually paired with an eye-roll or two. 

Instagram, however, I find rather refreshing. It's all pictures, so you really can't get too offensive or controversial. Not that I hated Facebook because it offended me, but because it seemed to offend everyone else and they were just annoyingly vocal about it. I love to look at people's Instagram pictures. I love to see what they did that day, the inspirational quotes that speak to their life, and the icons that inspire them. After I published Love Yourself(ie), I began thoroughly enjoying viewing others' selfies and hearing their "Selfie Story." After the Fingerprint Project, I was enthralled with others' personal touches to the sentimental craft. I love watching my friends experience life through photos, and I love hearing from my readers and being tagged in their stories. 

But more than anything, I enjoy my stomach not churning from unnecessary online political debates. I enjoy being encouraged more than frustrated, and I value the inspiration over the criticism. Everyone seems to think loving people "as they are" would fix all the hatred in the world, but those same people refuse to respect others' beliefs, listen to their opinions, and agree to disagree. The truth is: we're all hypocrites. And the best way to remain in a healthy mindset is to ignore everyone who doesn't have one. I don't know about you, but I'd rather just remove myself from the negativity. 

Personally, I think loving everyone would fix most of the hatred in the world, but it's nearly impossible. The reality of today's society is that everyone is too focused on themselves to give others' a single thought. And as if that's not a problem in itself, the main problem is that people are too concerned with the image they maintain and the reputation they possess rather than actually taking the time to love themselves from the inside out. 

It's funny, isn't it? The more you think about it, everything good and productive and refreshing starts with love. Not merely loving the people in this world, but also loving yourself. Yes, you must accept others. But it's awfully difficult for others to accept you if you don't even know who you are. You have to know what you believe. The thoughts you think, the passions you possess, and the dreams you have are important. What you stand for is a crucial part of who you are, and you must remain confident in it. Confident and humble. Be strong enough to know your worth and form some opinions, but never arrogant enough to force it on someone who doesn't appreciate it. Not everyone will agree with you. Be friends with them anyway. Not everyone will listen to you. Hear them out anyway. Not everyone will respect you. Love them anyway. But if someone is infecting your happiness and destroying your peace, remove them from the prominent space they hold in your life. Don't fight. Don't force. Don't freak. Just walk away. Strength might seem silent, but insecurities are loud. 

Unfortunately, I can't give you a whole new circle of friends who will instantly fill your mind with positive thoughts and encouragement. I can't even give that to myself. We're all involved in activities, careers, and classes where negative people will inevitably be thrown our way. I can't remove those people from your life (or mine, for that matter). But I can give you a new sphere of influence via social media. I have a hard time finding positive people on Facebook, and even sometimes on Twitter. But my Instagram feed is full of them, so I'm sharing my top ten favorite and refreshing Instagram accounts dedicated to promoting self love. 






@effyourbeautystandards
Quite possibly the most well-known self love accounts on Instagram, @effyourbeautystandards was founded by Tess Holliday (formerly Tess Munster), a fabulously feminine plus sized model. Dedicated to self love and body positivity, Tess was determined to remind women everywhere that size was not a definition, and it was certainly not to hold you back from living a life of fierce beauty. She began the #effyourbeautystandards movement on Instagram in 2013, and now has its own private account for features, inspirational stories, and motivational quotes. I don't agree with everything in Tess' life (as in, I'm unlikely to use the language she uses or post the type of pictures she posts), but I don't have to. What she stands for is undoubtedly important, and every girl has the right (and the job) to love herself. If I've reposted something on Instagram, there's a 90% chance it came from this account. 

@nofiltermovement 
@nofiltermovement was started by Lacey from Letters of Lace the moment she noticed that life has become defined by how it looks rather than how it is truly lived. No one is genuine, authentic, or real anymore. "Where does fake stop and freedom start?" Lacey writes on her #nofiltermovement page. She blatantly states that no one is perfect, including herself, and all women deserve to see things as they are rather than the filtered social media photo that has been edited and altered to perfection. It doesn't just create a false identity on social media. It creates a false and unattainable standard for young women to attain. 

@ichoosereal 
The @ichoosereal account operates on the truth that over 70% of young women suffer from low self esteem and are engaging in self harming behaviors because they honestly believe that they are not enough for this world. That belief is an absolute lie, and they don't want any more people suffering from the toxic effects of our altered, edited, filtered, and photoshopped society. I find so much refreshing support from this account, because it fights body shaming and altered images while also bringing light to the fact that people struggle. And it's okay to struggle. As long as you don't give up on yourself. 

@aerie
@aerie is a a branch of American Eagle selling bras, underwear, swimsuits, and more. Known for their #aerieREAL campaign, they were one of the first fashion brands to ban the photoshopping of their models. Granted, they are still models. They are still slim, fit, and gorgeous. But thighs are not slimmed down. Stomachs are not tucked in. Necks are not elongated, shape is not augmented, and skin is not airbrushed. Each model is represented with every curve, edge, tattoo, and piercing that they have in reality, branded with the hashtag #thegirlinthisphotohasnotbeenretouched. And if that wasn't amazing enough, for every untouched swimsuit photo uploaded to Instagram with the hashtag #aerieREAL, they're donating $1 (up to $30K) to the NEDA

@theshimmerproject 
The Shimmer, Sparkle, Shine project is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping young girls see and celebrate their self-worth. Girls everywhere are battling bullying, body shaming, eating disorders, traumatic experiences, and depression with every passing moment, and @theshimmerproject helps young women fight these thoughts and experiences with activities and nourishment. Various classes, workshops, and celebratory self-worth days are offered through the organization, and each staff member, volunteer, and participant is able to freely share their story and struggles free of judgement and free of charge.  

@chosen_to_reign
This account is very similar to Taxis, Tots & Polka Dots' #StraightenYourCrown movement, taking a new approach to body positivity, self love, and beauty distortion by helping women realize their true identity as a daughter of the King of all Kings. All women are truly beautiful, truly loved, and truly chosen to reign as a Princess of Christ. Providing support on the hardest of days and propelling praise on the most joyous of celebrations, @chosen_to_reign focuses on promoting beauty in the right priority: from the outside in. 

@projectheal 
@projectheal is a non-profit organization that openly believes a full eating disorder recovery is possible, and raises funds for these recoveries. Openly sharing struggles, support, and success stories, Project HEAL is run by two anorexia survivors who are on a mission to help recovery warriors eat, accept, and love. 

@fallingintoselflove
Quite possibly my favorite Instagram accounts to date, @fallingintoselflove shares the story and recovery celebrations of young teen Kathleen. As an eating disorder survivor, she has started her own campaign, #rollsarentjustforcinnamon, with the primary goal of showing young girls what real women look like, despite the lies they see in advertisements and the media. She now shares body positive photos with supportive and encouraging captions, while also documenting her latest kitchen creations. They are healthy, they are vegan, and they are to die for. Known for her authentic positivity and addictive, dazzling smile, Kathleen ignores all offensive bullying and continues to shine her light, serving as a stunning inspiration for eating disorder fighters and self-love promoters all over the world. I know I aspire to be just like her! 

@here.to.survive.and.thrive
Anorexia recoverer and trauma survivor, Maria, is sending "positive vibes" and unyielding support for all women struggling with eating disorders, mental illness, and low self-esteem. Much like the beautiful Kathleen, @here.to.survive.and.thrive pictures her rockin' recovered body, her delicious meals, and multiple quotes of support and encouragement. Whether you struggle with mental illness or not, her account is full of useful information and contagious optimism. 

@healthyisthenewskinny
I am all for body positivity and self love. I believe that every woman has the right to feel stunningly captivating in her own skin, whether she's under 100 pounds or over 300. But I must say, I'm not a particular fan of the "fat movement" that's really in right now. I am not in support of letting your body go because "beauty comes from within" (even though it does), and I am not promoting the idea that you can feed your body whatever you want simply because "your heart is the most beautiful thing about you" (even though it is). I touched on my thoughts in A Sturdy Vessel. Your soul is the loveliest thing about you! It holds your thoughts, your opinions, your intelligence, your talent, your passions, your faith, your compassions, and your life! And your beautiful soul needs a sturdy vessel. @healthyisthenewskinny promotes exactly that. They are not interested in the number on the scale, the size of the pants, or the shape of the body. They picture thigh gaps and no thigh gaps. They picture women with round bellies and flat bellies. A couple of rolls, a few stretch marks... Those things are typical, expected, and normal for healthy young women. They could care less what the body looks like, as long as it is healthy and carrying your beautiful soul in a healthy way. 


The bad news is, that's all I have for you today. Those are my top ten; the ones I find myself liking every picture they post. The ones I would be honored to feature or am dying to know their story. The good news is, there's a thousand more. I have found so many wonderful accounts just by stalking these top ten and who they follow. 

While there's a great debate about how much technology is too much technology, most of us check our social media accounts at least five to eight times a day. That's five to eight times a day that you are feeding your brain thoughts that influence your mental health and behavior. You want to make sure those thoughts are healthy, just as you would feed your body healthy foods to keep it functioning at its maximum potential. 

And of course, if you don't follow me on Instagram... I've got an eleventh account to add to the top 10. Follow @taxistotsandpolkadots to stay up to date on the blog, catch a glimpse of my personal life, and receive more support and encouragement on your journey to self love. Even I'm still on the journey myself. Remember, we're in this thing together, beautiful. 


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Friday, June 24, 2016

Happy Birthday To Us!

Hey there, beautiful! Guess what day it is?

You got it... Grab a virtual hat and get ready to party because Taxis, Tots & Polka Dots is turning one today!


WOW. It's hard to believe that just one year ago today I sat down at a computer and signed up for the first blogging program that popped up from my Google search. I didn't know a single thing about blogging. I didn't know what I would call it; I didn't know what I would say. I just knew that my friends and family were nagging me to death about writing something they would be able to read.

For those of you who know the story behind this blog, you know that I had no intention of being well followed. I had no intention of creating a platform around anything, especially beauty distortion. When I began this blog, I was strictly a private writer. Few people knew I could write at all, but I wrote a lot. And those who knew that there was always a journal in my purse and a story in my head were livid that they weren't allowed to read what I had scribbled onto paper. I was too protective of it.

Why can't I read this? Why won't you publish? Why don't you blog? 

On June 24, 2015, I sat down and created Taxis, Tots & Polka Dots as a way to get those supportive friends and family members (whose intentions were golden) to shut up. Named after my top three obsessions (New York City, the children I teach on a daily basis, and all things beauty/fashion), the goal of Taxis, Tots & Polka Dots was simply to write some things that I didn't mind being read by those who cared enough to read it.

So much else has happened since then. Seriously, I don't even know where to start. Let's get a brief of rundown of the year in review, shall we?

My First Blog Post. 
I published I Believe in Fairytales on June 24, 2015, back when my writing was truly chaotic and disorganized. Thank goodness I've matured on that front. The content, however, remains the same. It was important to me that my whole self be reflected on this blog; I didn't want a single part of me to be held back, especially my faith.

If you look hard enough (and you believe, of course), you can truly see God in everything. Personally, I've always had a huge obsession with all things Disney. I mean come on, what little girl doesn't want to be a Princess? But I think my first realization that my faith linked to fairytales when I began binge watching Once Upon A Time, because they kept calling the hero (though Emma Swan was clearly female and nothing like Jesus) the "Savior." And for all my readers who aren't OUAT fanatics: in the first episode, Snow White and Prince Charming live in a perfect fairytale kingdom where the Evil Queen is jealous of Snow, and destroys their happy endings by sending them to a fallen world: our world. Sounds vaguely like the fall in Genesis to me. From there, I realized Snow White was poisoned with an apple (Adam and Eve, anyone?), and their new world, Storybook, requires the "child-like faith" of a young boy named Henry.

I know, I know. If you don't believe in God, you'll find a million flaws in my theory. But if you do believe in Him, you'll find a million and one ways that biblical faith relates to fairytales. And I don't know about you, but I'd rather have the hope of a happy ever after than have nowhere to place my hope and eternity at all.

Regardless of my readers' faith, I do not hold mine back. Christ is present in many of my posts, specifically the ones in my self love crusade. It is, and always will be, a primary goal for me to treat my readers (and myself!) as the princes and princesses we are in Christ. They are not to forget they are royalty, and they should take care of their bodies and love their soul accordingly.


The Blog's Remodel.
If you remember my terribly designed, horribly contrasted, frighteningly disorganized blog layout, then you have truly been here from the beginning. Bless your heart. My page used to be purple with white polka dots, with thick white font that hurt your eyes. My header was nothing more than the picture of a bulletin board with the words "Taxis, Tots, & Polka Dots" tacked up with virtual pins. It offered no place to contact me or read about me at all. I was basically a phantom blogger to those who did not know me personally.

It probably wasn't a month into blogging that I discovered my blog did not look like the other successful blogs I read and followed. I shut the site down for a week and remodeled the whole thing. It now offers a clear description of me, multiple ways to contact me, and separate pages to read about the various aspects of my self love campaign. It is so much easier to navigate. And perhaps most importantly... Now you can read it!


Introducing The Family.
My family is something else. Always a subject for humor and inspiration, you can count on my family to always give you something to write about, but I had never featured them on my blog.

My granddad retired a little over a year ago and didn't even last a month before he got bored and went back to work. Typical. I couldn't believe it! I don't even have a degree yet and I've already got things I want to do when I retire. Like travel. And craft. And read until I can't read anymore. But he was actually bored without his work and all the people in it, which prompted me to research the differences between his generation, my generation, and every generation between. This lead to the publishing of The Generation Gap: Those Who Won't Work and Those Who Won't Quit

This was the first post that gained a substantial following. Even those who weren't reading my blog on a regular basis seemed to buy into the post, especially those from Northwest Arkansas. Because if you live in Northwest Arkansas and have ever shopped at the Joyce Street Walmart, you know my granddad.

After writing about my granddad, I didn't seem like a bad idea to include the rest of my family. Since then, I've also written posts about my grandmother (The Pioneer Woman of Springdale, Arkansas), my dad, and more. After reading the responses of those who knew my family, I decided that for the first time ever, I wanted to write for a blog with a decent following.


Social Media Promotions.
I hadn't taken a single business class in my life. I had no idea how to market my own blog. So, like any young entrepreneur, I turned to the Internet. I had no money to promote with and no knowledge to pair with other companies. You could pretty much say I did absolutely everything the wrong way. The only thing I knew how to work well, and work effectively, was social media. I'm a personal fan of Instagram myself, but you can follow me and my blog on any of the following.

Facebook: Taxis, Tots & Polka Dots
Twitter: @ttandpd
Instagram: @taxistotsandpolkadots
Pinterest: Bethany {Taxis, Tots & Polka Dots}

I know, I know, my blog doesn't have a Snapchat... I'm so bad about using it that it would be a real waste of your time. Trust me.


Our First Viral Post.
When I first began blogging, I was careful to never offend or get controversial. But one night I was on a bus with the high school guard I teach, headed home from their competition, when I began thinking about the life of a director from the director's standpoint and the student's standpoint. You see, I was a band kid who grew to be a guard director myself. I get both sides. But I get a third side that everyone neglects; the side of the band director's family.

I published Sincerely, The Band Director's Daughter on January 5, 2016, honestly believing that no one would relate. It was far more of a therapeutic post for myself, but it was shared on Facebook a thousand times in the first hour. It was shared at the same rate for a solid two weeks! I had a side of an extremely popular activity that no one had ever talked about before, and I was overwhelmed with how much band directors and their families were able to relate.


The First Published Partnership.
About a week after publishing that viral post, I got an email from Palen Music Company, wanting to feature the article in their Quick Note Newsletter. I couldn't believe it at all. A blog that I had started simply because my family wanted to read some of my writing was being noticed by people all over the world. I hadn't partnered with anyone. I hadn't been published or featured or even asked to write a guest post before. But I jumped on the opportunity, and it was published again on their page in two weeks time, allowing an even wider audience to read and share the blog.

Since then, I have written multiple other articles regarding the teaching profession; the most popular being MYTHBUSTERS: Early Childhood Education Is Easy and The Importance of Integrating the Arts in Academic Classrooms.


The Beauty Distortion Ban.
After all my personal thoughts about the world of education went viral, I figured there was nothing to lose. If you're a regular reader, you know I have an opinion on just about...well...everything. But, like any girl in college, I started to struggle immensely with body positivity. I had gained a little weight, changed my hair, and was still short enough to almost be a legal dwarf. People began commenting on my body, more positive than negative, but what bothered me was that people were talking. Which was strange. Because other people's opinions have never consumed my thoughts before.

Then I began to notice how photoshopped advertisements were. How plus sized models were a size eight, and looked like every girl I knew. I began to see how judgmental people were on social media, and how body shaming was more common than complimenting people on their style, intelligence, talent, and heart.

It bothered me. Thirteen years of public school. Even more if you were involved in early childhood programs. At least four years of college. And no one taught us to love ourselves.

I had that power. I could teach it. I could write about it. I could promote it.

When I launched the Beauty Distortion Ban, it was a way for me to speak out about my own insecurities without seeming like I was begging for attention or throwing a pity party. It was an attempt to remind women that all girls are silently struggling, and all girls are captivatingly beautiful.

It was not a failed attempt. Since then, my blog has gained a substantial following from body positive bloggers, retired models, fashion designers, anxiety warriors, eating disorder survivors, and regular women who hate what they see in the mirror. I am so humbled and honored that my own stories and thoughts can reach so many people, and point them towards confidence and self love. The Beauty Distortion Ban began running features via the #beautydistortionban, and quickly became my biggest platform.


Our First Feature.
No one was more surprised than me when one of my best friends in college turned out to be a pageant girl. My first feature was written to promote Carolyn Koepping on her pursuit of the Miss Missouri crown. While she is undoubtedly pageant material, Carolyn was a prime candidate for the Beauty Distortion Ban because she values talent over appearance, promotes education, and teaches young children to work hard for their dreams in their entitled generation with her #DreamitWorkitDoit campaign. Carolyn's Journey to Miss Missouri was shared multiple times from the day it was published until the Miss Missouri pageant had ended, and is still a favorite on the blog today.


Collaboration Emails.
I started getting questions. People wanting features. People wanting to start their own blog. People wanting me to write for them, pair with advertisements, stuff I never even thought of considering. It was getting too cluttered in my inbox, and people's inquiries were getting lost amid sales at New York & Company and restaurant coupons. taxistotsandpolkadots@gmail.com was set up for that very reason, and still exists today as a place to ask me anything, however personal or professional, you feel it may be.


Our First Post Targeting Men.
Bikini season hit, and men were hanging out their window to yell out their comments on my body. I was not amused, and decided to write a little tribute to all the arrogant men who thought they were doing me a favor. Whether their intentions were to boost confidence or objectify me, I wasn't sure. In my mind, it didn't matter. But it was important for them to see where I was coming from, even if those two men from the red pickup never got around to reading it.

The Bikini Challenge: For Men was posted for all men of positive and negative intent, kindly reminding them that they were to compliment us, not flatter us. They were to invest in us, not spend money on us. They were view us properly, not merely as their property. They were to love over lust, and never forget that they were not God's gift to women. In fact, woman was God's gift to man. I wrote it to the men I couldn't stand as a way to tell them off. I wrote it to the men I loved as a way to show our point of view. For the first time, Taxis, Tots & Polka Dots was reaching a primarily male audience. Again... Something I never thought I'd do.


The #StraightenYourCrown Movement.
I wanted a segment of the Beauty Distortion Ban to have the primary goal of encouraging young women on their most difficult days. I was just trying to figure out what to call it. The #YouMatter movement? No. The #YOUnique movement? No. The #ItGetsBetter movement? How pathetic. No.

I love fairytales, and I hate beauty distortion. It's as simple as that. It didn't take long for my mind to remind me that I was a daughter of the King of all Kings, a Princess in Christ, and that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. And the rest was history. This branch of the Beauty Distortion Ban centers around the quote, On the darkest of days, when I feel inadequate, unworthy, and unloved, I remember whose daughter I am, and I straighten my crown. 


Whole-Group Participation.
On May 30, 2016, I sought the opinions of my most loyal readers with the Selfie Survey. The goal was to shatter body shaming in social media by encouraging female and male selfie takers alike. I wanted it to be clear that you were not vain to take a selfie. Nor were you selfish, conceited, or demanding attention. Your confidence was to be admired, even though it was often judged. The post took an interesting turn when the results found that male selfie takers were usually encouraged and complimented while female selfie takers were usually judged harshly. On June 6, 2016, I published the results in Love Yourself(ie), joining the #SelfiesforSelfLove movement by making a personal vow to never withhold a selfie from social media strictly because I feared what other people might think or say.


A Sturdy Vessel.
After that, I was talking so much about physical bodies and appearances that I feared I was sending the wrong message. Yes, you should love your body. Yes, you should feed it healthily, rest it often, and exercise it accordingly. You should compliment it. You should adore it. But it should not define you. 

Your soul is more important. Your heart is the loveliest thing about you! You are so talented, so intelligent, so kind, so funny, and so unique, that you should never be defined by your shell. A Sturdy Vessel was published as soon as this fear became evident, reminding women to love and take care of their bodies mostly because it is what their captivating soul lives inside of. After all, a beautiful soul needs a sturdy vessel. 


The Fingerprint Project.
Let's get one thing straight... I'm not particularly crafty, I'm just obsessed with Pinterest. When it came time for my mom's birthday, I wanted to give her something sappy and sentimental. You know, something to make her cry. Something to make her relive a memory. Something that would give her a part of me.

Even when I was a little girl, self love was very important. Inevitably, I would struggle with body positivity as I grew older. All girls do. But I had a reminder of my uniqueness at the tip of my fingers. Literally. My mom would tell me every day, "Your fingerprint is the only one like it in the whole entire world."

I've never forgotten it. I decided to jump on The Fingerprint Project myself, blowing up my own personal fingerprint to an 8x10 portrait. I didn't stop there. Using the outline, I wrote a concrete poem about everything my unique fingerprint had allowed me to do in my life. Many tears were shed. It was a huge hit, and I have been so excited to see my own readers' personal spin on the fingerprint projects. Share your own on social media with the #fingerprintproject, because I want to see it!


Shhh... It's a secret!
In the past couple of weeks, we've gained our first model for a specific project in the Beauty Distortion Ban. We have so many surprises in store for you in the upcoming year, so stay tuned for guest bloggers, more features, more projects, and of course, more posts. If there's something you'd like to see more of, please drop it in the comments or shoot me an email! Seriously, nothing's off limits. I love to talk.

Looking to the future is so exciting because honestly, I have no idea what will happen either. In the blog alone, so many unexpected things have already happened. Like I said, my intention for this blog was to keep my family quiet about me publishing my writing. Instead, I've marketed and promoted my own blog, gone viral, and started two social media movements. Not to mention my own personal life... This time next year, I will have graduated college with a degree in Early Childhood Education with an emphasis in Arts Education. Fingers crossed for a job, a new home, and a new adventure. My anxiety is telling me I better get my life together, but I'm fighting to remember it's all in God's strong hands and good timing.

The point is... Who knows what wild things I've never considered will happen in another year, and I can't wait to share it all with you.

Well... I'm about to chow down on that cupcake pictured above and celebrate the completely unexpected success this blog has had in the past year, all because of amazing readers like you! I'm signing off for the weekend, but I will see you Monday with another post. Catch ya later, beautiful!


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Monday, June 20, 2016

The Fingerprint Project

When I was a little girl, I was extremely protected in the best way possible. Today's society would call it sheltered. The world would call me spoiled. And you can call me whatever you want, but the truth is simple: I was so incredibly fortunate to have parents who loved me completely, wholly, and thoroughly. If there was a way to get me what I wanted for Christmas, I would have it. If there was a way to take me on that dream vacation, we would go. I suppose it would look spoiled to those who were not quite as lucky, but at its core, I was spoiled because my parents believed I was worth the effort, and they wanted me to believe it, too.

Let's stop right there and be clear. I was not taught to be entitled. I was not taught to be a brat. Quite the opposite, actually. I was taught manners through quiet humility and the occasional swift swing of the wooden spoon. But they didn't want me to grow up believing I wasn't worth any effort. I was not to bend my standards or act to please others. I was not to be trampled. My values were important. My thoughts were listened to. My dreams were to be supported, my body was to be respected, and my heart was to be cherished.

It's no secret that today's little girls and young women struggle with body positivity and self love, and I am no exception. As much as I would love to say my parents' efforts have saved me from all insecurity, I've had my fair share of struggle. In fact, my struggles are on opposite extremes of the spectrum. Sometimes, I feel as though I am so physically inadequate. Other times, I feel as though I'm nothing more than a pretty face because I was reminded I was beautiful every day when I wasn't always reminded of other things.

The bottom line is... There's just no way to win in this world. If you're given too much, you're spoiled. If you're not given enough, you're "less fortunate." If you're not reminded that you're a stunning, aesthetically pleasing creation of God, you forget; and if you are reminded, you begin to believe that "pretty" is all you'll ever be. If you believe you're beautiful, you're conceited, and if you don't believe you're beautiful, you're insecure. You're too much: too emotional, too needy, and too opinionated; or you're not enough: not thin enough, not smart enough, and not talented enough.

The only way to completely win is to accept everything you are and everything you're not, and then go ahead and love yourself anyway.

It's okay to accept yourself. It's okay to think you're smart. It's okay to love your body. And it is not wrong to count all the reasons you love yourself on one hand before you list all the things you hate about yourself.

And while you're listing those reasons, take a look at your fingerprint. It's easy to forget how special it is because everybody has ten of them, but take a second to look at it. The lines, the swirls, the circles, the curves, the miscellaneous lines that seem to not belong... That fingerprint is yours, and there's not another one like it in the whole world. There never has been, and never will be, another you.

My mother would remind me of that every day, and I never forgot it because the metaphor was always right at the end of my fingertips. I was unique, and it followed me around all day long. I was so undoubtedly special that it was imprinted on my body like a birthmark from God.

We celebrated my mom's birthday this past Friday, along with Father's Day this past Sunday, and my parents received a portrait sized poem that I wrote outlining my own personal fingerprint. Gasps escaped from my parents. Many tears were fought back. Suddenly, the most important lesson they had preached for the past twenty years was sitting in front of them, completed.

When I saw their reactions, I had to share. I so wish I had documented this process so I could share it with the world! But don't worry, it's super easy, and you can make as many adaptations as you want.


First...
Press your thumb to an ink pad, or paint one fingertip with craft paint. Press the print to a small piece of paper or post-it note. If you can see the lines fairly clearly in the print, allow it to dry. If not, try again!

Then...
I brought my post-it note to school with me! When the kiddos left for the day, I threw my post-it note under the overhead projector and taped a piece of card stock on the board. I resized the image to fit perfectly on the card stock and traced the projected image onto the 8x10 card stock.

Not a teacher? No sweat! Before I had the idea to use the classroom projector, I simply planned to photograph the post-it fingerprint (just with my phone, nothing fancy...) and upload it to the computer. From there, I would resize it to fit an 8x10 piece of paper in Microsoft Word and print off the image on the card stock.

From there...
I laid a regular piece of computer paper over the card stock, aiming two fluorescent lamps at the paper to backlight the card stock. You could see the fingerprint right through the paper!

Finally...
I wrote the poem following the lines from the card stock. Not a poet? Once again...no sweat. It would be just as sentimental with a personal note, a memory from childhood, or a story the gift recipient never stops telling about you. Even writing out basic descriptors about yourself is enough to put your uniqueness onto paper.

Finishing Touches. 
It was important to me to keep it black and white, more like an actual fingerprint. I only used one other color to trace a line that seemed so out of place it looked as though it was an accident. That random line would hold the most important line of all, the last thing my mom would say to me every night before I fell asleep: I love you to the moon and back. 

Of course I still struggle with self love. I wouldn't have an entire blog centered around it if I didn't. The beauty distortion present in social media, advertisements, and an objectified society has taken its toll on me, but my mother's efforts were certainly not wasted. In a world where girls are constantly told they are not enough, I had an ever-present reminder that my creator's intricate design was printed boldly on the body my soul lived inside of. And it's printed on your body, too.

You were constructed by the fingerprints of God. Don't forget that, Princess.


Monday, June 13, 2016

A Sturdy Vessel

So today, the Broadway baby in me just has to talk about what every theatre nut is talking about today: Hamilton.

The new and innovative rap musical features the life of a young American man who "embodies hip hop best;" founding father Alexander Hamilton.

Hamilton was an extremely dedicated man, causing him to come across as one "arrogant, loud-mouth bother." He was also a writer, so dedicated to his work that he was known for writing like he was "running out of time." I didn't know any of this, along with a lot of other critical historical information, until I heard the Broadway soundtrack. But Hamilton doesn't just teach our historically challenged young students about America's beginning: it's teaching everyone some pretty critical lessons about life.

The musical was nominated for a record of sixteen Tony Awards last night, taking home eleven of them. I've always said that it would be a box-office buster like Phantom of the Opera (and that's already proving to be true), but tonight they even made history on the Tony's. And as much as I admire Leslie Odom Jr. (Aaron Burr) and aspire to be half as gracefully elegant as Phillipa Soo (Eliza Schuyler Hamilton), there's one face of Hamilton that stands out of among the others: Lin Manuel Miranda.

If you've heard about Broadway shows, listened to some soundtracks, or even logged onto a social media site, you've probably seen that name. He's the lead in Hamilton. Yes, Alexander Hamilton himself. But that's not all. In fact, that's not even the beginning. He wrote the script, and the music, and the lyrics, and he stars as the lead in his own musical. And I don't know him personally, but I'm just as obsessed as the rest of the world. I've watched my fair share of interviews, telecasts, and behind the scenes footage, and I am convinced that he is quite possibly the most humble man in the world. I'm serious. As easy as it would be for him to become quite the "arrogant, loud-mouth bother" like his character, he has remained thankful, honored, and gracious through the entire process.

I talk a lot about beauty distortion, specifically about physicality. And physicality is important. Body positivity is important. I wouldn't write so much about it if it wasn't. But today, I'm not writing about Miranda because he's a prime advocate for body positivity. I'm not writing about him because he's a prime advocate against beauty distortion. I'm writing about him because he's a prime example of beauty.


That's my favorite quote about body positivity, not because it's talking about taking care of your body in a healthy and self-respected manner, but because it has its priorities in order. Our body is temporary. The older we get, the more our joints will pop. Our muscles will give out. Our bodies will fail us. But our souls will not. We aren't instructed to take care of our bodies and stay healthy because it will make our bodies immortal. We are instructed to take care of our bodies and stay healthy because there is a part of us that is already immortal, and it needs to be carried by the strongest, healthiest, most confident and respected version of our physical selves.

Lin Manuel Miranda, by personal preference, isn't particularly model material. He's certainly not hard on the eyes. But he's no James Dean or anything. And yet, the whole world is enthralled by him. Because of his talent. Because of his intelligence. Because of his determination, creativity, and humility.

In the midst of fighting for beauty distortion, I often forget what beauty distortion really is, and how we've been fighting it far longer than our society has photoshopped advertisements and airbrushed models. Beauty distortion has been present since the first moment we started valuing what people looked like over who they are as a person. Don't get me wrong: photoshopping is a problem. Airbrushing is a problem. The fact that our society's standard for a 5'4" woman (like myself) is under 100 pounds is undoubtedly a problem.

But realize that if the root of the problem was healed, all these peripheral problems would cease to exist. If we truly valued people over the body they lived in, there would be no reason to photoshop. There would be no need to airbrush. The body shaming present in our society would be completely unnecessary.

Watching Lin Manuel Miranda through this quick fling to fame, I've learned a lot more from him than creative determination. I've learned that when we concentrate less on what we look like, and more on what we're capable of, we flourish in ways beyond our wildest dreams. We are, and always have been, our own worst nightmare. More often than not, we hold our own selves back out of fear of judgement.

When Miranda showed up at the White House with nothing but a rough outline and volunteered to rap for the President and First Lady about the life of Alexander Hamilton, they laughed. Everyone was laughing. Who wouldn't? That's absolutely ridiculous!

No one's laughing now.

That musical just took home eleven Tony awards in one evening. It has broken the box office sales. People can't get tickets for shows a year in advance and are paying over a thousand dollars per seat. That musical has revolutionized theatre, merging the very beginning of America's culture with America today, taking an approach that had never before been considered. And if it was considered, it was considered ludicrous.

I do think we should take care of our bodies. I do think we should love the skin we live in. I do think we should respect the vessel that allows us to follow the dreams our soul burns for. But more than anything, I think we need to get out of our own way. We can name a lot of things that stand in the way of our greatest pursuits, but what if all those things aren't really there? What if the only obstacle we're facing is us?

Don't let people tell you that you're not pretty because they don't think you are. Their opinion has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with them. Don't let people tell you that you aren't strong enough when they can't see what you're going through from where they sit. Don't let them tell you that you're not smart enough; it only makes them more naïve. And don't let someone tell you that your dream, your hope, your calling is too big, too unrealistic, or too unattainable because they were too afraid to chase theirs.

There's a little tribute from Tony Host James Corden that completely wraps up what I'm trying to say... But when you read it, keep in mind, it doesn't have to be theatre. It doesn't have to be art. It could be science, writing, baking, drawing, banking, or teaching. It can be just about anything, but I think you get the picture.

"To every future leading man who's making his debut, in his fifth grade class as Peter Pan or Pirate #2... To every future dancing queen whose feet are set to fly, or the tiny toddler's tap routine next Sunday at the Y... To the theatre kids from any place with stardust in their eyes, of every color, class and race and face and shape and size, to all the boys and girls out there, to every Broadway would-be... Don't wonder if this could be you. It absolutely could be."

Lift up your head princess, and straighten your crown. Make sure your vessel is sturdy; not for the approval of those around you, but so your soul will have a healthy, comfortable, respected, and cherished place to live. Confidence is one of the most powerful and most unacknowledged weapons of all time. Don't forget to use it.


Friday, June 10, 2016

I Am Very Busy.

There's a very common misconception about self-love. Yes, since I usually blog about beauty distortion and body positivity, I realize I'm half of the problem.

A lot of people believe that self-love is loving the way you look. And that's certainly a large part of it. If you don't like what you see when you look in the mirror, it's hard to feel motivated to get out and start your day. But it's about so much more than that; not merely the way you look, but also the way you think, act, and take care of yourself. Negative thoughts, damaging actions, and poor self care are just as bad for you as low self-confidence.

Now, don't me wrong. I'm not athletic enough to encourage a full workout routine because I skip gym days more often than I go, and I love my french fries way too much to blog about promoting an overly healthy, low-carb, fat-free, sugarless, organic diet. But I can vouch for stress, and it's one of the most overlooked aspects of positive self care.

My summer this year is too busy to even call it summer, and here's just a little glimpse.

Bethany's Summer Schedule 
Work:    Preschool Music Therapy
              High School Color Guard Camp
              Blogging
School:  Kinesiology Lecture
              Administrative Programs for Child and Family Facilities
              General Education and Academic Principles
Church: Sunday Service
              Women's Bible Study
              College and Career Service Group
Guard:   Summer Guard Camps
              Summer Band "Boot" Camp
              High School Choreography Session
Extras:   Preschool Physical Therapy Daily Session (KIN lab)
              Creative Coordinator Shadowing (Administration Practicum)

And yes, most of these things occur at least three times a week. Needless to say, I need some time in there to sleep. And take a shower. And eat a good meal. And my schedule is not permitting me to do so.

So, as much as I wish I could write to my dear readers every day, for the sake of my health, self-love, and sanity, I am cutting my blogging schedule back to once a week. For my regular readers, this is a dramatic step back from my usual Monday/Wednesday/Friday posting schedule. Of course, in honor of certain special events (like the blog's birthday on June 24th!), you can expect to see a blog post on a random day, but at least until the summer is over, I am posting only on Monday mornings.

Of course, if this is tragic news for you and you just can't get enough of me, follow me on Instagram {@taxistotsandpolkadots} and on Twitter {@ttandpd} for bits of encouragement and short updates on my busy life. The facebook page is always open for your questions, comments, and feedback as well, and you know you can always send me an email {taxistotsandpolkadots@gmail.com}.

I am undoubtedly going miss our time together three times a week, but this only means I will have even more to say each week after our time apart! I promise, it's not you... It's me. I am running myself so thin my mind doesn't know which way is up.

Thank you, darling readers, for bearing with me in this time of chaotic need. I'm signing off for the weekend to spend some much needed time with my amazing mother, but I will see you all on Monday morning with a killer post (most likely about the Tony Awards, which will have premiered the night before)!

See you next week!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Happy National Best Friend Day!

Happy National Best Friend Day from Taxis, Tots & Polka Dots! 

Who knew that was even a thing? Oh well, in honor of such a day, I'm using six of my best friends to prove another point for the Beauty Distortion Ban. But before we launch into the deep, important stuff, I want you to get to know a brief bit about them and why they are such an incredible part of my life. 

Caroline. 
When we were four, her name was Aurora. Mine was Jasmine. When we were twelve, she went by Selena and I went by Demi. And like all best friends in the Netflix era, we've taken on a Gossip Girl identity: she's the Serena to my Blair. 

But regardless of the names we hold at any given point in time, she's my other half. We've known each other 18 years (longer than most siblings at our age), and there's no one I'd be happier to call my sister. We've been right by each other's side through it all: the happiness and heartbreak, the laughter and the tears, and lately, all the anxieties and hopes for the future. I can always, always, always count on her to accept my weirdness, get my inside jokes, finish my sentences, and make me laugh until I can't breathe. We've shared every memory, every vacation, every graduation, every birthday, and every relationship. 

And yet, there's two completely opposite moments that stick out among it all; two moments that define our entire relationship perfectly. There's the time we sat in my bedroom, the same bedroom in which we played princesses and pirate ships, sealing boxes and packing bags ready to move me out of the state and on to the next chapter of my life; and there's the time she called me asking me to get ice cream with her because the boy drama in her life was far more pain than she could handle. I said I'd get my shoes, and she said, "Good. Cause I'm already in your driveway." 

What better friendship could a girl really ask for? 


Dalton. 
Oh my, where to begin. Well that picture sums it up pretty nicely. I met this crazy nut my sophomore year of high school, not my finest year of my life if I do say so myself. And yet, from his fairy-dance pantomime in drama class that made me swear he was gay (he isn't, by the way...) to his clever wit that he still exudes today, this guy is the one I run to when I just need to smile. 

He has never judged me and never condescends. Nor will he ever. He is my stability through anxiety, my reassurance through doubt, my encouragement through fears, and my support through trails. He's a mental health specialist for the Air Force now, saving lives and caring for others just as he cares for me from hundreds of miles away. And yet, I still call him to scream and happy dance when I have something to celebrate. I also call him when my heart is shattered, knowing that he'll have me laughing through my tears within minutes so I won't have to go to bed crying. 

We know high school friends don't normally stay friends after high school, I'm so glad we did. I'm so glad to know I have someone who will never, ever, desert me. Despite the fact that I hardly give out my trust to anyone, I would trust this guy with my life, and I've never been more proud to call someone my brother. 


Darsha. 
Talk about the most unexpected of friends. She's pursuing International Relations, my go-to girl for all things legal and historical. We met in band; she was my drum major when I was the guard captain in high school. Then she tracked me down to be her pre-cal tutor. Then I tracked her down so I wouldn't fail AP Government. We needed each other, and we still need each other today. Her spontaneity is always admired, her wit is always unparalleled, and her thoughts are always unfiltered. She's really something else. But no one will be more supportive or protective of you than her. 


The Sisterhood. 
That's Shannon, Cassie, and Jocelyn, my closest friends from college. Hands down. We met back when we all spun color guard together. Then we took some classes together, planned vacations together, rented an apartment together... Everything. We do everything together. 

But don't get me wrong, we couldn't be more different. Jocelyn's obsessed with elephants and is going to be a vet. Cassie's pursuing business and marketing (though we all think she should be a wedding planner), and Shannon's on track to become the next Meredith Grey as she applies for med school. And me? Yeah, I'm the one who plays with little kids all day. 


I think we can all agree: best friends are pretty great (though I'm sure yours aren't as great as mine). Best friends are easy to love. 

They're also easy to be jealous of. 

I know there are times where I wish I was someone else. I don't know of anyone who is 100% confident in their own skin 100% of the time. Sometimes, I wish I was half as funny as Caroline. Sometimes, I wish I was half as selfless as Dalton. I wish I could be half as intelligent as Shannon, half as quirky as Darsha, half as confident as Jocelyn, and half as open as Cassie. 

Because I'm ambitious, I find myself surrounded with ambitious people by default. Because they understand. They empathize. And they push me to become a better person. But amid all the medical certificates, the grad school applications, the volunteer opportunities, the credentials they put on their resumes, and the lives they save every day, I feel very average. No, no. More like inadequate. 

I'll never forget the most vulnerable moment I had with Shannon. We were doing a bible study about the confident and captivating beauty of a woman together one night, when I admitted to being jealous of her. "What?!" was her response, "Why?!" 

I went on to explain. How she was prettier and thinner and smarter and funnier, but I didn't get to finish. 

"No, no, no," she said, "I've always been jealous of you!" 

You can imagine my response. ....Huh? 

She went on to explain how I was more kind, more loyal, more stylish, and more patient than she could ever dream of being. 

I realized an important thing that night, if not the most important thing a young woman could realize. God gives us all specific gifts and specific traits for specific purposes. Some people will be smarter. Some people will be prettier. Some will be more talented. And you can list off things they're better at all day long. 

But they're probably sitting there listing off just as many things about you. Things you're good at. Things they wish they could have that would make them more like you. 

I wish I was as funny as Caroline, but she'll tell you she's been inspired by me since we were little children. 

I wish I was as selfless as Dalton, but he'll tell you I'm one of the most well-rounded people in the world. (Still debatable from where I sit, but my point is made). 

I wish I was as smart as Shannon, but she wishes she were more patient like me. 

I sometimes wish I was more quirky like Darsha, but she sometimes wishes she was more rooted like me. 

The game of comparison is a deadly trap to fall into. You not only end up unhappy with yourself, but also unhappy with others. The insecurity you feel towards yourself paired with the jealous hostility you hold towards others is enough to stand in the way of fulfilling your purposes that your gifts permit you to do. 

So this year, on National Best Friend Day (and every day from here on out), I'm praising my friends for their quirks, their intelligence, their humor, their beauty, their purposes, and their gifts, while also not neglecting to notice mine. 

June 8th is National Best Friend Day. Tell your friends how awesome they really are, and just how much they mean to you. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

Love Yourself(ie)

Wow! So much has happened since the last time I wrote a full post. So before we begin, allow me fill you in...

Last month was Mental Health Awareness Month, and my beauty distortion platform gained an exceptional following from multiple anxiety and eating disorder fighters and survivors. I am so humbled that I can reach such strong and captivating young women through this blog while also keeping up with their personal battles through their own blogging, instagramming, and tweeting endeavors. Throughout the last week of May, I decided that I would do something to honor these beautiful warriors and followers, pledging that June would be the month to tackle beauty distortion in advertisements and social media. 

So I want to give a huge shoutout to the hundreds (yes, hundreds!) of readers and friends who took part in my "Selfie Survey" last week. Without your help, I would have nothing to say outside of my own personal opinions (which are plenty strong but not always particularly sound). Your responses made it clear that no one is fighting beauty distortion, nor cyber-shaming, alone.

What exactly is cyber-shaming, you ask? I'm sure you've heard of cyber-bullying: degrading comments, embarrassing photos, and slandering/impersonating others through fake profiles using technology. Just as cyber-bullying is the technological form of bullying, cyber-shaming is the technological form of body-shaming and beauty-shaming. And we set ourselves up for it every time we post a photo, especially a selfie.


So let's look at some of your feedback, shall we? 

What social media accounts do you currently have active? 
Facebook was a big hit. 100% of respondents had one. The next in line was surprisingly Pinterest, followed closely by Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter. A few of you had accounts on other social media sites, but they were significantly less popular than the ones listed above. 

Why does this matter? Here's my theory. Most people have Facebook because Facebook has been around significantly longer. It was the social media site everyone had (right after MySpace, of course) before all the other more specific social media sites took over. On Instagram, you post photos. On Twitter, you post thoughts and quotes. On Snapchat, you send short pictures and videos with a little message if desired. Pinterest is where us women gain our creative ideas and really get our life together. On Facebook, you can do all of that, but it's losing its popularity because you have to be known. On Facebook, you have a profile that is all about you, but with Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and Pinterest, you can fly a little more under the radar. Your handle or username may not hold your name at all, and you may follow accounts that are set up to feel personal without including a name or any personal information. It's a way to be active in the social media world without being active as a person. You can interact with others without having to assert yourself. That's problem #1 with social media. You don't have to be yourself.

In fact, most of us prefer not to be. One of my best friends is an avid Instagram user. She posts beautiful pictures of herself with even skin tones, dark lips, and amazing fashion choices. She posts photos of herself with her boyfriend, always doing something spontaneous, romantic, and adventurous. She posts photos of herself with friends, celebrating birthdays, attending weddings, and facilitating church conferences. But when you invite her for a sleepover, she shows up in a messy bun and an oversized t-shirt, with two Disney movies in one hand and a Walmart cake in the other. She'll be the first to tell you that her social media self is not her real self. It's a part of her; a happy, put-together, overly-social self that she decides to share, but it's not all of her. You don't see the anger she vents to the friends who love her most, the anxiety she has about events of the future, the battles she fights inside her own head, or the tears she shed when a family member passed.

Most of us are exactly like her. We post a lighter version of ourselves on social media. We share inspiration, encouragement, and beauty. We share moments we felt happy and events we found entertaining. It's no wonder we are disappointed when the guy we stalked on Facebook turns out to be more work than we bargained for. He only posted the "quality" parts of himself. Just like we do.

It is "tacky" to post statuses when we are hurt. It is "unprofessional" to post when we are angry. And I'm not saying we should suddenly start posting our whole selves, complete with our deepest secrets and strongest fears for the world to see. But we have to stop thinking we know someone because of the way they present themselves on social media. Whether they are depicted in a positive or negative light, that's only one side to the story. 

Have you ever taken a selfie in a group/by yourself using a digital camera and/or smartphone? 
These were originally two separate questions, but the same amount of respondents who answered "yes" to taking selfies in a group also answered "yes" to taking selfies individually. I designed these as two separate questions to determine if some people would only post photos of themselves in a large group to avoid the "conceited" misconception of posting selfies alone. Personally, I find myself far more likely to post a selfie if it includes another person and we are doing something together. Apparently, that's not an issue for most people. According to the survey, those who post selfies generally don't care how many people are present, and those who don't take selfies won't take them regardless. 

How often would you say you post selfies to the web? 
There was no middle ground here. We had a single respondent who had never even taken a selfie, much less uploaded one. But every other respondent was either an firm believer in selfies, or only posted them on rare occasions. "Once a month" was frequent for these rare selfie takers. "Maybe 3 times a year" and "Only on special occasions" were far more common answers.

If you do not regularly post selfies on social media, why do you think that is? Check all that apply. 
11.43% ::   N/A; I love taking selfies! 
5.56%   ::   I do not feel the need to document my life with selfies. 
5.56%   ::   I never know how to respond when people comment on my selfies. 
22.22% ::   I get tired of of seeing other peoples' selfies and don't want to add mine to the thread. 
27.78% ::   I think it is tacky to take photos of myself. 
33.33% ::   I do not feel confident in my appearance. 
38.89% ::   I feel like it is a ploy for attention.

Low percentages were present for indifferent answers like "I don't feel the need to take selfies" and "I don't know how to act when people respond." Significantly higher percentages were recorded out of annoyance, judgement, and poor self confidence.

Personally, I don't get tired of seeing other peoples' selfies, especially if they are announcing a life event (like engagement), or sharing a particular moment when they felt happy, beautiful, or loved. I did, however, find myself judging people pretty harshly. I always found it immature when girls posted selfies with a song lyric caption. I always found it tacky to post a photo of yourself with fixed hair and good makeup, giving a sly smile or worse, that stupid "duck face." And don't get me wrong, I am certainly not in support of young women who use their physical appearance to gain the attention of others. Nor am I supporting seductive or provocative photos to promote the "beauty" of a woman. No, no, no. That goes against the whole point of the Beauty Distortion Ban on this blog. But allow me to enlighten you about the second strongest statistic to this question.

I do not feel confident in my appearance. 

When I asked a few candidates that I knew personally to elaborate, one said, "Well yeah, how could I feel confident in my appearance when every selfie I see is a beautiful girl in beautiful clothes with beautiful makeup? I never look like that." Um, yeah. The girl that posted it probably doesn't either. Remember what we said earlier? People post a lighter version of themselves on social media, usually a prettier, funnier, smarter, more talented version of themselves, because that's what they want you to see.

But another said, "Honestly, I never want it to look like I'm seeking the validation of others. I know I judge selfies all the time. Either I think it's stupid when I see an unattractive or seductive one, or I think it's selfish and petty when I see one that looks good. There have been a few times when I wanted to post a selfie of myself, but decided against it because of what people would think."

She nailed it. I had never put my thoughts into words, but that is exactly what runs through my mind when I see someone who posted a selfie. I take a selfie on days I feel pretty. Who doesn't? But I never post it. Not because I feel inadequate compared to other selfie-takers on social media, but because I'm afraid of the judgement that will be cast on me from non-selfie-takers. In other words, it's too much to ask for a girl to share when she feels pretty because it is "arrogant," "petty," and "self absorbed." Her confidence is not allowed. 

Here's the most surprising statistic for this question. 
3.28%   ::    Other, Please Explain. 
And among the explanations:
"I feel as though it promotes narcissism."

Once again, we aren't allowed to be confident because it fuels narcissism. But take a look at the next explanation:

"I don't know how to take photos of myself well enough to."

Girls who take lots of pictures know the drill. Pop one knee if you're on the outer edge to make yourself look taller. Always leave on hand on your hip to draw attention to your figure. Twist your torso so you look more feminine. If you're in an awkward middle row, you have to squat. If you're in a sorority, you have to hug and lean forward. But no matter where you are or who you're with, always have the photographer hold the phone up high at a downward angle. That's what makes you skinny.

How dare we deny a woman the right to share her beauty and confidence with the world because she doesn't know the "right" way to take a picture. Scratch everything I said in that last paragraph. There is no right way to take a picture. That's the most absurd thing I've ever heard, and yet, it is so very real in today's society. So here's my personal advice to those who feel they don't have the talent to take a picture; here's the correct way to take a picture: 1) Pose the way you want, 2) Smile the way you want, 3) Aim the camera at yourself, 4) Press the button.

Oh yeah. And I forgot the last thing: 5) Ignore others' opinions. It's not their right to comment on your body or define your beauty anyway. 

If you do post selfies, do you alter/filter/photoshop these photos before posting? 
Now we're getting to what's important. 96.3% said yes. 

What body altering/photoshop apps or programs have you used? 
I expected Instagram filters, Snapchat enhancements, and VSCO edits, but those answers were mild.
Next came Photoshop. 
Pixlr. 
Fotor. 
Piknik. 
PicMonkey.
PicsArt.
Qwik.
Perfect365. 
Facetune. 
Camera+.
Camera360.
PhotoWonder. 
Snapseed.
PicLab.
RePix. 
Just to name a few. And I know I'm fairly new on the beauty distortion platform, but these were photo editing programs I'd never even heard of. Because remember, if we're going to post it on social media, it can't be the real us. We need whiter teeth. We need smoother skin. We need better lighting. We need to be less like ourselves, and more like everyone expects.

Then, for some reason, I chose to include this question. And I'm so glad I did. 

What is your general response to males/females who take selfies? 
A lot of respondents skipped these two questions. Maybe they were acting out of respect for the recent gender controversy, or maybe they just didn't want to answer. But those who did respond gave answers that were particularly enlightening. 

Only two people were supportive of viewing female selfies, one of them having conditional support saying, "as long as it isn't revealing or seductive." Some were more likely to judge the selfie based on the caption that went with it, an understandable judgement considering some selfies are posted as announcements for major life events and others are coupled with dramatic song lyrics that applies to a current emotional situation. A few respondents answered indifferently and were not bothered unless selfies seemed to plague their newsfeed, but most respondents were majorly unsupportive. Respondents generally believed female selfie takers were "conceited," "self-centered," and "demanding attention." 

With regards to males, the responses were even more surprising. The first observation I made was that more people excluded this question than they did the question regarding females, and those who did respond noted that they really didn't see many male selfies at all. However, the ones that did see a lot of male selfies were generally supportive. A few gave reactions such as "girly" and "arrogant," but many responses centered around reactions such as: "I admire his confidence." "He looks good!" "Glad he's happy/having fun." And my personal favorite: "It looks like he has fun sense of humor." 

So the content of this post dramatically shifted my original intent. I was prepared to defend confident female selfie takers as I did, however briefly, above. However, I was prepared to defend male selfie takers even more. But it looks like I don't have to. 

I was prepared for selfie-hating. As were you, probably the moment you opened the post. So what's with all the female hating? 

Maybe some of it is that most of my respondents were females, which would make sense that they enjoy looking at men more than they enjoy looking at women. But that's not my strongest guess.

My guess is that we typically have an immense amount of jealousy for the social-media "It-Girl." Sometimes we think she's prettier than us. Other times, we feel as though she's self-absorbed. Sometimes we wish we could be just like her, and sometimes we wish we could possess her confidence despite what others are saying about her. Either way, we are generally intimidated by her, because she looks prettier, her friends look funnier, her boyfriend looks stronger, and her life looks better.

What we neglect to recognize is that she probably feels the same way about you. She isn't posting pictures of herself in sweatpants, but that doesn't mean she doesn't wear them. She isn't posting about the drama between her friends, but that doesn't mean there's not some present. She isn't posting about the fight she had with her boyfriend, the heaving ugly-cry she had last night, or the extra 1,000 calories she consumed. But that's what she's thinking about when she sees you on your best day, just like you're considering your biggest flaws when you see her.

Moral of the story... This isn't really about selfies. In fact, it's never been about selfies. It hasn't really been about confidence either.

It's about perception.

It's about the way you present yourself, and the way you identify with others. So present yourself well, with a selfie or without one; that much is your choice. But above all, be quick to compliment, be slow to judge, and never value comparison over confidence. My theory is: if we spent half as much time trying to build people up as we do trying to tear them down, the world would be in a much better state. And so would everyone in it.

Again, special thanks to everyone who participated in my survey over the week, and I look forward to seeing your selfies in the future. Oh, and friends? It's okay to post the picture of you eating the cake that's not a part of your diet. It's okay to post the picture of you in a t-shirt rather than your best dress, and it's okay to mention your lows in the midst of all your highs. It's okay to post the parts of you that you're afraid everyone will judge. It's certainly not like you're the only one who isn't perfect. And who knows? You just might be the trendsetter that makes everyone else fall a little more in love with themselves.

I don't care if you've got on makeup or not. I don't care if you're having a bad day. I don't even care if it's an old picture you've debated posting for a long time. Let's see that beautiful face of yours.