I hate handing over the photo gallery on my phone to just anyone. And it’s not because there are nudie pics on there or anything like that, because there aren’t. It’s because I have enough selfies in my gallery to rival a 14 year old.

I’m not vain at all. But I lived so long as a “fat girl” that it’s still shocking to me to see my new face. It’s even more shocking to see a size 4 body instead of a size 18. I love it, I do! But anyone who didn’t know me “before”, doesn’t really understand who I am “after”. The assumption is that I’ve always been thin and now when I go out, I meet women who were just like I used to be. Insecure about their weight and intimidated by my thinness. I can see how they feel because I used to be that person. I’m sure snapping selfies helps reinforce their thoughts that I’m nothing but a shallow weight-obsessed idiot.

I’m part of a private bariatric chat group where we share our weight loss problems, our concerns, and our progress. It’s a very uplifting group and, yes, we do post lots of selfies. We’re all in varying stages of weight loss in this forum. Some of us are still “fat”. Some of us have lost so much weight that we have saggy skin. Some of us just look “normal”. What we all have in common, though, is that we tried to avoid the camera for many years because we hated how we looked. We are now trying to learn to love our bodies, imperfections and all, and can do this through taking and sharing multiple selfies. We were never voiceless because we could all be anything we wanted over the phone. Our voices weren’t fat. But we never had faces. Now we do.

One of the women on the site accidentally posted her forum selfie to her regular Facebook page this week. She then reposted to the right place and said, “I’m so embarrassed – I’m sure everyone on my regular page thinks I’m so vain now!” And that’s just it. People who haven’t gone through what we have DO think we’re vain for taking and posting so many selfies. But if you had felt like you’d been wearing an ugly mask for most of your life only to have it removed, wouldn’t you want to show it off too? It’s too bad that we have to turn to private groups for support and understanding because “regular” folks just don’t get it.

Next time you ask to see my gallery and are surprised by the number of photos I have taken of myself because you didn’t think I was so vain, remember that I’m not. I’m learning to love myself. And instead of running from the camera, I now say, “But first, let me take a selfie!”