Around this time a few days ago, I would be scrambling around my house with my tripod and camera in hand, searching for an unphotographed nook and a little inspiration to produce what manifested itself as #30DaysofSELF.
I looked over to Gavin Desmond (yes, I named my camera) perched on my dresser, catching dust since I last used it to archive my trip to New Orleans at the top of March. Hmm, this can be a self-portrait challenge, I thought to myself. I've never done one before, so let's just give it a go and see what happens. And that was that.
To be honest, I didn't know what I was getting myself into. I didn't have any sort of preconceived notion or planned outcome. I didn't have a blueprint from any other person since I made it up on a whim. I barely had a concrete objective. But what I got out of it was truly a blessing.
It literally became my baby, my idea that I conceived and was committed to every day whether I had the energy or not. My duty to explain its purpose to anyone who asked. My responsibility to love it and own it unconditionally. And others did, too.
You see, when I was snapping away at my face everyday, I would cringe a little bit when people referred to them as "selfies." Sure, we all love a good selfie now and then, but it was more than what social studies attribute to millennial narcissism. For one, it was art. I was forced to exercise discipline and use my real camera everyday, no matter how much stuff I had going on that day. (I'll be honest, I cheated on two days, using pictures that were runner ups on other shoots—because they were full, hour-long productions—just to make sure I didn't miss a day.) I had to compose shots that I saw in my mind and use myself as the test dummy. To take mental notes for future photo projects. To actually experiment with subtle enhancements in post-production, because I barely edit my photos.
But aside from it's obvious artistic elements, it was a way for me to dive a little deeper into myself and let people see how far into the pool I'd jumped. To find new and creative ways to see myself: meaning how people may see me, how people may never see me, and how I want to see me.
Let's get real, how many of you have ever seen me sporting "lusty eyes" and a beat face in a group picture, or in person ever? I usually throw on my safe and standard school picture smile. It's cute, reliable and works for me and my high cheekbones. But what people seldom see in person is when I'm feeling myself a little. When I actually feel unapologetically pretty. I don't let any of that surface for some reason. Feels silly. And I don't like conceit, but what I do love is confidence. #30DaysofSELF forced me to be confident while people were watching and waiting to see what I had to offer next. Once I started it, I knew I was obligated to finish it because of how much my progression and my journey was in demand.
I didn't expect that part of it. Yes, I expected a little curiosity. What's this about? How are you taking those photos? Things like that. But when I went out and about, friends took the conversation about the challenge offline. Even people I'd never spoken to before. Telling me how inspiring it was, or even just entertaining. Citing favorites and offering suggestions for others. Half seriously asking to be included in the day's selfie. Requesting an extension of the project. Wondering what's next, because there needs to be a what's next. It was so overwhelming. Sometimes it felt awkward to be acknowledged like that. I couldn't shy away from the fact that I was posting "out of character" pictures of myself for the 'net to digest, so it would clearly become a talking point. But I needed that. I'm such a firm believer in humility, but this helped me to be okay with accepting praise for something I worked my ass off on and just taking it in, being appreciative and using the feedback as inspiration for something greater.
And speaking of continuations, nothing excited me more than to hear people plotting their own #30DaysofSELF exploration projects.
@stassi_x inspired me. 30 days of self on Instagram. If I don't find the beauty in me, who else will?I won't call it a photo challenge, per say. The inaugural installation of the challenge was photo based for me, but SELF applies to anything "me"-related. It may be words. It may be lifestyle. It may be art. It may be experiences. It's whatever the person attempting it needs it to be for their spiritual gain. And I'm so excited to see this possibly turning into something bigger than me.
— Lily Tucker-Pritchet (@HighTSociety) May 2, 2014
I can't lie, I was quite relieved when May 1 rolled around. By the end of it, I was drained. But it was a good drain, one that I'd never felt as a byproduct of my own initiative before. I don't know when I'll revisit the challenge again, but I will in one way or another. Whenever I'm seeking growth, discipline, focus, confidence, self-love or just experiencing a creative dry spell, I'll know just the remedy.
I peppered a few of my favorites from my #30DaysofSELF April 2014 Edition, but you can see all of them here on my website. If you plan to attempt your own challenge, PLEASE let me know! I'd love to be as big of a cheerleader for you as you were for me =)