One of the earliest lessons you learn as someone with boobs, is that they are not your own.

When I was a little girl, all I wanted was big boobs; to me, they meant being a grown up and getting to wear a bra, and nothing, nothing was fucking cooler than getting to wear a bra. Then I grew up, and I got big boobs — and it's been more of a roller coaster than anyone ever explained to 8-year-old, bra-loving Caroline.

Because wanting big boobs and actually having them are two very different realities. Society teaches you that big boobs are sex; they are inherently suggestive; they are for showing off in sexual situations and hiding in professional ones. So in college, I wore sheer blouses and sent topless pictures to the men I was dating. When I started law school, though, my self-image shifted. The uptight environment made me feel like I had to cloister that part of me away — like my actual fucking body — was somehow unprofessional; dissonant with academia and careerism, something I had to hide. So, I changed course for the most part I wore loose blouses, and boxy tops; I dressed as if my body was something I had to keep secret.

When I got sick, my body changed. I gained weight and then I lost weight and then I gained it again; my face grew wide from hormone treatments and I was breaking out for the first time since middle school. I was in pain and covered in burn marks from a heating pad. Everything I wore hurt — nerve damage and inflammation made anything that wasn’t a soft cotton frock feel like it was made out of broken glass and steak knives. But after a few surgeries, and a shit load of physical therapy, I started feeling better; I started regaining some semblance of control over my body both physically and emotionally.

"Selfies are an act of defiance."

Without any real intention, I also started taking more selfies. I was so glad to be able to look in the mirror and not actively hate what I saw and what it represented — to be able to wear clothing because I wanted to and not because it was the only thing I could wear without being in pain. I started learning to be grateful for the body I had in that moment and taking selfies became an expression of that.

[caption id="attachment_82976" align="aligncenter" width="242"] Caroline Classic[/caption]

Which brings us back to my boobs — when I started posting selfies to Instagram they were mostly of my face. Posting shots of my body still felt suggestive, like something I wasn’t allowed to do; my brain was still conditioned to code that part of my body according to how other people saw it. But the more perspective I gained on body image, control, and agency I came to realize that there is no such thing as an inappropriate body or an unprofessional body; we don’t need permission to be sexual or to celebrate and define our bodies however we choose.

It took losing control of my body undo all those years of only seeing it through the lens of other people; to realize my body was mine to define, to sexualize, to show off, to hide, to live in however I see fit. Now, along with pictures of my face, I post pictures of my body, of the boobs that I’ve finally come to be proud of and enjoy on my own terms. And you know what, it feels fucking great. So here are my tips and tricks to getting to this point without some catastrophic system failure in your body; to taking selfies as an act of defiance and self-love.

There are no rules: Look down at your body right now, take it all in. It’s fucking yours. Share it how you want, dress it how you want. If one day you want to post a picture of yourself in a string bikini because you’re feeling hot and the next day you want to post a picture of yourself in a turtleneck – do it! That’s your prerogative! Because it’s your body!

There’s no such thing as “insta-appropriate”: When I started sharing sexy pictures of myself on Instagram at first it was really fucking nerve-wracking! I was worried people would judge me, I was worried it would get me in trouble? As if I was doing something… wrong? But here’s the thing – appropriateness is defined by what you’re comfortable with, not some nebulous and pointless social norm you’ve had instilled since childhood.

[caption id="attachment_82977" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Yes, my new lingerie is 'insta-appropriate' because I say it is.[/caption]

Don’t be a martyr: People have lots of opinions about selfies and vanity and body positivity and showing the real you, but at the end of the day, it’s about what makes you feel good. Do I think that’s photoshopping your entire body to look unrecognizable so it fits so normative beauty standard? Probably not. Will airbrushing that blemish on your chin make you feel better? That’s your call – it does for me! Does it make you a bad person? Absofuckinglutely not.

Try new things: Post a full body shot one day, and a mirror pic the next, and a close-up of your face the next. Try different angles, different outfits, different makeup looks, different locations. Take like, a hundred fucking pictures and delete the ones you hate immediately; trust me that’s not what you look like, the good ones are.

Enlist your friends: Before I post a selfie I almost always send like, at least ten to a friend or two. Not only will they help you pick, they will gas you the fuck up. I stress this especially for people who date cis men – your platonic friends will say things about your selfies and your body that you will never hear from a straight dude; one of my friends recently told me I had aesthetically pleasing nipples and I rode that high for like, three days straight.

[caption id="attachment_82979" align="aligncenter" width="300"]lizzo Selfie Queen Lizzo[/caption]

Follow accounts of people who celebrate their bodies, their sexuality, and themselves: It’s easy to feel self-conscious about posting a selfie, or a bathing suit pic, or a nude, so follow accounts that inspire you and give you new and fun ideas for how to take pictures of yourself. My favs are @savagexfenty, @charlihoward, @lizzobeeating, @foreverplaymates, and @playboy.

Speaking of Lizzo – when in doubt, think, what would Lizzo would do: I’m being literal about this. Sometimes if I’m on the fence about posting something, I think in my head – what would Lizzo do. And the answer is almost always “post the picture you bad bitch.” So, post the picture!

You don’t need a reason to take a selfie: Sometimes I take a selfie because I’m going out and I feel like hot shit. Sometimes I take a selfie because I’m home and in pain and I feel like plain shit. Taking an empowering selfie can be an activity all its own; do it when the lighting is good, do it when that great new bra you ordered comes in the mail, do it to commemorate how smoking you look before a date, or to break up the monotony of a day stuck at home. Do it whenever the fuck you want. 


Still feeling selfie-conscious? Melissa Genest aka @thenudewitch put together a Self-love Spell back in February that works just as well for getting selfie-ready!

Caroline Reilly is a reproductive justice advocate and a law student based in Boston, MA. You can find her work on Teen VogueBitch MediaRewireScarleteenFrontline (PBS), and Death & the Maiden, and where she writes about abortion, medical misogyny, death phobia and more. Additionally, her writing on abortion access for minors, which gained national recognition, can be found here. Find her on Twitter at @ms_creilly.



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