Is the 'Side Selfie' trend helping anyone?

A new trend is sweeping social media and it has body image proponents applauding. It's called a "side selfie" and it's all about taking profile shots to embrace – rather than hide – having a big nose.

Radhika Sanghani wrote an article in Grazia earlier this year in a bid to launch the movement, saying she’s spent her “whole life” hiding from side-profile shots.

She also posted on Twitter: “Breaking the big nose taboo with my new campaign on the #sideprofileselfie‬‬‬‬‬!! Let’s stop hating our noses for not being tiny, little snubs and learn to love them by sharing a

The idea of embracing a big nose isn’t just about how it looks, she writes, but also what it represents.

“My theory is beauty standards have lauded small noses over big ones because they fit in with the idea of women being delicate, dainty and not taking up space. But we’re not. We’re bold, strong, and we can take up as much space as we want.”

She urges others to participate and “spread the big nose love”.

A chorus of women has done just that, with over 11,500 posts referencing the hashtag on Instagram, along with hordes of others on other social media platforms.

Zerin, a 29 year-old receptionist from Victoria, supports this movement – but isn’t keen to take part in it herself. She grew up hating her nose. She was bullied for it as a child (being called “crook nose” or “big nose”), and is still self-conscious about it today.

“I always think when meeting people for the first time, ‘Do they think my nose is big?’

“I ask my friends, ‘If you didn't know me would you think [I had a] massive nose?’”

Body image expert Sarah Harry, director of Body Positive Australia, believes the "side selfie" movement is a step in the right direction for body positivity as it highlights diversity.

“If you can’t see diversity, then you can’t absorb it. So if you can’t see pictures of different noses of different sizes, then you can’t learn to embrace it as normal.”

Clinical psychologist at Foundation Psychology Dr Ben Buchanan says it’s “really damaging” for people to be constantly exposed to one type of image.

However, he’s worried there may be a downside to this trend, saying it could be a trigger for people whose mental health is affected by the way they see their nose.

While most people “don’t really mind” having a big nose, he says for some who are vulnerable, it can be “so devastating, it can be a major contributor to mental health problems”.

In fact, he says having a nose preoccupation is in the top three preoccupations for people with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).

“I can certainly imagine people with BDD scrolling through these photos or hashtags for hours and hours and constantly comparing themselves to the images that they find… [And that] can trigger an obsessive preoccupation.”

For those plagued by self-loathing because of their nose, he also worries that urging them to take pride in their appearance can make them feel worse.

“Lots of people have a sense of shame about appearance and when they’re exposed to people who are saying, ‘I’m proud of this’, then that can actually intensify their shame because they go, ‘Why cant I just get over it? Why aren’t I proud?’”

While the ‘side selfie’ movement promotes pride, if you hate your nose the first step may be acceptance.

That means stepping away from trying to cover up or hide your nose in the form of make-up, glasses or the like.

"A nose job (rhinoplasty) won’t necessarily help you like your nose either, says Dr Buchanan. “Out of all the cosmetic procedures, it’s the one with the lowest satisfaction rate; [that] people regret doing the most”.

Instead, he advises shifting your focus from the appearance of your bodily parts, to enjoying its functionality. Appreciating what your body can do is protective in terms of your mental health and body image.

But if you’re struggling with accepting your appearance that can be easier said than done, so you may need to enlist the help of a health professional.

"Perhaps the best thing you can do, says Dr Buchanan, "is remind yourself that, even though your nose might occupy your thoughts, most people don’t even look at it, or think about it, at all."

“Most people are more concerned with what they’re eating for dinner tonight than what you – or your nose – looks like.”

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