Everywhere I go, I see people taking selfies. Upon first glance, it looks like we are a society full of narcissists. It is comical to see people posing for themselves, making goofy faces, or trying to look natural in front of the camera. Perhaps we are narcissistic, but I prefer to think that selfies are a gateway step to looking at ourselves. Perhaps there is a value to selfies that goes beyond our social media presence.
We take selfies to look more deeply at ourselves. Unlike a photo someone else takes of us, a selfie is a private decision and a private exploration of ourselves. We stand alone somewhere, capturing our own image. Selfies allow us to explore what we look like to others and to take a deeper look at what we think of ourselves.
Selfies induce self-observation. Selfies allow us to see aspects of our expressions, mannerisms, and body language we may never have noticed before. This brings about self-awareness. Self-awareness reveals choices and choices make us powerful.
Selfies offer a practice of self-adjustment. This digital simplicity has also allowed us to immediately self-adjust how we are showing up. If we don’t like what we see, we can simply delete and experiment with a different tilt of the face or an angle. This is an exploration of self-expression and creativity.
Selfies capture a moment—perhaps a moment we would not have been present to otherwise. A selfie begs the questions: Where am I now? What am I doing now? How am I showing up now?
Selfies reveal your values: Selfies—and all the other pictures on our phones—document what is important to us. Every time we click the shutter, we are making a subconscious psychological decision—this moment is important, where I am or what I am doing is worthy of capturing. What is the theme of your selfie taking? Are your photos showing the value you place on your physical beauty, beauty in nature, your friendships or the places you visit? Do your selfies reveal a theme in your mindset or attitude?
Someone recently told me that a study was done indicating that people who won’t make goofy faces in pictures tend to have lower self-esteem and worry more about what others think of them. I’m not sure I agree with that but it raises another interesting question: Can selfies be used to raise your self-esteem?
I often coach my clients to do “the mirror exercise.” This requires looking into your own eyes in the mirror and telling yourself what you like, love, admire and/or appreciate about yourself while holding the gaze and breathing. I even encourage you to say, “I love you,” just as you would a sweetheart or a child.
The purpose of this is not to build your ego or become self-centered in a negative sense. Rather, it is because if we don’t love ourselves, we will not believe others love us either. When we don’t feel loveable or loved, we blame other people and feel like victims—and often create victims in the wake of our fury. When we know our own value, we become strengthened to handle the challenges that life offers and are less likely to sabotage our selves along the path. When we love ourselves, we realize our full capacity for goodness toward others. As Lao-Tzu said, “Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.”
I invite you to take a selfie today, and every day. Then, gaze upon yourself with love. Instead of looking for what you don’t like, look for what you do. See if you can capture that twinkle in your eye that says, “I love you” or that genuine smile that reveals your true joy to those around you. Experiment with identifying your fake façade vs. your true emotions and attitudes. Then take that self-awareness and make powerful choices about how you show up more lovingly to others. Reveal your true selfie to the world.