By Julian Hall:

There has been a lot of media attention, both social and traditional, on the growth of the selfie as a cultural statement in our new social media dominated society. A huge amount of the comment has been around whether selfies increase self esteem or undermine it.

I thought I would give a view and in a nutshell my view is that it depends upon you.


Here’s a little more detail.

When we are taking a selfie we are broadly making one of two statements. Either I am saying “Hi I’m OK and I hope you are too.” Or we are saying “Hi am I OK?” ……..which one is you?

To go a little deeper. When we are in “Hi I’m OK” mode our selfies are broadly about having fun and sharing it with others, sharing experiences that we think others will enjoy too and generally enjoying life.

When we are in “Am I OK?” mode our selfies are about needing others approval, measuring our self esteem by the number of likes or comments and looking for that all important ego/esteem boost.

One of those is a sign of healthy self esteem and the other is a sign of unhealthy self esteem. I’ll let you work out which one.

Selfie Gambling

I refer to it as this because for a long time I have noticed a trend of people who take increasingly bigger gambles with their self esteem This Self Esteem Gambling is where we increasingly depend upon the approval of others to know that we are OK people and in several cases the size of the gamble gets greater and greater. A case in point would be some of the people that we see at the beginning rounds of talent competitions such as X factor where despite all the evidence to the contrary they take a gamble that someone like Simon Cowell will take a liking to then and usher them through the rounds of a talent contest (despite them having no discernible talent) and thus make them feel “I am OK”

So where is the gamble here with selfies?

It goes something like this…….I’m not really OK and I can’t really deal with that so I am going to take a gamble. That gamble is that you will like my selfie and make nice comments and that will help me pretend that I am OK. If I get no likes, or worse still I get less than complimentary comments I will become defensive and possibly abusive. If you do say I am OK a little voice in ,my head will say “because you had to put it out there to get the feedback it was not unsolicited and so they don’t really mean it!”

As the process above demonstrates you simply cannot win when you are in “Am I OK?” mode.

You simply cannot win when you are in “Am I OK?” mode.

Why should we be so bothered about this?

Well this can often be the starting point or part of a wider picture of needy behaviour that leads us towards unhealthy relationships with others and a general feeling of unhappiness.

The point about having healthy self esteem is that you know you are OK. It means that when someone tells you how great you look that’s really nice and it is simply confirmation of something you already knew.

With unhealthy self esteem we start to base our happiness now and in the future on whether others approve of us and there is the gamble. Gambling with our happiness. Gambling how we feel about ourselves on whether a fickle friend on Facebook is in a good or bad mood that day.

When you have healthy self esteem deep down you know that you will be OK no matter what. That does not mean you are perfect.

To quote Amy Bloom “You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.”

So next time you post selfie. Ask yourself this question……is this a “I Am OK” selfie or a “Am I OK?” selfie. If it is the latter may be some really good personal development reading and practising self acceptance would help you better than becoming hooked on the feedback of others.

Written by Julian Hall

With more than 20 years experience working in challenging corporate environments and dealing with change programmes, Julian has gained extensive experience in counselling, facilitation and training techniques. Julian has an MBA from Nottingham Business School, has trained with the British Association of Anger Management