Selfie Does Not Equal
As a psychotherapist working with teens and women, the underlying concern that I can always tie to the majority of therapeutic issues was that of a low self-esteem. Developing a positive sense of self-worth and esteem is at the root of ones success and happiness, so if we can understand some of the factors that are destroying self-esteem, we can limit our exposure and protect ourselves, children, and clients from this attack. First, let's get one thing straight, selfies do not create or increase an individuals sense of self-worth or esteem.
Gaining self-esteem from selfies are in the category of what I call the Twinkie diet. My Twinkie diet concept is that no matter how many Twinkie's you eat, you can never feel satiated because there are no real substantial nutrients in a Twinkie. You can eat and eat and eat them, and never be fulfilled, at some point you will have to turn to real nutrients that will actually satiate the body and create the true feeling of fulfillment that we need.
Research regarding the effects of social media and self-esteem is vast, and if we understand what we are being subjected to, we can armor our thoughts and limit the attack on our self-worth. If you knew you would be surrounded by bee's when you went to a bee farm, would you not wear proper covered gear to avoid being stung? Social media can be an effective tool of communication for good, it can also be a danger zone for false thinking and negative influences, so lets look at what are those negative impacts, and how as individuals, parents, therapists and influencers, we can develop and encourage true self-esteem.
Let's talk about the dangers of what I call "selfie-mode". As a successful women entrepreneur, individual photographs are key to business marketing, so I understand where a selfie can be a useful tool. But the danger lies in the psychology, not necessarily the selfie. When one engages in "selfie-mode", constantly trying to get the most perfect image of themselves, and basing their self-worth on the quick thrill of getting likes and comments on their images, by repeatedly checking social media, and comparing themselves to other's pictures on social media, there is a level of psychological distress and self-objectification happening in the mind. It is not to say that it isn't nice to have likes on a photo, but when the thrill of the likes is gone, does the inflated self-esteem decrease, just as if you were blowing up a balloon, then without tying the knot in it, the balloon just deflates causing you to constantly inflate it rather than securing it?
Social comparison theory states that one finds it functional to compare themselves to others and base their opinion of themselves from these findings. We know that thin-ideal images increase women's dissatisfaction with their bodies, and media exposure in general has always been a concern for youth. But did you know that television viewing has dropped dramatically among teenagers and is now being replaced with social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, etc.? Children as young as age 3 in Western societies start to get exposed to these thin-ideals of the "perfect body" and this can lead later in life to depression, mental health disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, and of course extreme low self-esteem. Just yesterday I watched a 2-year-old playing with a barbie doll as did I when I was a child, and knowing what I know now of the psychological effects, we can limit the negative psychology these types of toys can have on children.
Self-objectification is the process where girls and women view their body as an object to be looked at, or observed, and this type of thinking can be detrimental to one's self-worth and happiness. When one self-objectifies, they view their body as an object, and place a sense of their self-worth on how that object is received, accepted, and liked. No matter the size or shape, the body is the most amazing work of creation, designed for the benefit and experience in mortality, not as a vessel to be criticized, judged and compared. Awareness is a critical piece in change, and being educated on what we may be doing as it has become a "norm" in society, can aide in rising above this type of thinking so that one can view the self not as an object, but as a divine creation.
How do we tie this knot to inflate our self-esteem in a more substantial and solid manner? Self-esteem is an innate feeling of satisfaction independent of our appearance, performance, others performance, status, and possessions. Whether individually, as a parent, psychotherapist, or influencer on social media, there are a few things you can do to encourage and build a sustaining sense of self-worth and self-esteem:
When we practice feeling grateful for all that we have around us and daily what happens in our lives, it creates a feeling of being blessed, which then leads to one feeling loved because they have so many things to be grateful for, which then leads to the feeling of self-worth. This is one of the most crucial steps in developing self-worth, is practicing feeling gratitude.
Whether in your practice, as an individual, or a parent, you can encourage the practice of positive psychology by replacing negative self-statements with what I call "Flip-Flop Statements", meaning reframing that negative statement to be in the positive-present tense. As I said earlier in this article, awareness is the first step, so as you catch negative phrases, you begin to squash and change them repeatedly in one's thoughts. For example, if one has an automatic thought "I am not that talented", or "I could never do that" etc. You would reframe it, and every time one has the thought, they combat it with the new positive psychology Flip-Flop statement of "I am talented and capable of developing any talent I desire" or "I am capable of accomplishing anything I put my mind to". Though these thoughts may feel foreign and flat out like lies to oneself, the fact of the matter is, we accomplish what we believe, so it will become truth to you as you replace them.
Promote beauty statements and compliments about what's within
As a psychotherapist, parent or a social media influencer, being generous in compliments and being aware of the compliments we are giving is important. Find ways to compliment others on their good nature, works, talents, characteristics, potential etc., rather than outward appearance. It is not to say an outward appearance compliment can't be given, but it is important to be sure other areas of oneself is being encouraged and complimented more so than worldly appearance.
As parents, or psychotherapists can encourage having crucial conversations with your children regarding the influence of media and the false concepts and comparisons it encourages helps your children be aware of the "bee's" around them ready to sting them when they are exposed to the ideas of worldly views and social comparison.
Psycho-education on body-positive
As a psychotherapist providing psycho-education on body positive thinking can be done in individual sessions, groups or even classroom presentations. At the high schools I did therapy at, I created a body-positive curriculum and would teach it around the different classrooms to promote awareness and encourage the development of a true sense self-worth.
Parents absolutely need to choose a healthy limitation on social media. Children need boundaries, routine and parenting and they respect parents more as a parent, when reasonable limitations are given to them. They do not need unlimited data and texting plans. Teach them to live within data plans and to be responsible to pay if they go over. This encourages responsibility, respect for their parents in the long run for parenting, and ultimately will help limit their exposure to negative social media.
Improve your relationship with deity
As a psychotherapists, I would never impose my personal beliefs of the divine on my clients, however when they would express their belief in a higher being, I would encourage their own seeking within their faith to draw closer to that relationship as studies have shown over and over that faith in a divine creator gives people a sense of hope to cope better and be happier. Being a firm believer myself in my faith, I cannot ignore that this is one of the largest pieces of true self-esteem development. Our relationship with deity is directly connected to our belief in ourselves and improving that relationship whether it be through your own personal prayer, scripture study, reading, or worship service, it can support a sense of importance, significance and true self-esteem.
Selfies do not equal self-esteem, but self-love does, and these points will help guide you as a psychotherapist, parent or individual on the journey of helping others to accept and love oneself through solid principles rather than a false sense of self-inflation that deflates with the next new post. Self-love does equal self-esteem and is foundational to one's success and happiness in this life, it is worth it.
If you would like to take my training called "The Flip-Flop Mindset"
you can register for it by clicking here