The Selfie

The Dove company released a short film this week about women’s conception of beauty. (see Selfie here) Within the film they asked high school girls to consider the question What is beauty?

They asked these girls and their moms to take pictures of themselves and post them on social media. Many of the reactions were striking.

Log on to Instagram or Facebook (if you are not one of the multitudes fleeing FB) or another social media outlet. We are infatuated with pictures of our self. It is such a frequent occurrence that we have even dubbed taking your own picture a selfie.

Why?

Our identity is used to answer three core questions we have about how we relate to the world and what we are worth in it:

What do I do?

What do I have?

What do people think of me?

A selfie gives us feedback for our identity by answering these questions in a couple ways.

1. A selfie gives feedback.

People can like the selfie. Or make comments like “you are beautiful”, “so cute”, “I wish I had your smile”. This provides sustenance for the false self by answering the question What do people think of me? in a positive way. (see The Reflected Sense of Self)

Many of the girls in the Dove movie fretted about their selfie. What their hair looked like (that girl was beautiful!) or how people would judge their facial features.

They were afraid of a negative answer to the what do people think of me? question. Negative affirmation. Potential shame. Validating their fears of being unlovable.

2. A selfie lets others see what you do or have.

Some people flaunt their abs. Or their new yoga position. Or their butt.

A new outfit. Or being on the beach on a tropical island.

Selfies allow us to win the comparison game. And that can be a support for identity. (see What Comparison Does)

Whether it is body image comparisons. Women are particularly subject to body image comparisons. Stand back and take a fresh look at the messages advertising, TV and movies send regarding a woman’s worth and how she looks. (see It’s Tough to Be a Woman)

Or comparisons that say “what I’m doing is better than what you are doing” or “what I have (materially or physically) is better than what you have”.

If a woman’s identity is based on her level of fitness and body shape, then the selfie is going to provide feedback to support that.

If a woman’s identity is founded on being attractive to men, her selfie will convey that to other women.

Not to leave the men out, they do the same thing. Abs and cars and parties and beaches. No one posts a selfie doing laundry on a Saturday night. But when we are, we feel worse when we see how much fun and excitement and passion and beauty others are experiencing on their Saturday night.

Most selfies are about comparison. Building the false self. Receiving affirmation. Feeling loved and valuable.

And that is addictive.

Maybe the best thing I heard in the Dove video was the realization that the very things the girls were trying to hide, the things that were not like what they saw on TV, movies or the internet version of beauty and value, we actually the things that set them apart. (see Loving Your Self)

The differences made them beautiful.

That is an affirmation of God. In his creativity, God made us all unique. Beautiful not because we meet some arbitrary standard of the world, but because we are his creation.

Knit in our mother’s womb by the Creator. Living in that is an acknowledgment of the true self.

And a truly beautiful thing.

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