Scrolling through my instagram and facebook newsfeeds recently, I was struck by the overwhelming realization that we are a generation that’s plagued by the “selfie”. Everywhere I looked there were endless headshots- displaying everything from hair-do’s and jewelry, to kissing lips and flirtatious eyes, to a display of cleavage and curves. One thing is for sure–our use of photography has slowly declined from the capturing of the sacred- to simply capturing the self.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a huge fan of photos. I think it’s priceless to capture a beautiful moment with my children, my husband, or my friends. I’m all for being able to press “pause” and create a tangible reminder of a life that seems to go by so fast. But as I scrolled through these self-portraits laced with undertones of seduction — I couldn’t help but wonder if we’ve gone too far, but more than that, I wondered why.
There are so many things we could talk about when it comes to the “selfie-generation”. We could point our fingers at the lessons we’ve learned (better yet- failed to learn) about modesty and self-respect. We could blame the entertainment industry for feeding us constant lies about the value of sex appeal and physical appearance. We could boycott social media and the negative effects it has in fueling our self-centered perspective.
But like I always say, things can only really begin to change when we stop blaming everyone around us, and start making the first changes within ourselves.
If I’m completely honest- I’m not concerned with this topic because I’m tired of seeing the barrage of self-portraits on my social media feeds (though it does at times–get old). I’m not even that concerned about the message these “selfies” are sending to other people, the privacy factors that come up on account of social media, or the competitive nature that it can illicit within the intimacy of a community.
While these things may or may not be important things to consider–at the end of the day, it’s safe to say that the “selfie” in and of itself isn’t the enemy–but the culture that it seems to be rooted in- a culture promoting ego-centricism, individualism, and narcissism.
What concerns me the most is that by fueling an environment of narcissism, we are missing the mark on some really important needs that many times go unnoticed under the guise of “cultural trends”. If you know anything about the mythology behind the story of Narcissus, you’ll know that he was a character that was known for his beauty—as well as his infatuation with himself. But his obsession with self eventually pushed everyone out of his life- until he was painfully, and utterly alone–until the day of his death.
Though it’s just a myth, the story of Narcissus reminds me that the most dangerous thing about our obsession with ourselves is that it slowly begins pushing everyone else out. When we are consumed with ourselves- it shows. It begins to seep into every part of our life and interactions. Our obsession begins taking over our thoughts–and in time how we feel about ourselves and others.
And slowly but surely we find that people begin to fade away as a result of the spotlight we’ve placed on ourselves.
I know I’ve seen hints of this terrible disease in my own life. There are times I walk away from a conversation so disappointed by my tendency to be so self-consumed. I can get so caught up with myself that I forget to reach out, to ask questions, to encourage, and to build up those around me. I forget sometimes, that life is about so much more than me. But you see, life becomes so small when we become so big in it.
Sometimes, we can be so desperate to be noticed, to be validated, and to be loved that we will do anything it takes to get us there. Anything we can do to promote ourselves. Anything it takes to be center-stage.
But in response to this “selfie-epidemic”- and to the self-centeredness I see in my own life without having to post even one picture…I’m learning a valuable lesson.
I’m learning that sometimes, some of the most confident, and powerful people- are the ones who have mastered the art of stepping aside, stepping back, and focusing in on others.
I’m learning to see Jesus–the only one who had every right to promote himself–and watch as He chose to not only step aside- but to lay down His life and consider others better than Himself (Philippians 2). That lesson has been invaluable to me in this culture of self-promotion and self-achievement. And though it may start with a shift in the way I do social media- ultimately, I recognize that it’s rooted in the shift that I allow to happen in my heart.
So selfie or no selfie–maybe it’s time to dig a little deeper. Maybe it’s time to recognize my need for love, for value, and for affirmation–and bring my empty cup to the only place where I know it can be filled; To the One who chose to pour out His cup to the very last drop—just so that mine could be filled to overflowing.
On the Love + Relationships podcast, we are doing a new four-part series based on my book Are You Really OK? At the end of this series, we are offering a FREE ARE YOU REALLY OK? BOOK CLUB! All you have to do to join the book club is listen to the four parts, order a copy of Are You Really OK? and commit to working through it! Then, grab a ticket to join our Book Club on January 26th where I’ll be taking your questions and hearing your personal stories, and processing the book together with you!
Debra is a Licensed Professional Counselor specializing in dating, marriage, and relationship issues, along with a spectrum of mental health disorders and issues. She’s the author of True Love Dates, Choosing Marriage, Love in Every Season, Are You Really Ok?, and Married Sex. She’s also the host of the Love + Relationships Podcast, a hotline-style show where people call in to get their relationship questions answered!