Are Selfies A Sign Of Low Self-Esteem?

Ah, the art of selfies. To know them is to love them, or if you hate them, hey, that's your prerogative! But you can't deny that since the self-portrait photograph became a global phenomenon due to the rising popularity of the iPhone front camera and social media apps like Instagram in the early 2010s, selfies have taken on a life of their own (via The Guardian). Since then, the 2013 Oxford Dictionaries word of the year has been anything but a fad, with celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Beyoncé, and Justin Bieber engaging in the decades-long world trend. 

Consequently, with the rise of social media apps and influencer culture in the past 10 years, there has been research revealing how social media can personally impact your self-esteem. It's no shock that edited photos and doom-scrolling can leave us with feelings of depression, dread, and lack of self-confidence. This leaves us wondering, can the act of selfies be harmful to our self-esteem? Well, yes and no.

Research shows that reoccurring selfie-takers have higher self-esteem

Mix the origin of the word "selfie" — literally slang for self-portrait — with the frequency and popularity of the photo sensation and there are some who see it as vain or even attention-seeking. However, countless studies suggest quite the opposite.

In 2018, the Journal of Health Psychology published a study on young Chinese women and the effects selfies had on their self-esteem. The results showed that the relationship between selfie-posting and self-esteem was significantly positive.

Similarly, if you're a naysayer or a critic of the selfie, further research shows that there isn't a link between the self-photography practice and narcissism. In 2021, Psychology of Popular Media revealed in their study that there wasn't a notable relation between "how many selfies those high in narcissism and those low in narcissism" took during the week-long study amongst college students. 

However, there are some caveats to the connection between selfies and self-esteem, making matters a bit more complex than what meets the eye.

It's after the selfie-taking that can be harmful to your self-esteem

As we've seen, there's definitely research that enforces our love for selfies and how it can positively influence us, and how we view and feel about ourselves. However, there is some context that's important to note behind all the research.

Elite Daily tackled this conundrum in 2018, citing there is definitely a cause and effect relationship between selfies and social media. While selfies can have a positive impact on our mental health, researchers can't say the same for social media. The more we scroll and fixate on social media, the more we are susceptible to scrutinize our physical appearance, according to a survey done by FitRated

Furthermore, Research Digest discussed a 2018 study on teenage girls by the Journal of Children and Media, which found that while taking selfies doesn't affect your mental health or self-esteem in a negative way, editing them (think smoothing blemishes and even altering one's physical shape) can do a lot of damage. 

We love taking selfies over here, but keep in mind the why and how it affects you mentally after posting them.