The Selfie


It’s Narcissist Friday!   


To be fair to the girls pictured in the video, I think the announcers set this up by asking people to take and send selfies.  But this popular video is seen by some as an example of the narcissism of our day. What do you think? Is the fascination with the selfie an indication that we have become a narcissistic culture? Are those who take multiple selfies narcissists?

Okay, you know what a selfie is, right? You hold your phone and take a picture of yourself. Of course, that’s not quite all. You have to post that picture online somewhere. Maybe your Facebook page or some other social media page. Often it is a picture of you somewhere or doing something or with someone. Sometimes it is just a new picture of you.

Actually, I don’t think the selfie is a sign of narcissism. Here’s why: when was the last time your narcissist took a selfie? I am going to risk a guess—never? While I could believe that some of the selfie shooters are narcissists, I suspect that few are. Most, I suspect, are just insecure and in need of affirmation. That may be somewhere on the narcissistic spectrum, but it doesn’t make a person a narcissist.

Now, you can educate me if you think I am wrong. Why do I think the narcissist wouldn’t  take selfies to post? Because it would open him/her to criticism. How often have you looked at someone’s selfies and wondered how they could post that picture? How often have you heard your narcissist criticize or make fun of someone’s photo? I just don’t see a narcissist exposing himself or herself in that way.

The selfie is a vulnerable act. It may be an attempt to feel good about oneself and a hope to receive affirmation from others. And, I would guess, for many it isn’t even that.  It’s just something new and fun.  That isn’t a bad thing. And it is nice to see recent pictures of friends and family.

Not every self-centered act is narcissistic, nor marks one as a narcissist. The world uses labels freely, too freely sometimes. Not everyone who is afraid is paranoid, for example. Not everyone who forgets has dementia. In fact, using labels freely has the effect of changing, lessening, the value of the label. If you say that anyone who exhibits an extreme emotion is bi-polar, you do a disservice to those who really suffer from the illness.

Narcissism is much more than self-focus. Narcissism is a lack of empathy, usually with subsequent cruel manipulation. A narcissist is almost always an abuser of some kind. Narcissism causes pain, deep internal pain, in its victims. Narcissism is serious.

To look at a group of girls taking selfies or to see a friend who takes photos of himself and point to narcissism as the cause is too simplistic. It minimizes the real damage narcissists do to others and the darkness in their hearts. We should see narcissism as a problem, not a casual thing everyone experiences. It is hard enough to get people to understand the pain of victims.

At the same time, the word is becoming popularized. Don’t be discouraged by this. My advice is to avoid the word for the most part. As I have said before, when you tell your story, tell about the behavior. The word will increasingly get in the way. Most people will know nothing about it, even though they have probably used it to criticize their friends.




Filed under Narcissism, Uncategorized

17 responses to “The Selfie

  1. I totally agree. The narcissist in my life never takes selfies. I don’t think he even looks in the mirror very often. If he doesn’t see photos he can still imagine himself as the handsome young man he was 30 years ago. He’s aging and must find it frightening.

  2. Hephzibah

    I think you are right – none of these “in the bathroom mirror” sort of selfies for my N, either. The closest he comes is to have someone (usually me) take a photo of him posing with something he considers a great accomplishment and that makes him look good. Those he will post. In fact those are the ONLY things he will post. Never photos of others (unless in the picture with him, showing how “accepted” he is by them), never photos of places, scenery, etc. It is his wonderful “doings” that are the irrefutable evidence that he is an uncommonly worthy and wonderful person, and win him the praise he so craves. And just like Elizabeth Lee’s N, mine is aging, and it does indeed bother him. More than once he has brought up the subject of plastic surgery… I just don’t comment on that, because if I were to object, that would send him off on a tirade about how it’s HIS body, and HIS right to take care of himself, and he would be much more likely to pursue it! Fortunately, when I pretend I don’t care, it goes the way of most of his other “grand ideas” and he forgets about it. This is just another illustration of how any response to a narcissist must be carefully weighed and the outcome evaluated before the mouth is opened…. Anyone in a relationship with an N must always be on guard – before ever saying anything, always think, “If I say/do this, what will the N’s response be, or how could he use this against me?”

  3. Oh, boy – here I am withChristian empathy for my “waistband”who removed himself from because., in his words to me,”You just aren’t doing it for me anymore.” When I inquired what “it” might mean, he said he just couldn’t say, but I wasn’t doing “it.” How dreadful to be inside a mind/heart that can’t see others as anything but objects.Godsavedhis life miraculously four times, but whenever gave God credit. “How art thou cast down, O Lucifer, star of the morning ….” the same sin alive in this man who was emotionally abused as a child and probably grew up with faulty brain wiring as a result. You’re right, Dave. Few people know the pain of the victims, especially when we see how destructive our abusers are, yet we’re vilified. In my case, 40 years of living with an “actor” worthy of an Oscar. I look at the good we did have (at least I was having fun with our two amazing sons and together!) and all the love he professed for me and faith in Jesus he claimed, and now to realize it may have all been an act … Steven King couldn’t write a more horrifying story. I’ve cried out to God not to let Satan win in him.

  4. I also agree. My N hates photos being taken of him, much less by him! He does on a rare occasion take one, but usually it’s with his oldest daughter (a source of feeding his N is her). He also hates being given gifts – it embarrasses him in some way, but I’m not really sure why that is. Maybe one has to humble themselves in order to receive a gift.

    • Melissa, I think narcissists see strings attached to everything. A gift, in their minds, causes obligation of some kind. Am I now in debt? What does this gift tell me about how the giver thinks of me? Am I supposed to give something back? How can I outgive this person without costing myself something? These are the kinds of thoughts the N’s struggle with. I wrote a little about this in the Christmas post…

      • Laurie

        This explains it! Yes!!! My N Mom can not accept any gifts from me! Thank you Pastor Dave for helping me fit another piece of the puzzle. Yet, I might add, the favorite daughter can give her a gift!

  5. Jodi

    I do believe you are right! I started taking selfies after I realized I had spent almost 20 years with a man who took only about a half a dozen photos of me, even though I boldly asked him to before my beauty fades. His response was, “you never take any photos of me!” Which was a bold faced lie, a childish response, and completely cruel. I left the narcissist. And proud of it.

    I take them all the time now–no shame. My beauty has faded. I have grey hair and wrinkles. And I dare say I’ve gotten fat. I post them on Facebook where my mom and kids can take a look at me once in awhile if they miss me. And they do the same. The narcissist, on the other hand, doesn’t have a computer or even a smart phone, let alone a Facebook page. Go figure!

    • Joy

      My N never took photos of me either (or almost never). I took lots of him with the kids, and when you look at the albums it looks like he raised them alone…which he loves, even though he was much less involved with the children than I was.

      He would also never take a selfie. In fact, he almost never posts on facebook…though I know for a fact that he uses it to gather information on me and other people. I’ve now made most of my things invisible to him. I think Pastor Dave is right…posting would open him up to comments and such from others. That is NOT allowed in his world. He is the commenter and judge….not others. He has no sense of humor about himself.

      On the other hand, I’m a woman who (according to my mother) spends far to little time primping, but I take selfies pretty often. I live alone, and so if I want a photo I’m the one who takes it…some pretty silly, and if they give others a laugh, then I feel I’ve lightened someone’s day.

  6. Sam

    Thank you. I wholeheartedly agree with this post. You have put our thoughts and anxieties into words for us again:)
    Blessings to you and yours.

  7. Penny

    Looks like I will be the lone dissenter here. Remember that in Greek mythology, Narcissus fell in love with his own image, much like today’s selfie, and gazed at it to his own demise. The sorority sisters took selfie after selfie after selfie, but paid little attention to the game to their own humorous & sad demise. The got “outed” by the announcers.

    Both of my Narcs take selfies, and surround themselves with photographs of…themselves. To be fair, there are probably co-morbidites in play, and many personality disorders include a healthy dose of narcissism, so the truth is somewhere in the middle. All disorders exist on a continuum, but I have seen first hand the current “plugged-in-cybernet-everyone-is-a-star” culture that is an addictive drug for narcs craving attention. Like the sorority sisters:
    Why watch the game when you can watch yourself??

    My narcs come from 2 different generations: the elder one prefers “flattering” fotos of herself over any other fotos—to the point of removing family fotos in frames and replacing them with those of herself.

    The younger one is utterly self-absorbed, and since truly toxic, malignant narcs cannot even fathom they are anything BUT perfect, then there could not even be a “bad” foto of themselves. Narcs like to project perfection, but when one is SO self absorbed and convinced they ARE perfect, then why not post any/every/all fotos of them, everywhere?? The younger narc has the social networking so wired that when a foto is posted on facebook, it automatically up-loads to Twitter, InstaGram, Google+, personal blogs/websites, and vice versa. They literally saturate cyberspace with their image…their sad, false image, where they can be admired, adored, are never wrong and can control the narrative. Any negative replies can be deleted, thus reinforcing their own false reality.

    And that is EXACTLY what is is: an empty, vacuous image of perfection. Think “Kardashian”. There is no there, there.

    This interesting article:

    discusses several things including the “narcissistic paradox” of destroying the very relationships on which the narc depends. Attention is like a drug to them, so in the internet age, the narc can create a false environment of instant attention & admiration thru blogging, facebooking, etc. The author says:

    “In light of this, I think blogging is a terrific arena for narcissists, if not the best arena imaginable. Narcissistic bloggers can get a constant stream of admiration from complete strangers in the form of comments after each blog post. The blogger doesn’t have to value the commentator or form a relationship with the commentator. In fact, the commentator is helping to feed the narcisstic blogger’s addiction for instant admiration. And comments that are too critical can easily be deleted.”

    While I agree that it’s too simplistic to say “all selfies are narcissistic”, our culture reinforces that it’s acceptable to be that self absorbed, which then it can trigger all kinds of nastiness that leads back to the same self-destruction of the mythical Narcissus, who ultimately drowned, unable to forsake the “beauty” of his own reflection.

    Its why we so desperately need to look to Jesus and not at our selves! Only Jesus can redeem the years the locusts have eaten, and satisfy the deepest longing in our souls. Jesus gives life. We are created in the image of God, not in our own images. If we keep looking at ourselves, we will drown.


    • Penny

      It goes w/o saying that the link & quote [above] about bloggers was NOT directed at our beloved Pastor Dave, but at “narcissistic bloggers”!! Just wanted to clarify that here! Dave rarely talks about himself, but encourages us in truth and has never posted a selfie! 🙂

    • Valerie

      I agree. The selfies takers are often those who are focused on…well… selfie. 😉

      But I also think Dave is correct in many of his assertions. The narcissist doesn’t want to open himself to criticism and so he may not put personal things out there that could potentially be criticized.

      I’ve know both kinds of narcs. One never wanted his picture taken…BUT…I don’t think that was because he was self conscious. Interestingly this same person also had photo albums of himself that he kept and looked at. I found it interesting that he grew more reluctant to have photos taken AFTER I began asking for them. I believe that at least to an extent he used this as a control issue. I have witnessed other controlling/abusive relationships in which the husband has refused to have a family photo taken, even to the point the wife was tearfully begging him to “allow” the photos to be done.

      Another person I know with strong narc tendencies can not stop posting photos of her and her family on FB. The thing about these social media places is that it is not anonymous. People can be quick to write things on blogs (such as this) that they would never write if people “knew” who they were. But on social media sites your “friends” aren’t going to tell you enough already or that it wasn’t a very good picture. In fact to be “nice” your “friends” will hit the like button and post all kinds of supportive messages. The narc knows this. Its narc fishing. Throwing multiple lines out there hoping to get a bite or two off some of them.

      There’s another person I know with narc tendencies who does the opposite version of this. She makes a HUGE production out of not wanting to be in photos….so much so that it incites many around her to start telling her how good she looks or that her presence is crucial to the group photo, etc. False humility to elicit the same kind of response as the previous person I described.

  8. Yeah, I don’t have a computer or a smart phone (I’m online at work … hello from work!), and I’m not on FB and I don’t post selfies. I don’t like people taking my picture and posting without asking. I kind of abhor the whole self-promotion culture to the point where I have taken extreme measures to not engage, perhaps to my own detriment. But does this make me a narcissist? I don’t think you’re saying it does, but I’m just putting in the word for those of us who may be very deliberately trying to avoid a certain type of temptation.

    • Penny

      Kate, it seems that you are committed to privacy, which is becoming almost an old-fashioned notion, and is quite different from a narc protecting a false image. I applaud you for it b/c it’s rare & is extremely difficult to achieve these days. While I do own a computer and a smart phone, I also dislike like my picture being taken for reasons of privacy and protection. I’m not on fb either b/c its too easy to lose your privacy, Having endured a horrible experience involving a mentally disordered person stalking me both physically & via internet, it got to the point that I “went dark”: I tried to go completely “off the grid”, shut down all networking sites, changed my email, even changed my name, blocked my phone numbers, used anything & everything to make it very difficult to find me. The scary part was discovering how easy it is to find someone. There is very little privacy left, to the point where the current culture cannot even define it. I have my reasons for maintaining privacy, and this past weekend my narc violated them so badly that I had to create even more boundaries. The desire to be famous permeates the US culture, and my narcs pursuit of that went way beyond what I could tolerate or even find decent. So, no, I do not consider you at all narcissistic, but humble, in a good and endearing way. I wish there were more like you!

    • Ha! I am with you. No selfies for me. So far from my personality…..

  9. UnForsaken

    So good! I think the “tool” of choice here – to selfie or not to selfie – would depend a little on the Ns personality, people they are trying to manipulate, etc. My N swings a little depending on the situation and how much control he gets out of it. I’ve never seen him take a selfie, but he’s more into other technology. He would probably make a Huge deal about it if he saw me do it.

    Thanks for mentioning Privacy, Penny. This is why although it has some great uses, I’m also not on FB. I have way too much potential flammability going on. NEED space and boundaries!

  10. My ex narcissist, always took a lot of selfies with ME in the picture, but only when he would have me dress up looking very sexy and of course I had to put my wigs on that he bought because he would’t ever take pictures of me with my normal short hair. He would post them on Facebook and love to hear his friends tell him how lucky he was to have found such a pretty girl. I always ended up feeling like his object. not someone he truly loved. But I was stupid and allowed it because if I said anything he took it as a personal attack and then I would be punished. 😦

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