Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, Philippians 2:3

 No, that’s not a misprint or misspelling.  Selfie-esteem is a new term coined to describe the effect of taking selfies on self-esteem. A recent study said that 65% of teenage girls said seeing their selfie had a positive effect on their self-esteem.  Another 40% said that social media helps them present their “best face possible to the world.”

The issues I talked about in prior posts (Identity and Image) were aimed  at the millennials. They also apply to Generation Z – those who are just now getting out of high school and entering college.

The iPhone didn’t appear until 2007, but by 2012, over half of the American population had a smartphone. At that point, something remarkable happened, and it was not all good. According to Jean Twenge, a PhD from California, she began to see a dramatic rise in depression, suicide and isolation.

Twenge wrote an article in The Atlantic entitled “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation.”   For those who are overusing their smartphones, you should consider downloading Moment, an App that measures your smartphone use and even rewards you for not overusing. My 15 year-old granddaughter introduced me to it last week.

Fast forward to this topic – where just the existence of selfies brings good vibes to teenage girls. That, of course, is superficial.  It only shows the mask that they portray to the rest of the world.

It am reminded of the book for men entitled “The Man in the Mirror”.  The author, Patrick Morley, talks about men’s issues that they face. It is written in the context that, when you look at yourself in a mirror, you see more than just your outward appearance. Only you, while looking at your image in the mirror, know the real you inside.

Underneath this “feel good” approach is an insecurity that is masked by the feigned smile on the selfie. As Tim Elmore puts it, the next generation has been hiding behind a mask of social media for a decade. They are hiding behind what they are comfortable with – social media. But, beyond that, the mask that it provides hides their real insecurities.

According to research, Generation Z is more private than the millennials. It may be because they are “digital natives” – they have grown up in a world that has always had a smartphone technology.  To my generation, which didn’t even have mobile phones, it is a little mind-boggling.

They appear confident, but their confidence is limited to the known: they know and understand how to use technology, but that’s the limit of their comfort zone. Once they wander outside, the truth is that this Generation Z is very uncomfortable and often lack self-confidence.  In fact, a 2016 study by Growing Leaders shows just the opposite. They were generally frightened about:

  • Their grades
  • Their future
  • The impact of terrorism
  • Getting a job they like
  • Getting into college
  • The future of the world

Their confident selfies covers up their real inner discomfort.  Their picture becomes a “mask” as described by Tim Elmore.  The confident picture obscures what is really going on inside. Additionally, depression and suicide have greatly increased over the past decade.

For mentors and parents, there is an opportunity to build confidence in Generation Z, but it takes a little encouragement. Elmore suggests five ways to help:

* Encourage them to do public speaking. Most (like me) are afraid of public speaking. Suggest that they get into drama (that was something that helped my own son years ago).

* Help them find personal strengths – use various tools that can help evaluate their strengths.  Find out what they are good at and encourage it.

*  Teach them social etiquette.

*  Help them narrow their focus to concentrate on what they are good at. They often feel overwhelmed at trying to be good at everything.

* Empower them to serve others. Serving others can transform how they see the world and take their focus off themselves.

To those, I would add two more:

  • Help them discover their purpose in life
  • Encourage them to be involved in organizations that provide good role models such as Young Life (YL) and Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA)

I attended a Young Life banquet last night in the Research Triangle, and am currently mentoring the area director of the Sandhills YL.  I have financially supported YL and FCA for over 30 years. I believe they are ministries that have lasted well over the decades.

They are both successful at providing an opportunity for those in middle school and high school an opportunity to have an encounter with Jesus. That encounter can be life changing. One benefit they offer: Generation Z spends more time with their peers than their parents at this stage of their life.  Encouraging them to find a faith life on their own can be instrumental in their emotional and spiritual well-being.

In addition to youth ministries is the opportunity for mentors to impact young lives. The first step in the mentoring is to help identify what the mentee’s strengths, interests, talents and gifts are.  You can do that using various tools that readily available, including some old ones like Myers-Briggs. This works with Generation Z, too.

Most people want to know what their purpose is in the world.  Rick Warren’s book “Finding Your Purpose” has sold over 30 million copies world-wide. This is a quest of every generation, not just Generation Z.   Christianity Today had a recent article entitled Celebs from Michael Phelps to Kim Kardashian want a Purpose-Driven Life. All of them had read Warren’s book and were impacted by it.

Just a footnote here.  Warren’s book, which is one of the best-selling books ever, has never been reviewed by The New York Times, The Washington Post or The Los Angeles Times. I find that a remarkable fact, and one which confirms that we are living in a post-Christian era.

People who are comfortable in their purpose, their gifting and talents have more self-confidence as to who they are and what they are about.  As mentors, you can play an instrumental role in helping a mentee gain insights into his identity and purpose in God’s kingdom. With a developed sense of their identity in hand, relying on a selfie to boost their self-esteem and confidence will not be an issue.

I am currently meeting with one member Generation Z – in fact, I will meet with him later today. He’s the youngest of my mentees, and it’s been invigorating for me to meet with him. He comes to our meetings with all kinds of questions. One of them was “Can you perform at a Picasso level at more than one thing?”  That resulted in a fascinating discussion.

The challenge here is that too many of the Generation Z are overtly confident, but inwardly insecure. I have always considered adolescence to be a period in life where one seeks to find an identity – answers to who they are, why they are here, and where they should be going. Having a mentor walk alongside them in their journey may be an invaluable investment in their life.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Every generation needs mentors – those who will take the time to walk along side and help them become the best they can be. Generation Z is no exception so think about meeting with members of this younger generation, not just millennials.

FURTHER STUDY: Tim Elmore in Growing Leaders:

Article on the impact of the book Purpose Driven Life in Christianity Today:

Jean M. Twenge’s Article in The Atlantic on Smartphones and the next generation:


To find out more about “selfie-esteem”: Selfie-esteem: Teens say selfies give a confidence boost –

Patrick Morley’s website for The Man in the Mirror, which has recently been revised:

Jean Twenge’s book iGEN can be obtained from Amazon:

The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in its Proper Place by Andy Crouch is available from Amazon.

Want to find out how much you or your family is addicted to smartphones?  Download the App Moment and it will track how much you use our smartphone every day. It keeps track of your history, and can even track usage on individual Apps.

WORSHIP:  Listen to Chris Tomlin sing “I Will Follow” encouraging us to follow God:

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at

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6 thoughts on “Selfie-Esteem

  1. […] but it’s a fallacy. They are no happier than you are. The only difference is that they want to project themselves as something they are not. Their “happiness” is not your happiness, nor should it […]

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