The Problem with Selfies

selfie of a man

Have you noticed that your selfies look a little odd? (Not just yours. Everyone’s!) What you see in the image is clearly you, but somehow distorted. A closer look at a selfie—go ahead and take one right now—will show that your nose looks bigger and your face narrower. In fact, a selfie taken at 1ft away makes your nose look 30% bigger than a shot taken 5ft away. (No one has 5ft arms!) This video from Vox explains why. OK. No big deal, right? Well…maybe it is a big deal because plastic surgeons have noted an uptick in people requesting nose jobs to look better in selfies. These people look perfectly wonderful absent the distorted selfie! This distorted image of self leads to poor decision making!

Mirrors have a similar but different effect. When you look in a mirror to check your hair, teeth, or makeup the thought unconsciously going through your mind is This is how others see me. But when you stop to think about that you know it’s not true. The image is reversed. We’ve all had that strange experience of seeing a photo of yourself and somehow it looks odd. Of course, your mind is recalling the mirror image stored in your brain You compare it to the photo and while you know it is indeed you, it just looks…odd.

Leaders need to be careful not to fall prey to “selfie distortion” and “mirror imaging.”

People are encouraged to do a lot of self-reflection and self-analysis these days. That can be helpful, but it cannot be the sole form of evaluation and growth planning. Relying solely on selfies and mirrors will create a distorted image of the effectiveness and qualities of your leadership.

Good leadership self-portraits take a little effort to create. Here are 3 actions you can take.

Enlist a leadership growth partner or mentor. Cultivate an open and honest relationship with another leader. Take the time to invest in the relationship so that you can be transparent about anything in your life and work.

Create and leverage effective feedback mechanisms. A common strategy is 360 feedback. I’ve written before about dealing with the problems of building effective 360 feedback tools. Proceed carefully down that path. Fellow author Robert Gerwig has also written about the value of feedback.

Maintain a proper perspective. The most important thing you can do to avoid the pitfalls of self-distortion and mirror imaging is to develop an accurate perspective of yourself and the world by reading and studying what your Creator says about you. If you’ve never explored this before, the best place to start is to read a biography of Jesus Christ written by one of his students named John. That knowledge is foundational to understanding the content in the rest of the Bible.

Take care to develop a proper image of self. Wrong and distorted inputs can lead to poor decision making that undermines the effectiveness of your leadership. A proper image of self helps you see what strengths and skills to leverage, as well as what weakness to guard or mitigate.

Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. He is also an experienced competency-based higher education professional. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at] with your questions.

Photo by Ludvig Wiese. Photo available at Unsplash under CC0 license. Image modified for size and space.

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