There’s more to self-esteem than meets the eye

Flipping the narrative on selfie culture

Monday, October 17 2022

Depending on how it is used, social media has the power to either help build a person’s self-esteem or feed their insecurities. October is World Mental Health Month, and Netcare Akeso is challenging everyone to reflect on how they see themselves as a foundation for better mental wellbeing all year round. 

“Look beyond the image reflecting back at you, and realise that you are so much more. This is the first step in maintaining positive mental health,” says Melanie Da Costa, managing director of Netcare Akeso and Netcare Group director of strategy and health policy.

Megan Hosking, Netcare Akeso crisis line and marketing manager, adds that healthy self-esteem is nurtured when we learn to love the many different facets of ourselves beyond the surface level measures of physical appearance. 

“The preoccupation that many people have with selfies as a means of expressing their identity, particularly younger social media users, tends to highlight a person’s looks and the number of ‘likes’ they attract on these platforms as a measure of self-worth, which can be exceptionally destructive for one’s self esteem.

“Add to this the highly filtered, edited and posed images that proliferate on social media creating an expectation of unrealistic standards that young people often feel pressure to live up to. The danger of ‘selfie culture’ is that it threatens to erode self-confidence by narrowing how we define and what we value about ourselves as people, which is fundamental to mental wellbeing,” Hosking says.

World Mental Health Month self-esteem challenge
“This World Mental Health Month, we challenge you to focus on what aspects you love about yourself that are more than skin deep. Flip the narrative on selfie culture, and take this opportunity to think about your other abilities, attributes and good qualities.

“If you find yourself preoccupied with social media or your self-image is dominated by how you look, take the time to break down the false perception of yourself and build up your self-confidence with this exercise. 

Step 1: Take a no make-up, no filter photo of yourself when you don’t look your best. 

Step 2: Don’t post it to social media. Instead, use it as a self-reflection tool and take a minute to consider how you look at your own image and to become aware of how you see yourself.

Step 3: List your strengths and capabilities, and that which you identify as being ‘you’. 

Step 4: Be realistic about yourself and set daily goals towards improving any aspects that you may wish to develop. For example, if you find you’ve been scrutinising yourself with a narrow focus on your appearance, reconsider which accounts you follow or think about taking a break from certain media or social media platforms.

Step 5: Love yourself for more than what can be seen in a mere selfie, including the contributions you make to the world and other people’s lives.

“Instead of dedicating time and energy to the unattainable standards of selfie culture, which may encourage people to be overly critical of themselves, rather empower yourself with a more compassionate view of yourself. Only you can define who you are as a person, and your true merit,” Hosking says.

Mental wellbeing is a continuous journey
“Maintaining good mental health requires us to consciously be aware of and check in with ourselves, constantly putting in the work to stay healthy and well. This entails forming constructive habits, having a solid support system and having conversations with the right people to ensure you have access to help, if needed,” Da Costa notes. 

Family and true friends can offer invaluable emotional support, and professional assistance is available through a number of channels, including Netcare Akeso mental health facilities on either an outpatient or inpatient basis. 

“Building and maintaining a healthy self-esteem can be a daunting process – remember you are not alone.” 

If you are having an emotionally difficult time, Netcare Akeso’s 24 hour crisis line is always here for you on 0861 435 787. Trained counsellors are available to listen without judgement, and can guide you on the various options for assistance, whether for yourself or for a loved one. The South African Anxiety and Depression Group (SADAG) also provides a 24 hour suicide crisis helpline on 0800 567 567.


About Netcare Akeso
Netcare Akeso operates a network of private inpatient mental health facilities and is part of the Netcare Group. Netcare Akeso provides individual, integrated and family oriented treatment in specialised inpatient treatment facilities, as well as certain outpatient services, for a range of psychiatric, psychological and substance use conditions. Please visit or contact [email protected] for further information.
In the event of a psychological crisis, call 0861 435 787, 24 hours a day for emergency support. Psychiatrist consultations can be made through Netcare appointmed™, online at or by calling 0861 555 565. 

For media enquiries, contact MNA at the contact details listed below.

Issued by:                        MNA on behalf of Netcare Akeso
For media enquiries, contact:    Martina Nicholson, Meggan Saville, Clementine Forsthofer and Estene Lotriet-Vorster 
Telephone:                (011) 469 3016
Email:    [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected]