Self-image is not only what people see when they look at the mirror, but goes far beyond that. It refers to the mental image that people have of themselves — how they perceive themselves and the impressions they have built about themselves over time. As long as these impressions are positive and make people happy and feel good about themselves, they are welcome. However, if the self-images are negative and make people doubt their own capabilities, they become debilitating.
Self-image contributes significantly to a person’s self-esteem. That is understandable, because only if a person carries a positive self-image will she or he experience self-esteem. However, we do know that self-image is built over a period of time, and keeps changing too due to various internal and external influences.
Self-image is created by the way people see themselves, the way they feel about what others think of them and the way they themselves wish to be.
There are several dimensions to self-image:
- How people assess their own physical appearance: Those who feel they look good, are attractive and physically appealing, generally have a positive self-image
- How people evaluate their own personality, mindset, attitude: People who realise they have an attractive personality and have an attitude that draws people to them have a positive self-image.
- How people perceive their IQ and skills: People who know they are intelligent and mentally superior are bound to carry a positive self-image. They are proud of the skills they possess.
- How strong people feel their values and principles are: People with high moral values will definitely have a great self-image. They will see themselves fitting well into society and fulfilling its expectations and norms.
Now that you know the traits of people with a positive self-image, it is easy to identify the traits of those with negative self-image. These are people who are not happy with their physical appearance, or are probably even ashamed of it. Such people think they are stupid and lack intelligence. They do not like what they see in the mirror. Worst of all, they feel that others also find them undesirable, unattractive, unintelligent and incapable.
Clearly, a positive self-image is necessary to progress in life. Negative self-image takes people far away from reality. For instance, some women feel they are very ugly, whereas in reality, they may not be so.
A girl who has a big brown birthmark at the side of her temple may believe that it makes her ugly. She may try to harm herself by trying to scratch it off with a knife or blade or even be willing to undergo surgery to get it removed. She may fight with her friends or family members who try to dissuade her and may even exhibit suicidal tendencies if she is not allowed to have her way. That is because, she is unhappy with her appearance to such an extent that it makes her emotionally weak and gives her an inferiority complex. If something is not done about it, she may develop a serious personality disorder or go into chronic depression.
On the other hand, if she were to have a positive self-image, she would accept the birthmark as trivial, and may even flaunt it proudly as a unique mark of beauty.
Negative self-image is something that new mothers often experience. They find it difficult to come to terms with the way their body loses its shape after delivery. On the other hand, if they only concentrate on how blessed they are to have been given the opportunity to enjoy motherhood, they will feel happy for themselves. If they accept their heavy breasts and stretch marks as trophies of motherhood, they will be able to enjoy this phase of life better and cherish each moment they spend with their child.
Dealing with self-image issues is easier than most people think. A few simple steps you can follow are:
- Make a list of all the good qualities you possess. They could be anything — the fact that you love to call up friends and wish them on their birthdays even when they themselves forget yours; your ability to comfort others in grief; your friendliness; your ability to forgive and forget, and so on.
- Think of all the people you have helped and benefitted in your lifetime — friends or even house helps whom you may have helped financially or emotionally.
- Recall the names of all your family members and friends who love you and cannot imagine a life without you. Stop for a moment and think about why your sister calls you every week, even when there is nothing new to share. Why does your cousin say she finds comfort in hearing your voice? Why does your maid enjoy working at your house? Why does the society guard always greet you with an extra special smile? The answer is only one – you mean something to them.
- Remember all the struggles you have experienced in life and how you have managed to overcome them.
- Pat yourself for all your achievements — even the simplest ones, such as having managed to give a speech, or handled a difficult situation at work, or successfully taken care of a sick person.
- Go back in time and think of all the moments when you made your parents or loved ones proud.
- Recall the moments when you have received a compliment for something, say for your smile, your hair, soft hands, smooth skin, dark eyes, sweet voice or anything.
- Appreciate the skills that you possess, the things that you can do and love to do. Not everyone can sing and nor does everyone enjoy or appreciate music. The fact that you can, makes you special. There are so many things that you enjoy and feel, which others do not. They are the ones who do not know what they are missing in life. You can sit quietly on a park bench and while away a couple of hours just observing people? Well, that is a great quality. There are many restless and bored souls out there who would love to have that quality. You have to just take a moment to look at yourself in the mirror and peep deep inside your heart and mind. You will find innumerable things that you love and cherish, and just like that, you will create a positive self-image. Isn’t that pure magic?