Fostering a Positive Self-Image
What is self-image?
Self-image is the personal view we have of ourselves. It is our mental image or self-portrait. Self-image is an internal dictionary that describes the characteristics of the self, including intelligent, beautiful, ugly, talented, selfish and kind. These characteristics form a collective representation of our assets and liabilities as we see them.
How is self-image developed?
Self-image is a product of learning. Parents or caregivers make the greatest contribution to our self-image. They are mirrors reflecting back to us an image of ourselves. Our experiences with others such as teachers, friends and family add to the image in the mirror. Relationships reinforce what we think and feel about ourselves. The image we see in the mirror may be a real or distorted view of who we really are. Based on this view, we develop either a positive or a negative self-image. The strengths and weaknesses we learn as children are internalized and affect how we act as adults today. We continually take in information and evaluate ourselves:
- How do I look? We have a mental image of our physical appearance.
- How am I doing? We have a performance image of our successes and failures.
- How important am I? We have an inner sense of our adequacy and value
With a positive self-image, we own our assets and potentials while being realistic about our liabilities and limitations. A negative self-image focuses on our faults and weaknesses, distorting failure and imperfections.
Self-image is important because how we think about ourselves directly affects how we feel about ourselves and how we respond to life. Self-image can determine the quality of our relationships with others. How we think and feel about ourselves influences the way we react or respond to life stressors. A positive self-image affects our:
- emotional well being.
- spiritual well being
How can we create a positive self-image?
Self-image is not permanently fixed. Part of our self-image is dynamic and changing. We can learn to develop a healthier and more accurate view of ourselves, thus changing the distortions in the mirror. Self-image change is a process occurring over a lifetime. A healthy self-image starts with learning to accept and love ourselves. It also means being accepted and loved by others.
Specific steps to foster a positive self-image
The following are steps that you can take to begin fostering a positive image of yourself:
- Take a self-image inventory
- Define personal goals and objectives
- Set realistic and measurable goals
- Confront thinking distortions
- Identify childhood labels
- Stop comparing yourself to others
- Develop your strengths
- Learn to love yourself
- Give positive affirmations
- Remember that you are unique
- Learn to laugh and smile
- Remember how far you have come
What is body-image?
Body-image is part of self-image. Our body-image includes more than what we look like or how others see us. It also refers to how we think, feel and react to our own self-perceived physical attributes. Body-image development is affected by cultural images and the influence of family, peers and others. A positive body-image contributes to enhanced psychological adjustment:
- less depression
- positive self worth
- life satisfaction
- less interpersonal anxiety
- fewer eating disorders
Distortions in our thinking contribute to a negative body-image.
How can we enhance our body-image?
Body images are not fixed. Our body experiences change as we grow older, and each stage in our life is associated with body-image markers. Building a positive body-image is a lifelong process. Changing body-image means more than changing our body. It means changing how we think, feel and react to our body. Weight management and surgery are two ways to alter the body. Learning to have a positive relationship with an imperfect body increases the ability to lose weight. Surgery can be a catalyst for changing how we see ourselves. Extensive outside remodeling, however, also requires extensive inside changes in body-image.
Specific steps to enhance body-image:
- Explore your personal body-image with its strengths and limitations
- Confront thinking distortions related to your body
- Challenge misleading assumptions about body appearance
- Accept and love who you are
- Be comfortable with your body
- Have positive experiences with your body
- Be a friend to your body with positive affirmations