What is Self Image ?
Your self-image is the way you see yourself in your mind. These are the internal pictures, sounds and feelings of ourselves that we recognise as ‘us’. Self-image may be how you see yourself physically, or your opinion of who and what you are (which is normally called self-concept). It is important as it affects your self-esteem and confidence. Self-image is really powerful because your behaviour will almost never swerve away from this internal picture. Your mind behaves consistently with the kind of person that you think you are.
Many people are not aware of their own self-image until they really look! We are usually preoccupied with the images that bombard us in the media every day and of the people around us, rarely taking time to examine our own.
- What you think you look like
What does self-image have to do with self-esteem?
Self-esteem is how you feel about yourself. Image is about how you see yourself and how you believe others see you. They are closely connected because if you have a poor self-image or opinion of yourself - your self-esteem will be low.
Image is to do with perception. How you see yourself is vital because this will affect your behaviour, your thinking, and how you relate to others. People respond to you either positively or negatively according to how confident you are. Your confidence in relationships depends on the image you have of yourself.
How you see yourself is often different from how others view you. Your view of yourself is shaped by your unique thoughts and beliefs and you will have a distorted view. You will see yourself in a positive or negative way according to your level of self-esteem. You may have a negative view of yourself and, if so, you are probably highly critical of yourself. We all know people, and we may be guilty of this ourselves, that think they are either too fat, too thin, too shy, too old, or too ‘something else’.
The problem is that anyone who really believes, and consistently tells themselves (and others) that they are too fat, too thin, or too whatever creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. They will unconsciously sabotage any attempts to appear attractive. Because they don’t project themselves at their best, people will inevitably find them less attractive and so the cycle continues.
This is a learned behaviour that becomes a habit. You are projecting your own opinion of yourself to others. Who are they to challenge this if you don’t challenge it yourself?
Our own self-image has been formed over many years and has been affected by many events and influences in our lives, many since childhood. Many of our earliest messages from childhood were positive and encouraging, but many were often outweighed by criticism from our parents, teachers, and other role models. Unfortunately comments such as ‘you clumsy/silly/big/naughty girl’ are the ones that really stick in our minds and go on to form our own opinion and self-image and self-esteem over the years into adulthood.
We tend to remember the negative comments and experiences much more than the positive ones, and the hurt feelings stay with us, as they have the biggest impact.It doesn’t help that many cultures quash any successes that we achieve and even appear fearful of celebrating achievements. We have all heard it said as a child: “nobody likes a show-off”. No wonder we form negative self-images of ourselves, resulting in low self-esteem, as we grow into adults!
A super snippet from the acclaimed women's self help book: