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Last Updated on January 14, 2021

What Is Self-Image (And How to Change It for a Happier Life)

What Is Self-Image (And How to Change It for a Happier Life)

We all have different ways of looking at ourselves. Some of us are confident and perceive ourselves as being highly capable while others may be less-confident and unsure of their abilities. Some people look into the mirror and see positive things while others may see less positive things. All of these intertwining factors that make up how we view ourselves make up what is called our self-image.

Our self-image is the personal viewpoint we adopt towards ourselves which describes characteristics such as intelligence, attractiveness, talents, kindness, and many other traits.

In this article, we’ll take a deeper look at what self-image is and how you can change it for a happier life.

What Is Self-Image?

Put very simply, your self-image relates to how you see yourself both internally and externally.

This idea is exaggerated upon by Random House Dictionary who defines self-image as:

“the idea, conception, or mental image one has of oneself.”

So, why is self-image important?

Well, self-image influences how we view ourselves, how we interact with others, and even how we feel about our surroundings. Thus, it has pretty broad influence over our lives.

A positive self-image has the ability and potential to boost our physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual well-being. On the other hand, a negative self-image can decrease our well-being in each of these areas as well as our overall life satisfaction and functioning.

Self-Image vs. Self-Concept

A lot of people tend to get self-image confused with self-concept. The two terms are very similar, so the confusion is understandable. However, there is an important difference:

Self-concept is a much broader term relating to how you see, think, and feel about yourself.

Thus, self-image is a portion of what makes up our much broader self-concept. Self-image is strictly how we view ourselves, not how we think or feel about ourselves.

Self-Image vs. Self-Identity

Again, as was the case with self-concept, self-identity is a broader and more comprehensive term than self-image.

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The best way to distinguish between these two closely related terms is to say that self-image is specific. It relates to different aspects of our view of ourselves. All of these different snapshots that you feel when you look in the mirror then combine to produce your self-identity.[1]

Our self-identity is the whole image of who we believe we are, and how we would describe ourselves to the other people who are around us.

Examples of Self-Image

Just to make sure that we’re on the same page, we should run through a few quick examples of self-image.

As I’ve already hinted to, you can have both positive and negative self-images. You can even have both types and they can vary in regards to different aspects of your self-image.

What this often boils down to is that with a positive self-image, we recognize our assets, qualities, and overall potential. Additionally, a positive self-image allows us to be comfortable with and accepting of our weaknesses, flaws, and limitations.

Contrastingly, with a negative self-image, we tend to focus much more greatly on our flaws and weaknesses; we are less accepting of them, and we distort these imperfections as well as our failures.

So let’s start by running through a few negative examples of self-image, and then work ourselves towards the more positive examples.

Negative Examples of Self-Image

Typically, a negative self-image refers to when you have a poor view of yourself.

For example, people may feel as though they are unattractive, undesirable, unintelligent, or unhappy.

A negative self-image relates to our view that we are somehow falling short of the ideal version of ourselves. This normally results in us feeling negative towards ourselves when we see our reflection in the mirror.

This can be problematic as low self-image can lead to illnesses such as depression.

Positive Examples of Self-Image

Now, a positive self-image should be quite easy for you to imagine. A positive self-image would simply be the opposite of the examples that I provided you with above.

So viewing yourself as an attractive, desirable, intelligent, or happy individual would all indicate that you are embodying a positive self-image.

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Even if in some way, you feel that you are falling short of the ideal version of yourself, you don’t feel overly negative about it because you have all of these positive feelings towards yourself.

Put very simply, when you look in the mirror at your reflection, you experience positive feelings.

How Do We Develop Self-Image?

Our self-image is like us in the way that it is by no means fixed. It adapts and evolves as we grow as individuals and through our interactions with others.

For instance, as we practice certain skills and abilities, and as we learn and grow, we are much more likely to view ourselves as capable and competent individuals. Our self-image is continually assessing this type of information and the attitudes that we hold towards ourselves.

Another example might be related to our physical appearance. Imagine that you put on a few pounds over winter. I’m willing to bet that would negatively influence your self-image.

Contrastingly, imagine now that you stuck to a regular gym routine and got into the best physical shape of your life! This is a good example of our self-image likely changing in a positive direction as a result of our commitment.

However, it’s not just the things we do to ourselves that influence our self-image. It can also be influenced by our interactions and relationships with others.

For example, if you regularly interact with people who are supportive and encouraging towards you, then you’re much more likely to develop a positive self-image than if you’re regularly interacting with people who are negative and unsupportive. These relationships can reinforce the things that we see when we look in the mirror, regardless of whether the view we have of ourselves is completely distorted or not.

How to Create a Positive Self-Image

So now we know that our self-image isn’t fixed, and is influenced by many different aspects of our life, let’s talk about how we can work towards creating a positive self-image.

As with many of the changes we try to make in our lives, there isn’t a quick fix that will work for everyone and help them improve their self-image.

The first step is always about learning to accept and love ourselves.

You might start by making a list of your positive qualities and posting that somewhere you can regularly view it and be reminded of them. From here, you may identify things that you want to improve, making reasonable and actionable goals, and then working towards achieving them. As you develop these strengths, provide yourself with a lot of positive affirmations. Focus on the good things. Throughout this process, you want to refrain from comparing yourself to others.[2]

Remember, learning to love yourself is a long process. You are a unique individual with unique strengths and weaknesses. You’ve come a long way from where you’ve started. Appreciate that and use it to motivate you to go even further!

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Once you’re on this path, you may feel as though you want to invest more into improving your self-image. If you’re at this point, there are exercises that you can engage in to boost your self-image:

1. Make a List of the Things You Like About Yourself

This is a simple but effective exercise that you can engage in. You may find it difficult at first but as you get into the flow of things, it will get easier and easier.

This list of things you like about yourself can include some of your favorite qualities. Maybe you think you’re smart or attractive or funny!

It can extend beyond your qualities as well. Maybe you want to include some of your favorite personal skills. Some examples might include things like being athletic or artistic.

Making this list of positive traits and skills will help you focus more on the positive aspects of your self-image. Learning to focus on and appreciate these things more will help you to improve your self-image.

2. Make a list of the Life Moments You’re Proudest Of

This is another great exercise for you to engage in to help you focus more on the things you’ve been able to achieve in your life.

Sometimes, we forget how amazing we are as individuals. This list will help you to remember those things.

This list can include things that are as large as winning big competitions, getting recognized for a major contribution, or achieving some high-level accomplishment that you’ve been working towards for a long time. They can also be smaller things like learning to be more sociable or completing a task.

You also might want to consider how you’ve confronted challenges and barriers in your life and how your skills have allowed you to overcome those things.

Note how you worked towards the goal against this adversity and then were rewarded for the fruits of your labor. Just make sure that these achievements and proud life moments remind you what YOU have to offer this world, and what you are capable of doing when you set your mind to it!

3. Make a Life-Appreciation Bank

This is the last exercise that I have to share with you. And it’s a good one.

You see a lot of similar exercises out there now in things such as gratitude journals which have you reflect on a few things each day that you’re grateful for.

Basically, in this exercise, you’re going to create a list again. But this list will be a lot bigger than the last two. So make sure you have a bit of time to complete this exercise.

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Your goal here is to create a comprehensive and exhaustive list of all of the things you’re thankful for in your life right now.

Everyone will generate a unique list because everyone has a different life and different things that they’re thankful for.

Once you’re done the list, cut up each item and place them in a container of some sort.

Now, whenever you feel as though you need a little self-image boost, you will go grab and read one of these things from your life-appreciation bank.

You can choose how the rules work. Maybe after you read an item from the bank, you remove it or, maybe you’d prefer to throw it back in the mix. Maybe you want to read one or two things a day. Or, maybe you’d rather simply reach over and grab one as needed.

The rules are flexible and it’s up to you to create them. It’s your bank after all!

All that matters is that you end up with a pool of gratitude-bites that can help give you a little self-image boost as you desire.

Final Thoughts

This has been a fairly long talk on self-image so I’m going to wrap things up.

If you only take one main message away from this article, this is what I want it to be:

Your self-image is not permanent. It is a dynamic concept that will vary as you grow, evolve, and as the way you view yourself changes.

So don’t allow yourself to get stuck living with a negative self-image. You now have the tools to change your self-image for the better!

You owe that to yourself!

More Tips About Building Self-Worth

Featured photo credit: Jakub Gorajek via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Positive Psychology: What is Self-image and How Do We Improve It?
[2] Cleveland Clinic: Fostering a Positive Self-Image

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Mark Lynch

Featured Life-Balance, & Personal Development Author

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

How To Focus on the Positive To Achieve Your Goal In Life

How To Focus on the Positive To Achieve Your Goal In Life

Focusing on the positive seems harder than ever. A global pandemic, civil unrest, and political tensions galore have made thies year tough.

In spite of all the challenges this year has thrown at you, there are ways you can stay positive and continue to pursue your life’s goals. Remember, more trials are yet to come. You need to be able to overcome them all in order to turn your dreams into realities.

Motivation can be tough to come by in times like these. Here’s how you can keep your head up and keep moving forward:

1. Perform an Attitude Check

Whenever you hit a snag in your life, take a step back. Think about how you’re reacting to the situation. Are you thinking rationally? Is your behavior warranted? Are your actions helping or hurting your cause?

If you take the time to evaluate yourself, you’ll be able to stop negativity in its tracks. With a little practice, you’ll learn to reframe pessimistic thoughts into more positive, realistic ones.

2. Keep a Journal

Even on the bleakest of days, you can come up with one shred of silver lining. All it takes is a little reflection.

At least once a day, make a point to jot down something good about your day in your journal. By focusing on your blessings, you’ll start to see more and more of them.

Also, use this journal to record progress you make toward your life goals. If you want to become a professional athlete, write down your day’s workout routine. Day by day, you’ll see just how much progress you’ve made. Look back at your journal entries on tough days, and they will remind you of how far you’ve come.

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3. Surround Yourself With Similar People

When you’re on your own, it’s much easier to get discouraged. The solution is to find a support group.

Communities exist for every conceivable interest. If you’re a freelance writer, Writers Guild of America can help you hone your skills. If you’re a combat veteran, All the Way Home can get you outdoors with other wounded warriors. If you like trivia, join a local quiz bowl team.

Don’t underestimate The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You.

4. Quantify Your Goals

Pursuing your goals will get frustrating if you don’t give yourself specific markers of success. The solution is to put hard numbers to your goals.

For example, if your life goal is to become wealthy, how rich is rich enough? Will you be satisfied with $1 million? What about $10 million? Unless you have a figure in mind, you’ll never feel like you have enough.

Even more ambiguous goals can be quantified. Maybe being happy for you means getting out of debt and spending at least 10 hours per week with family and friends.

Learn about how to set goals in this article: How to Set Goals and Achieve Them Successfully

2. Remember Your ‘Why’

While reaching for your goals, you can’t lose sight of your “why.” This is what pushes you through the bad days and motivates you to keep going. Without a “why,” your goals might start to seem arbitrary.

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If you have a goal to run a marathon, what gets you on your feet every morning? Is it to get in shape? Perhaps it’s to feel a sense of accomplishment as you cross the finish line. Keeping your “why” top of mind will get you out the door when you don’t feel like training.

3. Tell Others About Your Progress

Public recognition is a powerful thing. When you hit a new milestone, share it publicly. Not only will you feel good doing so, but you’ll be more motivated to reach the next one.

Say you have a sales quota at work. Announce when you’ve hit 50%, 75%, and 100% of your goal, and encourage others to do the same. Celebrating together encourages the whole team to stay positive and to reach higher.

4. Develop a Mantra

“Just do it.” Sound familiar? Nike’s motto is also an excellent example of a mantra. A mantra is a word or phrase you repeat to yourself for motivation when times get tough.

Mantras are commonly used by professional athletes who need to keep a level head while performing under extreme physical stress.[1] But mantras work just as well to get people through mentally or emotionally taxing periods.

Make your mantra meaningful and easy to remember. When you need a boost, you can say it out loud or simply think it to yourself. You can get some inspirations from these 50 Self-Affirmations to Help You Stay Motivated Every Day.

5. Try Meditation

When you get too wrapped up in the negative, it can be tough to think your way out of it. When that happens, turn to meditation. Meditation helps you calm your mind and see problems with fresh eyes.

The best part is, there’s no “wrong” way to meditate. You can do a guided meditation, or simply shut yourself away in a quiet place and listen to your breathing.

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If you’re not sure where to start, download a meditation app. Popular options include Headspace, Calm, and Sattva. After a few sessions, you’ll feel the difference.

6. Make Time for Yourself

Pursuing your goals and fighting off the worries of the world can take a toll on your wellbeing. A little “me time” can get you back on track.

There’s nothing wrong with taking a day off. Use this day to indulge in a hobby, a favorite TV show, or even just a nap. When you get back to the grind, you’ll be that much more productive.

Learn How to Take Time for Yourself and Restore Your Energy.

7. Get Enough Sleep

How many people do you know who do their best work when they don’t get enough sleep? Chances are, it’s the same as the number of Super Bowl rings in the Cleveland Browns’ trophy case (hint: zero).

When you’re sleep deprived, a positive outlook can be elusive.[2] Develop a night routine that helps you put your devices away and get to bed on time.

If you still struggle to get the sleep you need, try supplements like melatonin. Speak with your doctor if conditions like sleep apnea are interrupting your rest.

8. Exercise Regularly

No doubt: Exercise is important for your physical health. But did you know it can also lift you up mentally and emotionally? Exercise releases endorphins in your brain. These chemicals combat pain, stress, and even depression.

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Unless you live on a farm an hour outside the nearest city, you’ll find a gym nearby. If a gym membership isn’t in your budget, you can do calisthenic exercises at home or take up running. Another good option is yoga, which can also improve your balance and focus.

9. Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

What you put into your body is just as important as what you do with it. A healthy diet coupled with plenty of water is key if you want to function at your peak. Junk foods, sugary drinks, and alcohol can sap your energy and harm your self-esteem.

If you have trouble sticking with your diet, set up a meal plan. Portion out meals for yourself so you don’t eat too much or too little. Set reminders in your calendar to ensure you sip water throughout the day. Here’s How to Find a Healthy Eating Plan That Actually Works for You.

10. Switch Up Your Routine

Doing the same thing day in and day out can get old. And when your life gets stale, you may struggle for motivation or a positive outlook.

Don’t let yourself fall into a rut. When you do, try a different approach. Changing course even slightly can help you see things in a new light. Instead of taking a walk at noon, for instance, could you go on one before work?

Take this same approach to your professional development. If you’re sick of learning about physics, it’s going to be tough to become the next Albert Einstein. What about a dose of math or chemistry?

Final Thoughts

Despite all these tactics you can use to stay positive and accomplish what you want in life, the most important one can be summed up in three words: Don’t give up!

Quitting won’t get you any closer to your goals, nor will it put you in a positive headspace. Use this guide to keep moving forward no matter how difficult life can be.

More on How To Think Positive

Featured photo credit: Sander Crombach via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Built For Athletes: 6 Real Mantras Used By Elite Athletes
[2] Harvard: Sleep and Mental Health

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