Written by Arlenea Halyda, Content Writer Intern at Project Child Indonesia
Before delving into the topic of self-image, let’s do a fun little exercise first! Close your eyes, and try to conjure an image of yourself in your head. What kind of person do you see?
Is the person you’re imagining smiling, frowning, or without a facial expression? What do you feel about that person—is it someone you adore? Someone you barely tolerate? Someone you can’t stand? What’s the first word that pops into mind when you’re thinking about that person?
The thoughts that appear as you try to picture yourself are your self-image; a perception you have of yourself.
The Mountain State Centers for Independent Living stated that a self-image is self-expression that you’ve built up over time. This image, depending on the person’s upbringing and various internal and external factors, can be negative or positive. Being rooted in our own thoughts, actions, and ideas, it’s only natural that the self-image we have of ourselves follows accordingly.
But why is it so important for us to have a positive self-image?
How we think about ourselves has a massive impact on our mental health and self-esteem, which then affects how we carry ourselves and how we interact with the world around us. Someone with a good self-image most likely exudes confidence and radiates positivity, and on the contrary, someone with a bad self-image might easily succumb to insecurity and shut themselves out.
But don’t worry! The good news is, self-image is not permanently fixed and ever changing. Even the most confident person can have one of those days where they don’t feel so great about themselves… And that’s okay.
This only means that self-image is malleable, and leaves room for development. Though it will take a bit of practice, we can mold the way we perceive ourselves however we like. If we suffer from a bad self-image, it’s possible to train our brains to look at ourselves in a more positive light.
With that being said, let’s take a look at some of the ways we can slowly build a positive self-image!
Learn How to Accept Ourselves
When you’ve spent too long disliking yourself, it might be hard to love yourself overnight—or even view yourself positively. So, instead of forcing yourself to love yourself, sometimes the best thing you can do is simply accept yourself.
Accept the fact that you’re a flawed human being with mistakes and errors, and acknowledge that those flaws don’t decrease your worth as a person. When you catch yourself nitpicking every single thing that you do, take a step back and remind yourself that maybe you won’t be as perfect as you want to be (not all the time, anyway), and that’s okay.
When you accept yourself, you’ll naturally give yourself a break and you won’t be so hard on yourself anymore. This is a big leap in viewing yourself positively, because you’ll stop scrutinizing everything that you do and just start living, as you are. And hey, along the way, you might find yourself starting to love the little things that you do (that you didn’t appreciate before)!
Stop Comparing Yourself to Other People
As a former American President Theodore Roosevelt once said: “Comparison is the thief of joy”—comparing ourselves to other people might just be the biggest benefactor to our unhappiness, and it needs to be eradicated. While it’s good to be inspired by others’ achievements, it’s not healthy to actively compare where we are at life versus where they are at life. It’s a race we’ll never win, and we’ll just exhaust ourselves by running towards a non-existent finish line.
This is how we acquire a negative self-image, even when we’re doing perfectly fine on our own: we keep looking over at other people and think, I’ll never be that person.
News flash; you’ll never be that person. You can only be you, and that’s all you’ll ever be. Now it’s up to you whether or not you’ll make yourself a person you like, a person you adore, a person you look up to. Instead of lamenting the fact that you’re not that person, you can focus that energy on becoming a person you can be proud of.
Develop Our Skills and Strengths
Now let’s get down to business! While the first two points are mental exercises on how we can view ourselves more positively, this one’s a bit different because it requires visible effort on becoming the person we want to be. Let’s develop our skills and strengths!
The person you want to be is someone who’s good at math? Study extra hard to master it! The person you want to be is someone who reads a lot of books? Find resources and information on what books you might like, and set a reachable goal to finish it! The person you want to be is someone with a fit and healthy body? Spare the time to regularly exercise and stick to that routine!
While it’s deeply encouraged to accept and love yourself as you are, it’s also good to improve yourself little by little, by doing things you enjoy and are beneficial for yourself. By doing this, you’ll slowly grow into the person you’ve always envisioned, and having a positive self-image would come naturally after a while! Just be sure to keep a lookout on yourself and don’t burn yourself out by setting realistic and measurable goals.
Keep in mind that it would take a while to build a positive self-image. The road is long and you might revert back to having a negative view of yourself from time to time, but you got this. Remember, any progress is good progress!
Reference:Ackerman, C. (2021). What is Self-Image and How Do We Improve it? Definition + Quotes. PositivePsychology.com. Retrieved from https://positivepsychology.com/self-image/.