- Self-image is how you see yourself. It also influences your behavior.
- The ability to feel valued, competent, worthy, loved, and accepted is the foundation for healthy self-esteem
- You can change your self-image to unlock your potential and a better life.
- To develop a healthy self-image
- Define who you want to become.
- Let go of who you thought yourself to be.
- Disassociate with the wrong crowd.
- Act like the person you want to become.
- Associate with only the right crowd.
- Keep track of your wins.
- Keep track of your blessings.
- Practice self-compassion.
- Reward yourself.
- Keep upgrading/adjusting.
What Is Self-Image?
Your Self-image is how you see yourself – i.e. what you perceive your appearance, abilities, and personality to be. It affects how we behave, and consequently how our lives turn out. In other words, having a negative or limiting self-image is perhaps one of the saddest things in the world.
“A positive self-image has little relationship to our material circumstances.”Ezra Taft Benson
Many people think they are unhappy because of where they are in life, but the reality is that it is their self-image causing most of the problems. No matter where you are in life, if you do not feel valued, competent, worthy, loved, and accepted you may not feel happy.
Needless to say, the foundations of a healthy self-image are the feeling of being
- Loved, and
Of course, this feeling has to be in moderation and in line with reality, or else it becomes delusional and toxic, and may result in self-image internal conflict (which is not good for you or anyone)
Recommended Content: 10 Steps To Build A Healthy Self-Image
How Your Self-Image Affects Your Life:
I recall my primary and secondary school days: I was a brilliant student. Back then in Primary school, I usually took the 2nd position, and sometimes the 3rd position. However, in my JSS1 first term, I came 6th in class. This was unusual and made me feel very uncomfortable.
The next term I doubled my efforts – did my best in my assignments, took my tests seriously, and wrote till I had nothing left in my exams. That second term I took the 2nd Position. And it remained that way all through my JSS, and for most of my SSS days.
Also Read: How To Come First In Class.
This sort of thing also repeated during my University days in my romantic life. In my year 1, I was shy and had no experience with women. In fact, I still had some of my Religious Internal Conflicts, so it was hard to really get into a casual romantic relationship because I didn’t see myself as that sort of guy (fragments of my self-image as a “saint” were still lingering, and holding me back from exploring that aspect of my life).
However, as I got to read more books, challenge my beliefs, and eventually change my self-image, I found it easier to talk to ladies and eventually started having a lot of lady friends (though I didn’t turn into a playboy, because that’s just toxic).
Also Read: How To Get a Girlfriend (a Full Guide)
Your Self-image affects your
- confidence (think about low self-esteem, imposter syndrome, or feeling of worthlessness)
- relationships (think about social anxiety, shyness, codependency, etcetera)
- education (think about the choice of course of study, poor academic performance, etcetera)
- career (think about low drive, lack of grit, poor attention to detail, etcetera)
- physical health (think about overeating, under-eating, lack of physical activities, etcetera)
- mental health (think about overthinking, persistent shame, depression, etcetera).
I could go on and on, but I guess you’ve gotten the point.
So, let’s look at what you need to do to develop a Self-image that won’t limit or make you miserable.
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10 Steps To Develop a Healthy Self-Image:
“It’s not what you are that holds you back, it’s what you think you are not.”
― Denis Waitley
Think of it like upgrading the version of the operating system you are using. While a computer may meet the hardware requirements of a software, it may not be able to run it unless the operating system is up to date.
So also, you must realise that you already have all it takes to be successful and happy. In Nigeria, we often say, “people wey dey make am no get two head”. That is to say, there are many happy and successful people who you are stronger, prettier, and smarter than. You just haven’t upgraded your Operating System to the point where it can run that software that will give you all you dream of.
So, this is exactly how you upgrade your Operating System (i.e. your self-image) to unlock success and happiness.
Define who you want to become:
The first step to building a healthy self-image is identifying what a healthy self-image looks like. Of course, this is largely based on your values, but whatever the case, you should be able to find someone who you would like to be more like (or who you do not want to be like).
Let’s assume you (a young Nigerian male) want to become a well-paid writer. The first thing you want to do is go look up the list of successful writers. You can go further to look for successful black/Nigerian writers. (In my case, I allowed myself to be inspired by Mark Manson and Linda Ikeji).
This step is crucial because;
- It helps you have a picture of what you want.
- It helps you know what to do, and what not to do. As they say, “success leaves trails”. You can pick up on their habits, lessons, and tactics by simply following/studying them.
- It gives you a reference point. Sure, you don’t have to compare your 10th step to their 10,000th step, but you need to know where they are, and where they are stepping towards – so that you can avoid walking in circles or being too complacent.
Defining who you want to become helps you aim at the desired self-image in a more concrete and approachable way.
I have found that reading books can open your eyes to possibilities, and reveal to you what you can become.
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Let go of who you thought yourself to be:
The major struggle of most people is letting go of the idea they hold about themselves.
For example, most aspiring writers often say, “I am not yet a writer”, or “I can’t write”. What they don’t realise is that if you can write a sentence, you’re already a writer. And, it is crucial to label yourself a writer, else, how would you be motivated to write?
As James Clear stated, “the more pride you have in a particular aspect of your identity, the more motivated you will be to maintain the habits associated with it”. The reverse is also true.
So, what you want to do is think of all the noble and good reasons to be who you want to be, and also all the negative things associated with who you do not want to be anymore. The more you love that self-image, the easier it will be to adopt.
Sometimes this can be very hard or impossible to do without the help of someone else. So, if you find yourself stuck with a self-image you might want to reach out to a mentor, or therapist as the case may be.
Disassociate with the wrong crowd:
The fact is, you are greatly influenced by the people you associate with. The people you are looking at are a mirror with which you see yourself.
So, if everyone in your circle keeps telling you, “you can’t write”, “your writing sucks’, “you’ll never be good at writing”, it is very unlikely you will adopt the self-image of a writer. Heck! Even skilled writers may begin to question themselves.
Acting like the person you want to become:
This is not about faking it till you make it, but about relentlessly striving to adopt a self-image. This can require being extra conscious of your dressing, habits, or words in order to match the self-image you wish to adopt.
If the person you look up to writes 2,000 words every day and calls themselves a very good writer, you can start by writing 200 words every day and calling yourself a new writer. Remember, don’t try to match their 10,000th step, but aim for it.
If you keep reading, writing, and publishing – no matter how much slower – you are effectively becoming the person you want to become. This is just like kids learn to talk by babbling or walk by waddling till they get it right.
You may not feel like a writer on day 1, or day 10, but by day 100, or day 1,000, you would have most likely embraced the self-image of a writer.
Associating with only the right people:
Just as it is important to disassociate from the wrong crowd, you also want to associate with people who reinforce the self-image you desire.
If you want to see yourself as a writer, then you should join writing groups on social media, make writer friends, and, if possible, join writing clubs.
This simple act can nudge you to do what writers do, and consequently see yourself as one. And, remember, all your writer friends will also refer to you as a fellow writer.
Keep track of your wins:
Sometimes it is hard to believe we are what we profess. And, that is why you need proof.
If you have successfully written 100 posts, or written 1 book, it is very unlikely you will still doubt that you are a writer.
Keep track of all the positive comments and reviews you get about your work. It is even a bonus if you win an award (no matter how small) as a writer.
Tracking your wins, and reminding yourself of those can help a self-image solidify in your psyche.
A journal or blog can prove very useful for this purpose.
Count your blessings:
Unlike your wins/achievements that come from hard work, sometimes it also helps to sit back and think of all the things that are naturally available to you.
There are people who have a natural flair for writing. Or who have unknowingly developed the skill of writing (maybe when working a job, or during school days). So, sometimes you can just look back at how natural things come to you, or what already exists, and say, “Wow, I am a writer”. And that will be true without debate.
This can apply to someone just taking the time to accept that they are pretty, intelligent, hardworking, patient, loving, and so on. Sometimes, a simple act of reflection and gratitude is all it takes to build a healthy self-image.
A journal can prove to be useful for this exercise.
Saying kind words to yourself is great for building a healthy self-image. Rather than saying “I suck at writing”, you can switch it up and say, “I am still learning how to write”. Subtle adjustments like these can take you from feeling like a fraud to feeling like someone making progress (no matter how slow).
Practice taking a break when you feel overwhelmed. Accept that sometimes even the best at something can fail. And, do not beat yourself up for falling short. When kids waddle and fall, we don’t call them losers and tell them they won’t be able to walk. Rather, we encourage them to try again and remove any object we fear might injure them.
So also you should care for yourself when developing a new, healthy self-image.
Also Read: How Does Self-love Change Your Life?
Rewarding yourself is a very powerful way to adopt a self-image.
For example, I saw a dramatic improvement in my writing when I started freelancing. Making money from writing made me happy, proud, and confident as a writer. It made me realise that it was something I want to do, and be known for.
But the reward doesn’t have to be monetary alone. Reading and writing have also sharpened my thinking and communication skill to the point people can notice, and compliment me. So, that too has been a huge reward.
Sometimes, you have to also reward yourself. You can decide to throw a party, or go out, or buy yourself some new clothes. Sometimes, just complimenting yourself and acknowledging how much you’ve grown is sufficient to reinforce a self-image.
The enemy of a positive self-image is complacency or stagnation.
Let’s say you’ve successfully written a book. Perhaps it is time to adopt the self-image of an entrepreneur to sell that book. Why? If you stay stuck in the self-image of a writer, you may come to resent writing (because there is such a thing as broke writers).
So, what you want to do is to keep growing – removing and adding features – optimizing to become the best version you can possibly dream of.
Think what would have been of Windows if they stopped at XP. Or of Apple, if they stopped at the iPhone 4. Or of PlayStation, if they stopped at PlayStation 1.
There is no ultimate version of you – no ultimate self-image to aspire for. So, keep growing, leveling, and stepping up.
Humility and curiosity are your greatest assets in this phase.
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The person we believe ourselves to be will always act in a manner consistent with our self-image.
– Brian Tracy
Building a positive self-image is not all about thinking good thoughts or manifestation, but rather about regaining control over how you see yourself, and acting in the best way possible.
It is not something that happens instantly. It takes time, and you may need help. There are times when you will feel stuck, or even lost. But, with the right attitude, you will find your way and always come back a better person.
A Self-Help Writer And Editor Who Keeps It Simple (Yet Elegant)