Do you have a positive or negative self-image? Do you basically feel good about yourself or do you worry that you aren’t good enough? Everyone’s self-image changes somewhat depending on circumstances, but when you feel bad about yourself in many areas of life and these feelings become persistent, then your negative self-image can impact your physical and mental health. In this article we’ll explore that impact and ways to achieve a more positive self-image.
The health benefits of a having a positive self-image are many. Those with a positive self-image are more likely to manage stress better and to be more resilient when facing challenges, disappointments, or illnesses. Those with a positive self-image are generally more assertive and they enjoy strong relationships.
Low self-image often leads to stress and, at times, depression and anxiety disorders. The negative emotions that come with low self-image weaken the immune system and increase the risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and cancer. Low self-image is also associated with addictive behaviors, such as alcoholism, smoking, drug addiction, and gambling.
Negative self-image can affect individuals regardless of age, ethnicity, sex, or socioeconomic status. While the picture of a person with low self-image can vary greatly, from a shrinking wall-flower to a highly competitive workaholic, the common denominator is that a person with a low self-image is extremely self-critical.
Your own thoughts – what you tell yourself in your self-talk, your interpretation of situations, and your beliefs about yourself and others – probably have the biggest impact on your self-image. It is important to realize that your thoughts are within your control and that you can change them. If you tend to focus on your weaknesses or flaws, you can learn to re-frame negative thoughts and focus instead on your positive qualities.
If your self-talk is habitually self-critical, it will take some practice to change. When you notice that you are having a self-critical thought, consider if you can replace strong negative words with more neutral or positive words. If your inner critic has a favorite critical name for you, see if you can turn it around to something more positive. Instead of calling yourself wishy-washy, substitute open-minded or flexible; instead of sloppy, substitute relaxed; instead of too noisy, substitute energetic and outgoing. And, instead of saying that you hate something about yourself, see if you can replace “hate” with “don’t like” or “I’m ready to change.”
Don’t confuse positive self-talk with self-delusion or mindless positive thinking. Draw the distinction between what is true and what is negative. Recognize self-sabotaging messages and replace them with more rational and positive self-talk.
Be a friend to yourself and speak to yourself as kindly as you would speak to a friend or loved one. Affirm your strengths and acknowledge your efforts rather than punishing yourself with negative self-talk. Use your inner voice to reassure yourself.
How you feel about yourself affects every aspect of your life. Change your negative self-talk into positive affirmations of your worth to improve your self-image and the quality and quantity of your life.