FAQs on Self-concept/Self-image

 


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We hear many things about poor self image or low self esteem. What is self image and how does it affect us? 1. Just what is my self-image? Is it different than my self-concept?

Self-concept or self image is that internal picture we hold of ourselves - it’s who WE think WE are. The amazing thing is that often others hold different pictures of us that don’t agree with who we think we are. Each of us communicates out of our self-image. While affected by temperament, self-concept goes beyond our built in personality style.

2. I am generally shy. Why am I this way? Can I change?

Each of us has an inherited temperament. Our temperament combined with our life experience equals our personality. Certain temperament types are more introverted; that is, naturally more quiet. Anyone can change the outward behaviors, which is why we have Dale Carnegie Courses and Toastmasters to teach people to be more outgoing. But while the outward behavior may change, the inward temperament usually does not. In other words, you may not seem shy though inwardly you still are.

For more information on temperament and personality see my article at www.selfgrowth.com. (Search on the word temperament. )

3. How can you change someone else’s self image? How can I change my own self-image?

Self-image is composed of natural temperament (see above) and input from significant others (teachers, parents, friends, enemies, and self). It takes time and a repeated message to influence how a person feels about themselves. If you want to change your self-image you must change your “self talk"; those things you say about yourself unthinkingly. (I’m so clumsy, I never win, etc. ) To change another’s’ self-image requires first that the other sees you as significant to them and then that you provide them a consistent, believable message to them over time. Changing self-image is not an easy task and the person involved must also believe that change is possible.

4. One of my children is outgoing, the other reserved. Why is this?

Read again the section above on how self-image is formed. If you as parents have different temperaments, then your children inherited a combination of temperament traits from each of you. My oldest daughter is quiet and reserved much like I am. My youngest is naturally outgoing and talkative much like her mother. Remember that self-image is also influenced by life experience - if you push a quiet child they may become more open; if reluctantly. If you “quash" an outgoing child, they may become more reserved.

5. What factors influence my self-image?

First, temperament. Then upbringing and the message of parents. Then childhood peers. Then self-talk - what you say inwardly about yourself. Then teachers and relatives other than parents. Finally things like significant authors whose work influences you.

6. I have had many bad experiences in life. Can I change how I feel about myself?

This can often take the help of a counselor or coach if the trauma has been bad enough. But changing self-image means changing how you see yourself. It first involves challenging the beliefs you have about yourself. Sit down and write out the key messages you believe to be true about yourself. I’m ugly, I’m shy, I’m intelligent, I never succeed - all those things that influence how you act and feel. Now challenge them - are they really true? Or have I just given them too much ‘sway’ in my life.

Now develop a new list of beliefs about yourself. Imagine that you get to move to a new place where no one knows you. How would you behave differently in those circumstances? Thirdly, slowly begin to implement these new behaviors. Reinforce to yourself that this behavior is you - not what you said or were told before. And finally, take the time to change - beliefs about self don’t change overnight.

7. I always seem to be trying to please others. How can I stop this?

Pleasing others can reflect many things. You may be craving attention that you lacked from parents. You may fear rejection and work to avoid it at all costs. You may be seeking the approval of others in order to validate yourself.

Until you can find peace in being yourself, you will probably not be able to stop trying to please others. One recommendation I have is the “Boundaries" series of books by Drs. Cloud and Townsend.

Hal Warfield is a speaker, teacher and coach. Contact him at warfield@midsouth.rr.com . Or read other self-development articles at http://www.halwarfield.com .

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