Self-image is all about how you perceive yourself.
When you think about who you actually are, what is the mental image you see?
If you have positive self-image, you tend to feel more confident in your thoughts and actions. You worry less about what others think of you and how you appear on the outside. However, if you have negative self-image, you’re more likely to feel doubtful of your ideas and capabilities.
In this article, you’ll discover 10 signs that might be telling you your self-image needs some TLC.
Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what other people think about us – what matters is how we feel about ourselves.
Sign 1: Constantly seeking reassurance
Do you often find yourself seeking reassurance from other people regularly, rather than giving it to yourself?
For example, do you find yourself asking questions like:
-Are you sure I look good in this outfit?
-Do you think I’m making the right decision?
-Can I read you this text message I sent to my boyfriend and tell me if it sounds okay?
-Do you think I’m good at (insert activity here eg. cooking, dancing, singing)?
-Will my boss ever give me a promotion?
-Do you really love me?
If you find yourself often asking for reassurance in different types of situations (and also being swayed by the other person’s answer!), then you might have a negative self-image. You don’t really believe in yourself and so you need other people to give you the validation and reassurance you need.
However, when you do receive reassurance, it often doesn’t last very long. At first, you might feel relieved and more confident, but it tends to wear off quickly and so you have to seek out more reassurance.
What to do instead: Whenever you feel compelled to ask for reassurance, try to give it to yourself instead. For example, if you decide to get your hair cut much shorter, rather than asking someone else if they think it will look good on you, give yourself some reassurance. For example, “I’m sure this shorter hairstyle will look great on me! Plus, it will be much easier to look after. If I don’t particularly like my hair short, I can always grow it out again.”
Sign 2: Having a fear of failure
Failure is a normal and natural part of life. However, someone with negative self-image will likely feel that failure is unacceptable and therefore, fear it. They worry that if they fail, their self-image will be damaged and other people will judge them for it, further diminishing their sense of self-worth. Basically, their self-image hangs on whether they are outwardly successful or not!
What to do instead: Embrace mistakes and failure as normal life experiences. Remind yourself that you are still a good person and your self-image is about so much more than outward success. Learn from each mistake, failure or short-coming and move on.
Sign 3: Feeling ashamed of yourself
Do you often feel ashamed of different aspects of yourself, from the way you look to your personality and the way you act? Feelings of shame can indicate negative self-image as you might feel like you’re not good enough and this triggers guilt and shame.
You might put yourself down with hurtful or critical self-talk, such as “I’m such a selfish and unkind person” or “I don’t deserve the good things in my life” or “I hate myself”.
It’s clear how this type of thinking would be linked to negative self-image. How can you see yourself in a positive light when these are the types of thoughts you have about yourself?
What to do instead: Whenever you notice yourself feeling guilty or ashamed, use kind and encouraging self-talk. For example, “It’s okay that I’m feeling sad or guilty, but I’m also allowed to accept myself as a regular human being with flaws and shortcomings” or “I love myself for all that I am”.
Sign 4: Putting other people down
Sometimes, when you have a negative self-image it can make you feel a little bit better to put other people down. After all, if you focus on someone else’s flaws and mistakes, then you might not have to focus on yours as much!
However, there are several potential problems with putting other people down to protect your self-image…
1: You might feel guilty and ashamed about putting someone else down, which can actually harm your self-image when realise it wasn’t a very kind thing to do.
2: Looking for the flaws and shortcomings of others might teach you to focus even more on those things. So not only will you see the negative in people around you more, but you’ll probably see the negative in yourself more, too.
3: You’re missing out on the opportunity to be open-minded and kind towards others, which is something that could actually help you improve your self-image.
What to do instead: Practice looking for the “goodness” of other people. Whenever you notice yourself putting people down (whether it’s out loud or in your head), catch yourself and challenge yourself to stop that kind of behaviour. Instead, look for the good things in other people – aspects of their appearance, fashion sense, personality, or actions. Recognise their “goodness” and notice how it can actually feel so much better than needing to bring other people down!
Sign 5: Always saying “I’m sorry”
Constantly apologizing can be another sign of negative self-image. When you keep saying “I’m sorry”, especially for things which aren’t your fault or responsibility, you’re showing that you doubt yourself. It can also be an indirect way of asking for reassurance (remember sign 1?) because you want someone to tell you that everything is okay and it’s not your fault.
What to do instead: Don’t apologize unless it’s actually necessary. Before you say “sorry” ask yourself if you genuinely need to, or are you just searching for reassurance? If you don’t really need to apologize, then don’t. This will also help your genuine apologies mean more to other people when you actually say sorry!
Sign 6: Feeling uncomfortable in your own skin
Do you sometimes just feel uncomfortable in your own skin? For example, maybe you feel self-conscious about your appearance or your personality. Perhaps, you often pick up your phone in social situations because you feel awkward and you aren’t confident enough to start a conversation. Or maybe, you drink alcohol to become a “funnier, more carefree” version of yourself.
These could all be signs that you aren’t particularly comfortable in who you are, potentially reflecting a negative self-image.
What to do instead: Spend some time in situations which tend to make you feel a bit uncomfortable and practice mindfulness – simply observe your thoughts, feelings and environment with non-judgement and be present with your discomfort.
Sign 7: Blaming yourself for bad things that happen and saying it’s “luck” when you do something well
Something goes wrong? It’s all your fault. Something goes right? It was just lucky. This is often the mentality of someone with a negative self-image. They willingly shoulder responsibility for wrongdoing, but they don’t take compliments or praise well.
What to do instead: Practice taking compliments well and acknowledge when you’re feeling proud of yourself for jobs well done.
Sign 8: Being indecisive and valuing the ideas of others above your own
Do you ever have a great idea for an activity you’d really like to do with a friend or loved one, but when they suggest something else you say yes (even when you don’t want to)? Or maybe, when you have a few different options or ideas, you prefer someone else makes the final decision?
Being indecisive and valuing other people’s opinions and ideas above your own can be a sign that you believe you aren’t capable or worthy of having a say.
What to do instead: The best way to fix indecisiveness and valuing the ideas of others above your own is simply to practice assertiveness! Honestly and calmly share your thoughts, ideas and feelings and don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. Your opinions matter, too!
Here are some easy steps to follow to help you be more assertive:
-Ask yourself what you really want/need
-Choose the best way to articulate your wants or needs
-Go into the conversation with an attitude of “I’m okay and you’re okay” (rather than “I’m right and you’re wrong”, or “I’m wrong and you’re right”)
-Be ready to stand up for yourself
-Also be prepared to compromise if necessary
Sign 9: Withdrawing from social interactions
Choosing to withdraw from social situations can be an indicator of negative self-image. If you feel like you can’t stop comparing yourself to others, or if you think you don’t fit in, or if you don’t believe you’re “good enough” to spend time with particular people, then you might start spending more and more time on your own.
This may look like:
-Spending time at home playing computer games rather than attending social events
-Ordering everything you might need online (such as food) and getting it shipped to your house just so you can avoid other people
-Watching movies in bed instead of organising to catch up with friends
-Choosing to work from home instead of in the office
-Scrolling through your phone even when you’re at social events
-Skipping holidays and special occasions
-Keeping your thoughts and feelings to yourself, even when you’re with people who care for you
-Ignoring phone calls from friends and family
What to do instead: Set yourself some small and fun goals to interact socially with people who help you feel positive and uplifted. Catch up over the phone once a week, go out for coffee, leave your phone in your bag at social events and practice communicating.
Sign 10: Lying to cover up mistakes
One more potential sign of having a negative self-image is lying to cover up mistakes, or exaggerating to make yourself sound “better”. You are so concerned with how you look to other people that you can’t show them the real, imperfect and authentic version of yourself.
What to do instead: Be more open and honest with people! Notice that admitting mistakes, sharing your worries, being vulnerable and letting people see the “real you” doesn’t actually drive them away, but helps you create stronger relationships. That’s because human beings can connect via real stories and real emotions and by letting people in, you’re showing them that you trust them and you’re not afraid to be honest. At the same time, you’re proving to yourself that someone can love (or be friends with) the genuine “you” and this can help improve your self-image.
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about the signs of a damaged self-image and what you can do to help improve it!
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Articles written by our internal Daily Guru writers, who are certified & qualified growth & development professionals.