Among the 3 components of self-esteem, self-image is the starting point. Indeed, it is from self-image that you determine the value you hold for yourself. If your self-image is demeaning and negative, it will be very difficult for you to build positive and empowering self-esteem. Because thoughts are creative. Everything you create in your life is first created in your thoughts.
But did you know that your image of yourself was not based only on your own personal analysis?
In fact, it is strongly subject to the gaze of others. As a result, it is influenced by the image that others have of you. It is also often the source of the image you give to them in order to meet their expectations. All of this creates what I call the “self-image circle of influence”
What is self-image?
Self-image is the mental representation that an individual has of himself, describing his personality:
- physique: height, gender, build, skin color, eye color, hair types, etc.)
- psychological: character, behavior, tastes and preferences, etc.
It’s both how we see ourselves and who we think we are. It can evolve following life events and vary according to the context in which we find ourselves. It is linked to our environment and our experience.
In reality, the self-image is made up of 3 closely related elements:
- The personal image: it is the one you have of yourself, both physically and mentally. It can be empowering or demeaning. It is mostly done in your head through your thoughts about yourself.
- The image sent back to others: it is the one you choose to send back to those around you, consciously or unconsciously. This is particularly the case when you seek to compensate for your personal image if you consider it to be unattractive in your eyes or not sufficiently in line with the expectations of those around you or the environment.
- The image that others send back to us: it is the image that people around you send back to you. It is often fueled by common beliefs and social codes. Moreover, it is with this one that we tend, during childhood, to modify our personal image.
The circle of influence
The 3 elements are inseparable and wil influence each other. In this sense, they form a cycle of influence schematized as below.
Each element feeds into the next element, and thus strengthens the overall self-image in positive or negative.
As introduced previously, most often the personal image is greatly influenced by the image that others send back to us. This is particularly the case during childhood. It is true that in childhood, when we think we can be fully ourselves, society and our parents give us a degrading or demeaning image of ourselves. They do not necessarily do this consciously but more often under the influence of the ego (which tells them what is good or bad) and social injunctions (which defines valid or invalid rules and codes).
But paradoxically, the personal image is also fueled by the image you send to them yourself. Hence the importance of paying attention to the attitudes you decide to adopt. For example, in order to compensate for a personal image that you consider yourself to be negative, you will adopt a behavior that is not in your deep nature to make yourself feel “better / better” in your own eyes. . This then builds an image sent back to others that gradually moves away from your true nature. It then fuels the rest of the cycle and reinforces your negative self-esteem over time.
This circle can be both virtuous and vicious. It all depends on how you choose to use it. Just remember that it will always be more beneficial for you to stay close to your truth than to walk away from it. Because living beside one’s truth is exhausting in the long run.
How to take advantage of this circle of influence?
To take better advantage of this circle of influence, I invite you to apply the following 3 tips:
- Always start from the base of the cycle: your personal image. It is from her that you must build your self-esteem. If you place too much emphasis on the image portrayed by others or portrayed by others, you risk creating a misconception of yourself.
- Harmonize your personal image with the image you send to others: as with point 1, if there is too much of a gap between these two images, you will experience what is called “not being aligned”. And it creates frustration, negative emotions and prevents you from taking full power over your life.
- Take into account the feedback of others without giving it a negative feedback that could tarnish your personal image: the feedback of others allows us to get to know each other in some cases. This helps us become aware of certain behaviors that we were not aware of before. The important thing is to stick with it without adding any guilt or negative opinion to your personal image.