What’s Self-Image Got To Do With It?

By Susan Ball

Let’s face it there are many “selfs” out there and all of them have a role to play in our healing, healthy relationships, and happiness. There is lots of talk about self-esteem, confidence, trust, and self-love and they are all necessary for a healthy, happy life.

But there is one queen “self”: self-image.

What is Self-Image? It is an internalized mental picture we carry around. It defines how we think and feel about ourselves based on our appearance, performance, and relationships. The roots of self-image are messages received over our lifetime from our parents, teachers, pastors, neighbors, colleagues, bosses, and many others who we wanted to value and like us. Each message and label forms a layer and if the messages are negative we end up with a very poor self-image. Co-dependency is a direct reflection of our self-image.

A great example is how we are spoken to about our bodies. I was told I was awkward and gangly and didn’t know how to control my arms and legs. Add-on a little you’re too skinny and flat-chested and my self-image became: I was hideous to look at. Staying home and out of sight was best. And when I did venture out, I lurked along the walls and in the dark. A basic wallflower.

These labels and messages become the breeding ground for our co-dependency and people-pleasing. They play a substantial role in how we interact with others and are reflected in our own behavior. Our inability to set and enforce boundaries, trust ourselves to leave a bad relationship, or set and achieve our goals are all rooted in our floundering self-image.

A simple self-image discovery test – How do you handle compliments? Do you simply say thank you or do you become flustered and start being defensive?

Through my work supporting women in recovery after abuse, I have encountered many women who have an unhealthy self image. They see themselves as flawed and defective, and they feel the need to hide their weaknesses and flaws. That is not true. No more hiding bits of you. You want to embrace and flaunt your fabulous “flaws” because they are what make you unique, dynamic, and powerfully, unapologetically you.

Getting to know how you see yourself is an important part of moving past codependency and living life authentically and free. It will take honesty and vulnerability but you are worth it.

Building your self-image is a small steps project and with each step you will feel the benefits of breaking the old messages and labels.

Want to get started? Begin with these questions. Come back to them as many times as you need. You are a work in progress. Give yourself time, breath, and administer buckets of self-compassion.

How do you see yourself moving through the world?

What words do you use to describe yourself?

Do you ask others to do things with you? Or do you wait to be asked or invited?

Do you introduce yourself with “just” – oh, it’s just me. I’m just a (fill in the blank) or I’m just here for a minute.

Do you move with purpose, head held high knowing you’ve got this?

Do you say yes and no with equal grace and ease?

Are you looking for someone to lean on and be your wing person?

Do you take yourself out alone or attend events, movies, or the theatre alone comfortably?

Important questions to ask yourself and your answers will lead you to a deeper understanding of your self-image.

A healthy self-image will be reflected in the actions we take to create a life that we love, move forward, and heal the bonds of codependency.

Susan Ball, Abuse Recovery Expert. Susan works with women who are ready to live life unapologetically. Courageous Woman Community is a monthly support group for women recovering from abuse, domestic violence, and other traumas. https://www.recoveryafterabuse.ca/courageous-woman-support-group/

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