Your self-image is your mental picture of who you are and who you are not, what you can and can’t do, what you should and shouldn’t do, how you should and shouldn’t behave, how you should and shouldn’t dress, etc. We all have a self-image and if we are not aware of how we think about or see ourselves it can hold us back from being as happy or productive as we would like to be.
Youth particularly start noticing their self-image in early adolescence and it becomes very important to them. Developing their self-image is often based on external influences including, friends, fashion, trends, etc. They use these outer points of reference to discern how they should look, feel, and act, and the attitude with which they should approach life. Because teens just want to fit in they will often feel self-conscious about who they are if they perceive their real self is deviating from the norm.
It is important to encourage teens and young adults, to ‘be yourself’ and to feel comfortable with the self. Everyone, including teens, are often under the impression that there is one correct way of being. This correct way of being is a reason why nobody feels they fit in and a reason everybody feels bad about themselves. To help our teens out of this trap, we need to teach them to celebrate their individuality and to be proud of who they are.
Here are some tips to help your child overcome self-image issues.
1. Appreciate who you are: We are all different with unique talents and gifts. It can do our self-image wonders if we just accept ourselves as we are. Parents can model to their children to appreciate and accept themselves so that children see an example of self-appreciation. It’s a ‘lead by example’ point. “Do as I say, not as I do” rarely works.
2. What are your strengths: Focus on strengths. We all have weaknesses but life is not about identifying with those. By focusing on and using strengths in daily activities, teens will use these experiences as a measure of who they are.
3. Value system: A value system is a behavioural guide. Being cognizant of this system helps teens make better choices. Discuss with your teen your family value system and ask him/her which personal values s/he has that can be added to the list. This gives your teen a sense of connectedness as well as a sense of individuality. Both are necessary for a positive self-image. Note. Don’t pick this personal value for your teen and praise the one s/he picks.
4. Dealing with failure: There really is no such thing as failure unless one gives up. One who does not give up is considered a committed and determined person. Teach your teen to see temporary setbacks as learning experiences but not something to be identified with. Teach him/her to choose to stick to it until it is accomplished. We are not what we do, we are how we choose to be.
5. Be the person that makes you happy. Promote to your teen to be the person that makes him naturally happy and free. When we try to be the person others want us to be we are often afraid of being exposed as a fraud. Feeling like a fraud and believing oneself to be a fraud will not nurture a healthy self-image.
Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto