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The Bellarion

The Bellarion

The Bellarion

Self-Esteem and Self-Image: A Reflection

At the end of the day, man, I’m just a girl.

It’s easy for someone to tell you that you need to learn how to be more comfortable in your own skin. You need to be more confident; you need to be more open, etc. Of course, it’s easier for some people to do and understand that than others. For others, you can try to convince yourself that you are better than you give yourself credit. But as soon as something comes up that contradicts that, you immediately fall back into that negative cognition. For every step you take forward, when something happens that diminishes that positive title that you put on yourself, you take two steps back.  

Self-image. How you see yourself does more to you in your day-to-day life than you think. It can start from when you’re very young. How you grow up can absolutely influence how you view yourself. There are many childhood factors that can determine your self-image as a child such as relationships with your parents, social interactions with peers, etc.  

As kids…specifically elementary school and middle school, they will often pick on or leave out kids who aren’t as conventionally attractive, kids with disabilities, and kids who are different from the “norm”. As a kid, I have been in and seen situations where people were picked on whether it was for how they look, their skin color, their height, etc. They are often left out, looked down on, and not taken seriously. As a kid, most of us just wanted to fit in. When you start noticing the sometimes-unintentional microaggressions, you start to feel…smaller. When you don’t look or seem as “normal” as everyone else, you start to see yourself differently and see how you get treated differently. 

When those types of kids grow up, sometimes they make changes to themselves to look and feel more attractive. This is when they start getting more positive attention, something that they’ve never experienced before. Then they will think, “maybe I AM attractive.” However, even with the changes, they still don’t see themselves as desirable. If you’ve ever been with that type of person, you kind of notice it by the way they talk about themselves. Like if they see someone cute, you can tell them to shoot their shot and they would say, “They could never be interested in me…” Even if that person themselves is a very attractive person. They aren’t used to being attractive so on the inside, they’re still that little kid who’s always been left out, faced with microaggressions, and looked down on. 

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Self-image isn’t only affected by peers but is also affected by parents. The way parents treat their children can alter someone’s perception of themselves. According to the National Library of Medicine, if a parent shows their child “parental warmth,” they are more likely to inherit positive self-esteem. Parental warmth contains attributes such as love, support, affection, nurturance, involvement, acceptance, and responsiveness.  

However, kids who experienced parental hostility as a child are very likely to have negative self-esteem. Traits of parental hostility include; rejection, neglect, maltreatment, punishment, and verbal/physical aggression. As reported by the National Library of Medicine, “When children are ignored, humiliated, or beaten by their parents, they may learn from their parent’s behavior that they are incompetent and worthless.”  

So, why is that? Why do these things that happen to us as kids affect us as young adults and adults? This has to do with Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. The pyramid can be broken into 3 categories; basic needs, psychological needs, and self-fulfillment needs. When psychological needs (Belongingness and love, esteem) are not being met, your self-fulfillment needs are not going to be met or achieved. So, if these needs weren’t met as a child, does that mean you can never feel good about yourself again? 

While it will be harder to maintain a satisfactory self-image when these needs aren’t met, it’s not impossible. There are things you must remember and things you must tell yourself to keep it in check. 

One of the things you must do is remember that the only person who knows you is you. This can be hard to grasp for some people, including me because sometimes I feel like I don’t even know me. Sometimes I can’t see and realize the mistakes I’m making until way after I’m done making them. However, you still can’t let yourself see your worth through other people’s eyes. 

Another very common mistake people make when they have a low self-image is getting into a relationship. Sometimes you just want to know what it feels like to feel wanted. When you’re lonely, you start looking for the wrong things. You will settle for anyone if they give you the tiniest bit of attention and do the bare minimum. With that attention being given to you, you start to become dependent on that person’s attention. That unhealthy dependence can only get worse for you in the long run. Let’s say that person leaves you. Instead of coping with it in healthy ways, you start to get into other relationships and talking to other people very quickly. Almost desperately, you start looking for someone to substitute for that person because now you can’t feel content without someone’s validation. You get rebound after rebound and at this point, you’re not in a relationship to be happy, but to like you belong and feel validated. 


The only person you have IS you.  In the end, the only person who is consistently going to be there is you. So, how can you get to know yourself better to love how you are?  


One thing you can do is to try to avoid dwelling on past experiences. Nevertheless, you can always reflect on your past. Reflecting is looking back at that said experience and pointing out the good and the bad, and what you can take out of it. It is how you can use that experience to learn and grow as a person. While dwelling is to ponder on it. It keeps you stuck on the past and you end up feeling nothing but shame on yourself because you’re only stuck on the negative aspects. 

That said, you should learn how to forgive yourself. At the end of the day, you’re just human. There are people out there who have done far worse. It is not the end of the world if you slip up. The world doesn’t stop when you make a mistake. You will only make yourself more miserable if all you think about is how much you regret doing that thing you did. I know I’ve done handfuls of things I regret. At the end of the day man, I’m just a girl. 

All things considered, if you were what was described in this article, it’s very important that you actively try to improve your self-image. There is always something you can do. Take it step by step at a time. Baby steps. If you fall back, just remember what you’re fighting and advocating for; being able to be at peace with yourself and come to terms with the person you are– your true self.