There is no doubt that society, family and our environment plays a big part in constructing our initial self-image. Every human being has the potential to blossom a personality and self-image that is filled with grace and beauty but many times something goes awry.
Sometimes when love is withheld from a parent or emotional support is deprived a child's self-image and personality are affected in a profound way. Traumatic experiences where abuse is present or where there is abandonment or rejection can deeply affect a child's self-image as well.
For instance if a parent tells their child that he (or she) is a nobody, or incompetent the child will many times project this image as reality and embrace it. This image can affect the child's social skills, grades, and emotional temperament. Another example of a situation that can affect a child's self-image is if a parent is not present in the child's life. The child may interpret this absence by stating to himself, "I am not worthy to be loved" or "I am not lovable."
Other factors that can affect self-image negatively are traumatic experiences with peers or romantic partners or people in authority. What typically happens is that we see ourselves through the eyes of others. Many of us use these images others have of us to define our own self-image. Other people's thoughts about us act like a mirror for us but the mirror many times is distorted.
So how do we clean the mirror?
We must dismiss and get rid of the self-images that have been built around untruth. Only by examining our self-image (the messages that we believe about ourselves) can we begin to see what uplifts us and what brings us down. There are pages and pages of messages that we have told ourselves to this date. Some of them are true and some are not. It is wise to write them all down whether positive or negative.
Ruth Myers in her book Christ Life writes that it is wise do an inner identity album and to put labels on the negative messages such as "Unrealistic" and "Do Not Use" and on the positive messages to use the headings "Realistic" and "Use Often."
These positive images can make up what we would call a "Life Raft." When we are questioning our self-worth or doubting ourselves we can go to these positive messages in our Life Raft and allow them to pull us through the waves of deception and distorted thinking that wants to regain control of our mind.
A good source of positive self-images for our Life Raft is the Bible. Examining what scripture says about us can be very uplifting, especially what God thinks of us. For example you may want to look at the "A Father's Love Letter" post on this site to see what God as Father thinks of you or the post "A Father's Love."
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