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From a very young age we are exposed to the idea that outer beauty matters more than anything else. Fairytales are full of beautiful girls, who meet and fall in love with a handsome prince, become princesses and live happily ever after in fairytale castles. We play with Barbie dolls, with tiny waists and perfect skin. We spend our lives in front of the TV and phone screens being shown images of ‘perfect’ people. This creates an image in our minds as to how we are ‘supposed’ to look. This leaves many of us with low confidence and a poor self-image. We are left thinking that we need to be skinnier, prettier or in the case of guys, more muscular.

What is self-image?

Self-image is how you feel about your appearance. This includes your size, your shape and your looks. A poor self-image is when you don’t see your body as it really is, and instead are overly critical of your looks. A healthy self-image is when you see yourself realistically. You recognise that you are not (and never will be) perfect but you celebrate and appreciate your body as it is and feel proud of who you are, exactly as you are.

Teenagers are particularly hard on themselves, and often have very poor self-image. They are hypercritical of their body and their looks. During puberty our bodies go through so many changes that nothing seems normal anymore. This is a time when we become highly self-conscious and can easily start to pick ourselves apart. Instead of focussing on all of the things we feel are ‘wrong’ with our image, we need to learn to celebrate how we look. We need to enjoy our appearance, but also appreciate the importance of inner beauty.

Do I have a poor self image?

It’s pretty normal to compare yourself to others but many of us take this to the extreme. Here are some signs that you might be suffering from self-image issues:

  • If you always compare yourself to others.
  • If you feel hatred towards yourself for the way you look.
  • If you obsess about your image and spend large amounts of time looking at yourself in the mirror.
  • If you obsess about food – thinking about how much you have eaten and how many calories it contained.
  • If you feel guilty when you eat.
  • If you weigh yourself repeatedly throughout the day.
  • If you often have thoughts of changing your body with plastic surgery.
  • If you believe you can’t be happy because of your appearance.

Improving your self-image

There are so many things you can do to feel better about yourself. You are the most powerful person in your life, and you deserve to feel your very best! Every single one of us is unique, and has wonderful attributes. We just need to recognise them! If you battle with poor self-image, try these simple techniques to improve the way you see yourself:

  • Keep a journal and every day write down one thing that you like about yourself. It doesn’t need to be appearance focussed. It can also be a personality trait you like about yourself, or a talent you have.
  • Every time someone pays you a compliment write it in the same journal.
  • Think of the one person who loves and cares for you the most in the world. Try to imagine how they see you and write this down in your journal. If you can’t imagine, ask them to write down how they see you and put it in your journal.
  • Write some positive messages on sticky notes (such as ‘You are beautiful’ or ‘Hey, gorgeous!’) and stick them in your room (ideally on your mirror). Read them to yourself every morning before you leave home. It seems ridiculous but really does help.
  • Surround yourself with people who build you up and make you feel good about yourself. Distance yourself from people who always put you down and criticise you.
  • Stay away from negativity – when everyone around you is complaining, or putting themselves down, it can be tempting to join in. Don’t! Instead think of something positive to say to change the mood of the group.
  • Stop the negative self-talk. When you realise that you are being overcritical of yourself, stop and think of something that you like about yourself. The more you can redirect negative, self-critical thoughts the easier it will get.

There are plenty of things in life that you can’t change. You will never be able to make your feet smaller, or make yourself taller. You can, however, change how you think and how your view yourself. Try and laugh more, be kind to yourself and others and always find the positive in a situation. These are the things that will make you shine. Positive people draw others to them. True beauty starts with beauty on the inside.

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