Guide to self-development (part 1). Let's make 2022 the year we do better, be better, and live better.
Text: Aina Masood
Welcome to 2022. January is named after the god of beginnings and transitions, Janus, and with the beginning of this year, I want us to embark on a journey of self-development. As you may have noticed, "Part 1" written in the first two lines of this article, I would like to bring your attention to a plan that I have decided to work on for my articles throughout this year. Every month, I would like to talk about one area of self-development and for this month, let's talk about self-image.
What is it?
Self-image is one's view of themselves (APA dictionary of psychology). It is an internal dictionary that a person uses to describe their characteristics, and it comprises three elements.
How we perceive or think of ourselves.
How we interpret other people's perceptions of ourselves.
How we would like to be (our ideal self).
This self-image can be either positive or negative. So let's explore how we can build a healthy self-image.
Why is it important?
In my practice as a psychotherapist and my experience as a teacher, I have seen so many adolescents and young adults struggle with self-esteem and identity issues. How worthy we are (self-esteem) and who we are (identity) are questions closely linked with how we view ourselves (self-image). The answers to these questions play a pivotal role in going through transitions in life. One of those transitions is moving countries and living an international life. Therefore, talking about having a healthy self-image is of utmost importance.
Building a healthy self-image
Who are you?
To work on building a healthy self-image, we must have some basic knowledge of ourselves. Ponder over the question, what makes you who you are. It might be helpful to write it down somewhere and include both good and bad aspects of what makes you, YOU. Another way of having more self-knowledge is to reflect and ponder over your values, what kind of a human being you aspire to be, and what behaviours you would like to do more of or do less of.
It is comparatively easier to blame ourselves in stressful times than to focus on the good we bring to the situation. To boost self-image, remind yourself of the strengths you already have. Make a list of your strengths as a person. It could range from being funny to being kind, and it includes everything that you feel is your strength and has benefited you. If you are looking for your strengths in different situations, you would be amazed at how many qualities you ignore or take for granted.
Narrating your life story is another helpful tool derived from Narrative therapy. The basic assumption of which is that people are separate from their problems. When you narrate your life story, you become the author, and it helps you look at your life from a different vantage point, which helps you find meaning and value in your experiences. It also helps you organise your thoughts and facilitates the process of growth.
Actively changing self-talk
Self-image is our view of ourselves - how we talk to ourselves matters. Catch yourself when you use phrases like, "I am stupid", "I will never be able to do this", etc., and re-phrase. While re-phrasing, it might be a good idea to think if you would say the same things to another person or friend. If not, why shouldn't you show yourself the same kindness?
For people who struggle with self-image issues, therapy also might be a good option. You can look for therapists who work with self-image issues and/or are trained in client-centred therapy, cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), or psychoanalysis.
In conclusion, creating a healthy self-image is a long and sometimes slow process. But, if you keep doing little things, you will see significant changes. So, let's focus on our self-image this month to see beautiful things unfold for us eventually. Happy New Year.