I were to ask you to describe yourself
in two words, how would you respond? I
am sure some of you were thinking.'Only
two words I need at least 20 to describe
how wonderful I am'. However, there are
others of us who may still be thinking
of the first word. In essence the way
you describe yourself is the way you see
yourself and assume the world sees you
Esteem, self-worth and self-concept are
the combination of thoughts, feelings
and facts about our -selves.These concepts
are combined to create the image of ourselves
that we ultimately present to the world.
However, negative or positive it
may be, the image has been developing
in our minds since we could first form
of the triumphs and failures of our lives
have continuously been filed into our
self image. Each person, experience, memory,
relationship, conversation, etc. will
add to or subtract from the overall image
we see. There are even cases in
which the image of our selves can be dependant
upon certain situations or people.
For instance, around family and friends
the image may be one way and co-workers
or classmates it is the complete opposite.
someone presents with a negative self-image
it can have overarching negative effects
on every aspect of ones life (e.g. school,
work, relationships, etc). Although
the manifestation might be different in
each person, lowered or damaged self-images
eventually begin to act as cancers. These
"cancerous" or negative images spread
unhealthy and negative thoughts into the
parts of our lives that were once healthy
and well-functioning. Often, like cancers
the effects are mysterious and sudden.
People will wonder how this once happy
person became burdened with this lowered
self image.The way children play, talk
and interact with others will begin to
change. Often in adults or teenagers the
way in which they present themselves to
the world will change: their attitude,
dress, appearance.In some cases the source
of why the self-image is low is unknown.In
helping someone gain a positive self-image
the focus is allowing them to see a more
accurate portrait of themselves.This portrait
will consist of the abilities and traits
that make them unique special and loved.
way in which we can effect self-esteem
and self-worth are through labels. Labels
are the titles we give to a person based
on their behaviors or characteristics.
Labels can be positive or negative, but
most often, will have devastating effects
either way. Each of us has
probably been labeled before, whether
it was in the home or by peers.
Some of us were maybe 'the smart one',
'the fat one', 'stupid', 'slow', 'bean
pole', 'fatty', the list goes on and on.
No matter how long ago it may have
been, each of us can still remember the
hurt that was associated with these titles.
The hard thing about labels is
that you automatically are placed in a
box. You become this title.
No matter if you a dance competition you'll
still be known as 'the clumsy one'.that
won the dance competition.
parents and caregivers it is our jobs
to instill a sense of self worth in our
children from the beginning that no matter
whom you are you are special and loved.
Labels take away the ability to be a whole
person and limit ones capabilities. One
way of avoiding labels to by being intentional
about the words and phrases we use with
our children (and our selves). Instead
of the phrase "you are ___" "I am so ___"
we can describe the situation we see (using
factual information). Example: "I am disappointed
that I missed the bus because I woke up
late this morning" NOT "I'm so stupid!"
This technique is a way to separate who
we are from what we do. We all make mistakes,
yet these mistakes do not make us horrible
people. Who we are is a combination
of so many things and our self-image should
reflect all of them. It is possible to
say I am not excellent in solving math
problems but I still think I am intelligent.
An accurate self-image is
one based on factual information, free
of labels and mirrored by a surrounding
environment that is nurturing and affirming.
Norman received a master's degree in psychological
services from the University of Pennsylvania
and is currently a social worker and parent
Danielle Norman can be reached for
comments, questions or concerns at email@example.com.