A person's self-image is the mental picture, generally of a kind that is quite resistant to change, that depicts not only details that are potentially available to objective investigation by others (height, weight, hair color, sex, I.Q. score, is this person double-jointed, etc.), but also items that have been learned by that person about himself or herself, either from personal experiences or by internalizing the judgments of others. Those items include the answers to such questions as:
• Am I skinny?
• Am I fat?
• Am I attractive?
• Am I weak?
• Am I strong?
• Am I intelligent?
• Am I stupid?
• Am I a good person?
• Am I a bad person?
• Am I masculine?
• Am I feminine?
• Am I likable?
A simple definition of a person's self-image is their answer to this question - "What do you believe people think about you?". A more technical term for self-image that is commonly used by social and cognitive psychologists is self-schema. Like any schema, self-schemas store information and influence the way we think and remember. For example, research indicates that information which refers to the self is preferentially encoded and recalled in memory tests, a phenomenon known as "Self-Referential Encoding" (Rogers et al. 1977).
The formation of a healthy self-image can be challenging for an individual, especially when family, peers, community, or the general society issues very negative evaluations of a person that happen to be inaccurate. The consequences can be severe for the individual, who may learn self-hatred. They can also be severe for the society. As a European folk saying instructs, "Call a man a thief and he will steal."
Poor self-image may be the result of accumulated invalid criticisms that the person collected as a child which have led to damaging his own view of himself. Children in particular are vulnerable to accepting false negative judgments from authority figures because they have yet to develop competency in evaluating such reports.
The correction of an inaccurate self-image can be aided by reality testing. However, when social forces directed against the individual have been strongly manipulative, it may be very helpful for the individual to secure professional help in rectifying matters. Such rectification is most often directed at the individual, but corrective efforts could also be applied to members of the general community and/or social institutions that have manipulated individuals in a detrimental way.
This definition is provided by Dr. Joe Rubino, the Official SelfGrowth.com Guide to Personal Development and Self-Esteem. He is an internationally acclaimed authority on self esteem building, a life-changing personal development trainer and success coach. He also is the internationally best-selling author of 11 books available worldwide in 19 languages. His life-altering book, “The Self-Esteem Book: The Ultimate Guide to Boost the Most Important Ingredient for Success and Happiness in Life” is already in 5 languages and has contributed the secret to soaring self-esteem to readers around the world.
Additonal Resources covering Self-esteem can be found at: