Often the terms self-esteem and self-image are assigned the same meaning and used interchangeably. Though they are closely linked to each other, they are not exactly the same.
If you are confused about their meanings and want to have a better understanding of the terms, you have come to the right place. Read on to learn more about self-image and self-esteem and their relationship with each other.
What is self-image?
In simple language, self-image is how you see yourself. This relates to not just your body image. It also includes how you regard yourself internally.
Contrary to what the term suggests, self-image is not a single image you have about yourself. It is made up of several self-impressions you have formed about yourself over the years. This may be related to your external bodily features, how you move around, how you conduct yourself, how you treat others, and even the kind of thoughts that pass through your mind.
Self-image is your perception of who you are. It is highly influenced by what you perceive as others’ perception of you about your appearance, behavior, intelligence, and suchlike.
- Your impression about your own appearance or body image
- The way you handle situations and display emotions (and how you look in the situation)
- What you think others think of you or your impression of how others see you
- The kind of impression you create by your actions and appearance (including values, status, beliefs)
This is similar to the impressions you form about others based on their behavior but about yourself. Self-image, once formed, is hard to influence or change. Most of us are unaware of its existence, even though self-image plays a huge role in our lives.
What is self-esteem?
Self-esteem, as the term suggests, is how you value yourself. It is your overall sense of your worth. It is a measure of how much you value, like, appreciate, approve, and prize yourself.
In simple English, self-esteem is described as your attitude towards yourself or how you feel about yourself. It is more about what you think about the kind of person you are.
Numerous factors influence your self-esteem. The important among them are:
- Social circumstances
- Life experiences
- Responses of others
- Social comparison
One of the most important aspects of self-esteem is its flexibility. It is dynamic and impermanent. It is ever-changing and develops as you live your life and go through life experiences. This also means that you can work on it and improve it.
Self-image vs self-esteem
Simply put, the difference is how you see yourself vs how you value or feel about yourself. When you casually consider the two concepts, they may seem very similar. In fact, you may even find some common influential factors for both. But the fact remains that they are not the same.
Self-image has a big say in your self-esteem. Because how you see yourself contributes immensely to how you feel about yourself. However, self-esteem goes much beyond self-image. And, this is the reason why self-image is hard to change while self-esteem is more flexible.
In general, having a positive body image contributes to positive self-esteem and a negative body image can cause a serious dent in how you value yourself. However, this positive correlation between self-image and self-esteem need not always hold out.
Negative inputs from people around you directly influence your self-image. However, your resilience is a hidden factor that can help your self-esteem survive negativity without much harm. Resilience or the ability to bounce back is both genetic and can be acquired.
If you are fortunate enough to have resilience in your repertoire of traits, you can choose to overlook hurtful words and setbacks in life. They will affect you only if you allow them to.
What is the relationship between the two?
The reason why most people confuse one for the other is that they are closely related to each other. The way you see yourself will definitely play a role in how you value and feel about yourself.
However, there are other influencing factors for self-esteem. Their overwhelming presence can negate the influence of self-image on self-esteem. For example, your success in achieving goals.
Self-esteem is heavily dependent on your sense of achievement. In fact, many psychologists believe that without achievement, there is no self-esteem. Whether this is true or not, your sense of achievement has a big hold over your self-esteem. Setting goals and achieving them can help you feel high self-esteem despite having a negative body image.
The way the human mind works is too complex and understanding the meanings and relationships between various self-concepts is far from easy.
Self-esteem vs confidence
Again, these are two terms in the self-concept space that are similar yet different. As explained before, self-esteem is a measure of how much you value yourself. It is the sum total of how you feel about yourself and how you appreciate your worth.
Confidence, on the other hand, is your belief or faith in yourself and your ability to achieve something. Both self-esteem and confidence are influenced by similar factors and have a bearing on how you see others and your social interaction with them.
While high self-esteem translates to high confidence, vice versa is not always true. It is possible to have high confidence even when you are low on self-esteem.
How does your image affect your psyche?
It is indeed true that for most people, self-esteem has more say in their life than self-image. Again, this need not always be the case.
If a person is suffering from an overwhelmingly negative body image, it will have a butterfly effect on all facets of his life, including self-esteem. Very low levels of self-image can lead to a lack of control over emotions and poor decision-making capabilities. This can cause further damage to self-image, forming a vicious cycle from which it is hard to get out.
A person with a low self-image will consider themselves a failure and may even try not to succeed to prove themselves right.
Low self-image stemming from negative body image is very common among young people. Comparing self to supermodels in glossy magazines can damage the lives of teenagers and youths permanently. It may lead to eating disorders and make them socially inept. In severe cases, all these can lead to mental health problems.
Self-image on its own is not a mental health issue but if allowed to fester and grow, it will lead to more harmful, much bigger, and more permanent scars in the psyche.
Self-image and self-esteem are closely linked but at the same time independent of each other. At times, it is hard to differentiate between the two, though it is important that you learn to do that.
Because having a healthy body image and self-esteem is important for your growth as a person and for succeeding in relationships. This is possible only if you understand what they really are instead of regarding them as some vague concepts.
Self-image is heavily influenced by how others treat you. Having healthy levels of self-esteem can help you there. Self-esteem is a part of your character that you can work on and make better. Avoiding negative influences on self-esteem like stress, fear, and disappointments can help you build on your self-esteem and thereby your self-image.
Ultimately, you need to have a positive self-image and healthy self-esteem to feel good about yourself and lead a happy, peaceful, and fulfilling life.