Self-image is an important part of mental health for teens and young adults. Positive self-image helps young people tackle life’s challenges with greater resiliency and inner strength. But what is it, really – and how can loved ones foster better self-image?
Understanding Self-Image and How it Affects Daily Life
Self-image is a person’s entire conception of his or her abilities, skills, personality, and physical being. An individual’s self-image usually contains many elements that are positive and some that are negative.
Without even realizing it, everyone consults their self-image every day. Self-image provides a big part of our understanding of who we are, what we can do, and what we want from life. It helps us recognize growth opportunities and also to see when our actions are not in harmony with our values.
For the most part, a healthy self-image is one that incorporates a deep understanding of the positive things you have to offer. It should also come grounded with healthy knowledge of one’s own limits. This is one thing that allows people of all ages to reach out for help when they need it.
What Happens When Someone Develops Negative Self-Image?
All kinds of life events can distort a person’s self-image. Often, these are traumatic events that lead you to believe you don’t have influence over your own life. An injury, illness, death in the family, or financial hardship can make you feel like life is spinning out of control.
This effect is amplified for teens and young adults in the midst of growing.
Many things can happen in a young person’s life over which he or she has limited control. The stress of growing up can make these challenges seem unbearable – creating emotions that are very difficult to cope with alone. This can lead to or worsen many mental health issues.
In some cases, youths turn to drugs as a way of dulling these feelings for a little while.
Trauma does not have to be a single, huge event. It can occur as the result of many smaller things that happen over time. For example, everyone is familiar with the concept of a negative body image. This can come through feelings that you “don’t measure up” to a perceived standard.
For both youths and adults, a negative self-image can be truly devastating.
Without the benefit of a positive self-image, people of any age will focus on the negative and may all but forget about the positives in their lives. Young people in particular are at special risk of becoming isolated from parents, other family members, and friends.
After losing these moderating influences, they are far more likely to engage in risky and even self-destructive behavior. Oftentimes, this pattern goes unnoticed. It can be misunderstood as “teenage rebellion” until something serious happens.