How do you see yourself? How do others see you? The answers to these questions have a strong influence on your life and your relationships at work, socially and at home.
How do you see yourself?
Imagine you’ve just finished giving a talk or presentation – you think it went badly, your confidence has taken a knock and you feel low. You begin to question whether you’re cut out for this sort of thing. What you don’t know is that everyone else thought it was great and just didn’t get a chance to tell you.
Your negative view of your performance fuelled a downward spiral, resulting in a poor self opinion. Would your day have gone differently if the people attending had shared their positive feedback with you? Would you have felt better if you had focused on what went well rather than what didn’t go so well? The answer is yes!
The opinion you have of yourself (your self-perception) is shaped and formed over many years and can change many times. Your body image and self-esteem are all part of this picture.
These opinions are mostly based on your environment and how others react to you. They can change based on daily experiences. People with a positive self-perception are generally less affected by the stresses of day-to-day life than those who have a negative opinion of themselves. When your self-perception is negative, your moods, relationships, health, and ability to perform tasks at home or work can suffer.
Improving your self-perception
The key to improving your self-perception is making a conscious effort to banish those negative thoughts and become a driving force to ‘reinvent’ how you view yourself. Here are some tips that might help:
Think about your strengths (write a list) and be proud of your achievements.
Find time for the things you enjoy doing and that make you happy.
Try to master a new skill or take up a hobby.
Spend time with positive people who encourage and support you.
Listen to your negative thoughts and try to turn them into positives.
Avoid feelings of guilt by reminding yourself that everyone makes mistakes – they are all part of learning.
And remember, nobody’s perfect!
Another way to achieve a more positive self-perception is by getting regular physical activity. Research shows that the longer people stick with an exercise routine, the stronger the positive effect on how they see themselves.1 Simply feeling as though your body is improving is enough to improve your self-perception.2
There is a theory called ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ that states if you believe something will happen, your behavior changes in a way that makes it happen.3 So if you predict and expect to succeed, your behaviors could change and lead you on a more positive path to make it possible.3 Remember this works both ways: if you expect to fail, you may behave in ways that encourage failure.
How do others see you?
You communicate a great deal about yourself to others without actually saying anything. The way people see you is influenced by:
Your actions – for example, arriving late to meet a friend or to work can convey a lack of respect, motivation and organization.
Your body language – do you slouch? This could be seen as a sign of tiredness, poor body image or low self-esteem.
How you communicate verbally – whether you mumble and speak softly, or are loud and clear, you are telling others how you feel about yourself.
Your appearance – when you ignore your appearance, you could be giving off a ‘don’t care’ attitude.
Take time to think about these points; are you coming across to others how you think you are and how you would like to be? The following tips may help you come across in a more positive light:
Take pride in your appearance – this could also give your confidence a boost.
Listen and be open to different points of view.
Speak up – don’t be afraid to share your point of view, especially on things you feel strongly about or that interest you.
Keep a tidy work area to show you respect what you do and the people around you.
Watch your body language – uncross your arms, put your shoulders back and make eye contact.
Avoid coming to quick conclusions about others, they can often turn out to be wrong.
Once you start to see yourself in a more positive light you may even find that some of the above will happen naturally, without you having to do a thing.
Exercise and diet interventions improve perceptions of self in middle-aged adults. Sorensen M et al. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports 1997:7(5); 312-320.
An 8-week randomized controlled trial on the effects of brisk walking, and brisk walking with abdominal electrical muscle stimulation on anthropometric, body composition, and self-perception measures in sedentary adult women. Ailsa G et al. Psychology of Sports and Exercise 2006:7(5); 437-451.
Social Theory and Social Structure. Robert Merton 1968. Free Press.