Self-perception, as defined by the American Psychological Association, is a psychological concept that involves a person’s view of their or of any of the mental or physical attributes that constitute the self. How do you view yourself? What do you think about yourself, your values, your beliefs, and your image? Whatever you may feel about yourself, it is your self-perception at work. Self-perception is the best mirror one can own to have a deep understanding of oneself. We derive a great sense of self from our self-perception.
Sometimes individuals have a hard time understanding and comprehending their feelings, emotions, and the very idea of their identity. All these can be a result of a serious lack of self-perception. A person may develop either or both positive and negative perceptions about oneself. Their respective perception would certainly influence their cognition, emotions, thoughts, actions, and behaviours. Many behavioural issues and distorted cognitions that people develop can be rooted in the very way they perceive themselves.
The components of self-perception
Self-perception has 3 major components:
a. Self-image – Self-image is how an individual perceives themselves in real life. It can also be termed a real image.
b. Self-esteem – Self-esteem is a layman’s term in today’s world. It can be defined as the value that we attach to ourselves. Our self-esteem looks into whether we perceive ourselves in a positive light.
c. Ideal self – The ideal self is the self you always wish to be. Your ideal self consists of all the values, beliefs, talents and everything you find desirable for yourself.
People with positive self-perception tend to not dwell on their past. They mostly focus on their present and are mostly optimistic about the course of their future endeavours. To put it in simple English, they accept their present and just move on. They are not critical of themselves and accept the critical comments that could come up for their work or performance positively and seek to comprehend and utilize the lessons that can be taken up from the comments. They also automatically reframe their self-talk language and alter their self-conversations in a way that help them to understand their mistakes better rather than taking them into their heart. They even celebrate their small wins and most importantly never compare their unique journey with anybody else.
People with negative self-perception may exhibit behaviours that are exactly the opposite of the former. They mostly tend to dwell in their past and may tend to judge themselves negatively for all the embarrassing moments they may have had decades back. This may even keep them from building better relationships with people. They may tend to remain socially withdrawn or even awkward in situations similar to what embarrassed them years ago.
They are the best critiques of their work but this is never addressed in a positive connotation. They tend to criticize themselves even in the face of their achievements and may feel that they are inadequate in everything they try to accomplish. This seriously undermines their self-confidence and affects their performance. They may even take the critical comments, and instead of working on its constructive aspect, may tend to take them to heart and believe that nothing can be changed. They frame their self-talk mostly in such a way that adversely affects their confidence and self-esteem. They constantly compare themselves with others and often fail to see their positive qualities and emphasize their negatives.
Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are some of the adverse consequences of maintaining a negative or even a distorted perception of oneself. Having a distorted perception about one’s body may take a toll on one’s eating habits, their intake of food and thus, indirectly may affect one’s mental and emotional health. The discrepancy between one’s ideal self and real self in their body image paves the way for one to develop these eating disorders.
How to improve one self-perception?
- Concentrate on Your Strengths: Many of us are preoccupied with what is wrong with ourselves, what we aren’t good at, or what we’ve failed at. However, if we want to build a positive mindset, we should focus on our talents. This shift in emphasis can help us feel better about ourselves.
- Exercise Gratitude: Gratitude entails more than simply saying “thank you.” It’s about looking for reasons to be thankful every day. We can practise and enhance this skill by keeping a gratitude notebook or making gratitude lists. Our brains will become better at recognising things to be thankful for over time.
- Exercise Self-Compassion: Our inner voice frequently informs us what we are doing wrong, but it can also forget to remind us of what we are doing properly. That is why practising self-compassion can help us improve our outlook. Self-compassion can be practised by taking a few moments to treat yourself sweetly, attentively, and tenderly.
- Take Care of Yourself: Developing a more optimistic outlook may include establishing the belief that we are worth caring for. We’re permitted to take pauses, feel well, and practise self-care. By taking better care of ourselves, we may develop more favourable attitudes towards ourselves, allowing us to have more happy experiences.
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