The best way to improve your self-image is through practice. Below are a number of experiences you may have that require you to question your self-image. Try practicing your responses to the situations below. You may want to ask a relative, friend, or advisor, whom you feel has a positive self-image and confidence in you, to listen to your responses and offer advice. Or, call your local Mountain State Center for Independent Living. Counselors there can listen to you and help you improve your self-image.
Scenario 1. Your friend has invited you to a party, which you'd really like to attend. Unfortunately you have nothing new to wear and you haven't got the money to buy a new outfit. Which of the following would you do:
A. Turn down the invitation.
B. Go, but know everyone realizes you couldn't afford a new outfit.
C. Think of some way to modify an old outfit and go.
D. Realize that you were invited, not your clothes, and go.
If you chose option A, you are not only punishing yourself by turning down a fun opportunity, but you are also placing too much emphasis on physical appearance and others' perceptions of you. Remind yourself that a 'sparkling' personality can be far more attractive than a new outfit.
If you chose option B, you have decided to go but are setting yourself up to have a bad time. You're also not giving others the benefit of the doubt - they may care more about how you behave than how you appear.
Option C is not a bad decision and shows a lot of ingenuity on your part. Congratulate yourself on being creative, but remind yourself that appearances (and others' opinions) aren't everything.
Option D indicates you have enough self-esteem to accept the invitation as an indication of your self worth.
Scenario 2. The boss asks you to organize a going-away luncheon. You've never done this before so:
A. You tell your boss you can't do it.
B. You ask you boss to pick someone else because you've never done this before.
C. You talk to someone who has done this before and get advice.
If you chose option A, you've given up without even trying. Not only are you limiting yourself, but you are also limiting your opportunities. The more often you respond with a 'no', the less often you'll be asked or offered special opportunities.
If you chose option B, you've provided an honest answer. This is good, but you've also foregone a chance to improve your relationship with your boss and his or her confidence in you. It's fine to admit that you don't have a specific skill, but you can make this admission positive by showing your boss you have initiative and are eager to learn. Instead of recommending someone else, you may want to say "I've never done this before, but I'd love to try and will read up on it and get advice from someone who has" or "I'm not sure I know how to do this, but would like to learn; maybe Mr. X (a coworker with more experience) and I can work on this together."
Option C is another sensible approach. If, after getting the advice, you still think you can't undertake the assignment, you at least can go back to your boss, showing him or her that you've made an effort to learn.
Scenario 3. Your class assignment from the night before is due, but you weren't able to figure out some of the answers. You:
A. Copy your neighbor's work.
B. Skip class.
C. Don't hand in the assignment.
D. Hand in what you have done with an explanation that, although you tried, you weren't able to answer all of the questions and ask for an appointment so your teacher can help you.
Neither A, B nor C are good reasons for not turning in your assignment. Worse, option A is cheating! If you chose any of the first three options, you have not focused on the real problem: you didn't understand the assignment. This is no reflection on your capabilities. Everyone has difficulties at certain times or with certain subjects, but you are limiting yourself even more by not addressing the problem and learning how to handle it in the future.
Option D shows your teacher that you have made your best effort but still are having a problem. Most teachers will understand this. The purpose of class assignments is to 'test' your understanding of what you are learning before you are actually tested and your teacher is there to help. You may just need one-on-one time to ask questions that weren't answered in class, or maybe you need to review the lesson again or walk through the exercises with your teacher.
Scenario 4. You are behind on bills so you decide to use a credit card to pay them. When you discover you're still behind on bills the following month, you decide to use another credit card. Eventually you're behind on all your bills and cards, so you:
A. See if you can get another credit card.
B. Borrow money from family and friends.
C. Seek advise from a financial advisor or consumer group about how to create a budget, consolidate your debt, and pay it off.
If you chose option A, you are just making your financial difficulties worse! Anyone can have financial problems, but "covering them up" by using credit cards with high interest rates is just going to make you deeper in debt. The first thing you should do is put yourself on a budget and pay off your credit cards. You may also need to get a loan or work out a payment plan with some of your creditors. Don't be ashamed to admit that you need to work within a budget - this is far more financially responsible than pretending that you don't. You'll be surprised at how understanding and helpful many financial institutions and corporations can be: they'd rather work with you to get their money back than 'punish' you.
If you chose option B, you are admitting you need help, which is good, but be sure you don't use this loan as a band-aid. You still need to address the cause (why you can't pay your bills), not just the immediate problem. Again, you may need to put yourself on a budget and be sure that your budget includes setting aside money to pay back that loan (or for future emergencies.)
Option C is probably the best option. Although it may be difficult to admit to others (or yourself) that you need financial help, advice from experts can be invaluable. Even people who don't have financial difficulties often seek expert advice on getting the most from their money. An honest and responsible approach can save your reputation and lead to well-earned esteem. It can also lead to a debt-free and even profitable future!
Scenario 5. A close relative is always criticizing your job, which you happen to enjoy and pays your bills, you:
A. Get a new job that your relative approves of so that he will leave you alone.
B. Start to question if your job is right for you.
C. Repeatedly make excuses to your relative about why you're keeping the job.
D. Ask your relative to explain why he hates your job and address his concerns. If the criticism continues, you ask him to keep it positive or withhold it altogether.
If you chose option A, B, or C, you are placing too much emphasis on what your relative thinks is important, not what you think is important. If you are happy with your job, if your coworkers treat you well, and if your job meets your financial needs, you are already luckier than most! Don't let groundless criticisms make you question your own judgment. If, on the other hand, a nagging voice in your head (not your relative's), says that there is some truth to the criticism, you might want to ask yourself why you are staying with your job.
Option D shows self-confidence in your judgment and a willingness to defend it.
It also shows a respect for others' beliefs. By taking the time to listen to and address your relative's criticisms, you are not only being open to new ideas but also showing him that you respect his beliefs. Taking the time to listen and respond may be enough to stop future criticisms. If it's not, you have every right (and the confidence) to ask him to stop.
Next: Additional Resources
There are many ways you can go about finding more help in improving your self-image. One of your greatest resources is trusted friends, relatives, ministers, and counselors. But sometimes, identifying and reaching out to someone can be difficult. You may want to ask yourself these questions when looking for someone to assist you:
• How do you feel about the person?
(Do you trust him or her? Do you feel comfortable talking to this person?)
• How does this person treat others?
(Does he or she treat others with respect? Would this person treat you with respect and encourage your positive self-image?)
• Does this person have a positive self-image?
(Is he or she confident without being egotistical? Do you respect this person's confidence and would you like to develop the same kind of confidence?)
• Is the person you want to approach respected in the community?
(For example, a well-liked pastor, teacher, or counselor)
If you can't identify someone to help, or feel uncomfortable asking someone you know for help, you may want to talk to a professional who is trained in counseling. Try contacting your local hospital, university, ministry, or community center to see if they offer counseling or have advisors. Or you may want to look for advice from an accredited psychologist or mental health counselor. Both the American Psychological Association and the American Mental Health Counselors Association are national organizations that have online resources and can recommend counselors in your area. In addition, you may want to contact MTSTCIL for more assistance.