Do you know what self-image is? Here’s a hint; it’s not self-esteem. These two terms are regularly interchanged, but there’s a major different between self-image and self-esteem. As counselors who work with a diverse group of ever-changing people, we’ve seen firsthand how a positive self-image can help our clients succeed. It’s just one of the reasons why substance abuse counseling and promoting a positive self-image mix.
Self-Image vs. Self-Esteem
According to Merriam-Webster, self-esteem is your confidence and satisfaction in yourself. It includes your self-respect and encompasses how you feel about your abilities. Self-image is the conception of yourself or your role. It’s the way you think about yourself, your abilities, and your appearance. It’s also how you perceive or view your role, which can include your role in a relationship, at work or school, or in life.
The Creation of Self-Image
The way we see ourselves is created over time. It’s influenced by life events and a growing number of self-impressions. Factors that contribute to it include:
- Hopes and Dreams: Charlotte Brontë said, “The human heart has hidden treasures, in secret kept, in silence sealed; the thoughts, the hopes, the dreams, the pleasures, whose charms were broken if revealed.” Self-image is an inner perception, and the rate at which you achieve (or don’t achieve) your hopes and dreams can change your self-image. Setbacks can chip away at inner perception, slowly turning it from positive (success) to negative (failure).
- Thoughts and Emotions: The way you think and feel impacts your self-image. Optimists are more likely than pessimists to continue reaching for their goals because they remain positive, which contributes to a positive self-image. Pessimists are more likely to give up, and they can start to think of themselves as failures, which can negatively impact their self-image and thereby their choices and actions.
- Actions and Decisions: Sometimes, you can make all the right decisions and still lose. That’s just life. But repeated disappointments can reduce your self-image. The actions and decisions you make, coupled with their outcomes – whether directly or indirectly within your control– contribute to your inner perception.
How you see yourself can be dramatically different from how the world sees you. For people struggling with a substance abuse or addiction issues, their inner self-image can be the polar opposite of their outward appearance. And the consequences of their battle with addictive substances can create a very negative self-image.
Substance Abuse Counseling and Self-Image
People with a negative self-image are at a greater risk of abusing addictive substances. Drugs and alcohol sometimes help them feel better about themselves or forget while using. The allure of pleasure, no matter how temporary, causes them to keep using, start abusing, and can culminate in full-blown addiction.
Helping individuals reorient their self-image has immensely positive effects on counseling. In fact, people who rediscover a positive self-image are more likely to find the inner power to overcome their drug and alcohol related struggles. In upcoming blogs, we’re going to discuss how you can regain a positive self-image, self-esteem, and self-worth, and we’ll talk to substance abuse counselors about practical ways they can assist.