Do You Have a Poor Self-Image? Seven Signs That Say Yes. Number 2 Might Surprise You!

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What does the phrase “unhealthy self-image” mean to you? Most likely, you picture someone who thinks she’s fat even though she’s at her ideal body weight, a cringing wallflower, or a (potentially) vibrant conversationalist who’s too intimidated to speak up. And it’s true: an unhealthy self-image can manifest itself through these types of behaviors. But according to author and child and adolescent psychiatrist, Warren B. Seiler Jr., self-image problems also manifest in ways you haven’t considered – ways that might even apply to you.

“Individuals with unhealthy self-images aren’t always meek and weak and easy to manipulate,” points out Seiler, author of the book, Battling the Enemy Within: Conquering the causes of inner struggle and unhappiness (Victory Laine Publishing). “In fact, they can be attractive and successful, but underneath it all they simply don’t have an inner sense of well-being – and for many of them, learning that their self-image is unhealthy would come as quite a shock.”

Seiler, who’s been a child and adolescent psychiatrist for more than 30 years, has worked time and time again with individuals who erroneously blamed their problems and stumbling blocks on outside factors. In reality, though, their unhappiness was deeply rooted in how they viewed themselves. “Often – on the surface – individuals who have an unhealthy self-image are attractive, thriving and popular,” Seiler notes. But underlying their social and monetary success is a marked lack of inner peace and comfort – they simply don’t experience any real joy in life. “I’ve noticed that these people often use shortcuts like alcohol, drugs, the relentless pursuit of continued success and the acquisition of material things as a means of experiencing inner peace,” he adds. “This strategy might work for a while, but ultimately the only way to banish anxiety and uneasiness is through the hard work it takes to develop a healthy self-image.”

So, what exactly does a person with an unhealthy self-image look like? How can you tell if you’re one of them? And most importantly, how can you go about working toward a healthier life? Read on for some of Seiler’s insights, beginning with qualities that often accompany an unhealthy self-image:

1. You’re tightly wound. Would you say that you often experience an inner sense of well-being? Or are you more likely to be anxious, uneasy, stressed out or upset? If you answered “yes” to the second question but not the first, chances are your self-image isn’t where it needs to be. But wait, you object. I value myself and my well-being pretty highly! The last thing I want to do is “settle.” Why else would I be running myself ragged if not in pursuit of happiness?

“Well,” Seiler responds, “You’re obviously working long hours and piling too much on your plate because you’re looking for a sense of inner peace that you don’t currently possess. You’re overburdened, overstressed and on a hair trigger because you’re trying to build up comfort through external as opposed to internal means.” Here’s the bottom line: to the degree your self-image is healthy, it automatically causes you to experience inner peace, comfort and happiness.

2. You’re fiercely independent. There’s no arguing the fact that our society idealizes the rugged individualist – you know, the person who blazes his own trail with no regard to naysayers, who bucks convention, and who looks to no one but himself for help. After all, this person has got it figured out, right? Maybe not. According to Seiler, the belief that being truly independent means not needing help or validation from anyone is patently false – and it’s a symptom of an ailing self-image. “Believe it or not, true independence is a state in which you recognize your responsibility to strengthen your weaknesses – to seek advice and counsel from whatever good source is available,” Seiler explains. “People who falsely believe that they need only themselves to function are usually afraid of and incapable of genuine commitment. They’re unable to look honestly at themselves; they lack the maturity to recognize and confront their strengths and weaknesses.”

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