How to Overcome a Negative Self Image

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Laws Of Human Nature" by Robert Greene. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is a negative self image and why is it harmful? What should you do about a low self image?

A negative self image can happen for many reasons, including internal and external factors. A low self image can also be very harmful to you and those around you.

Read more about negative self image and what you can do about it.

Negative Self Image

While we can’t always control how much physical attention we get, we have come up with a way to cope with a psychological attention deficit—we create (usually unconsciously) a self-image or self-opinion, which is an internal conception of ourselves that we can use to give ourselves our own attention. When we need more attention, have low self-esteem, or feel bad about ourselves, we can turn inward and admire our vision of ourselves. This poor self image can negatively impact you and others.

Low Self-Opinion or No Self-Opinion

A few people have poor self opinion because their childhood insecurity is related to being successful or good. A low self-opinion is just as strong as a positive one—people who think they’re mean or unworthy are relieved when this opinion is confirmed by a bad thing happening to them. 

There are also people who never properly develop a self-image. These people usually had parents who didn’t encourage them to be independent or unique, and without this encouragement, it’s difficult to create a self-image that feels realistic. Parents can stall the development of self-image by being:

  • Self-absorbed. The parents don’t pay enough attention to the child’s attempts at independence.
  • Enmeshing. The parents pay too much attention to their child—they’re so involved in her life she can’t establish a sense of self. 
    • For example, enmeshing parents might not allow their children to play with others and develop identities separate from the parents.

The Importance of Self-Opinion and Effects of Negative Self Image

Our self-opinion is enormously important to our personalities. It affects our thinking and values to the point where we reinterpret the truth so that it doesn’t clash with our sense of self. 

  • For example, if you see yourself as tough and you’re Christian, you’ll look for stories in the Bible that confirm toughness is valuable. 

Negative self image can be difficult. You can consider ways to work on a low self opinion and making your life bettere.

How to Overcome a Negative Self Image

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Here's what you'll find in our full The Laws Of Human Nature summary :

  • Why it's in your nature to self-sabotage
  • How you behave differently when you're in a group
  • Why you're wired to want the wrong things in life

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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