How to Address and Change Self-Image Issues: 8 Exercises to Increase Self-Image
As with most changes in the way we think and feel, there is no quick-fix to improving self-image; however, the good news is that there are things you can do! Try the exercises below to give yourself a boost in self-image.
Troll Travels – Who Am I? Worksheet
One of the best ways to work on your self-image is to gain some self-knowledge; use this worksheet to learn more about you!
It is broken into two parts:
- Ask yourself “Who am I?”
- Go on a journey with your new self-knowledge
In Part 1, you are instructed to write down everything that makes you who you are—the good, the bad, and everything in between. As a hint, you should definitely write down the bad ones too, because you’ll need them in Part 2!
Now, on to the journey – imagine that on this journey, you will cross three bridges. At each bridge, Trevor the Troll is waiting to exact his toll – 30% of your qualities!
That’s right, every time you cross a bridge you will have to give him nearly a third of your qualities. This is why writing down so many negative ones comes in handy: now you can dump them!
Once you reach the end of your journey, you will only have 10% of your qualities left. These are your most valued and most important qualities, and the ones that you should nurture and exercise.
Through this short exercise, you will get a better idea of who you are and what your qualities are—both good and bad—and you will learn which qualities you value most. With this information in hand, you can build a more positive self-image.
List 10 Things You Love About Yourself
This is a simple exercise, but one that can be very powerful.
All you need to do is list 10 things you love about yourself! Yes, this can be harder than it seems, but actively seeking out the positive in yourself will make it much easier to see yourself in a positive light.
If you reach 10 and have more to list, keep writing them down! It won’t hurt to have extra things to love about yourself, after all.
List 10 Skills You Possess
Building a better self-image isn’t just about loving ourselves though, it’s about building ourselves up in each of the self-image dimensions. This exercise can help you boost your self-imagine in the skills dimension.
Grab a pen and a piece of paper and list 10 skills you possess. These skills can be anything you’re good at, like roller-skating, working with Excel spreadsheets, making shy people comfortable in group situations, training dogs new tricks, or painting.
Write down at least 10 skills. However, if you write down 10 skills and still have more to say—keep going!
Also, for an extra boost to your self-image, include a brief note that explains how other people have benefitted or might benefit from this skill. This will help you see it as a valuable skill, and to see yourself as a worthwhile person.
List 5 Achievements of Which You Are Proud
Another list exercise that can help is writing down at least five things that you are proud of yourself for doing or accomplishing. These achievements can be big things, like winning a national competition, or smaller things, like acing a test.
The achievement itself doesn’t matter as much as the key point to the exercise—reminding yourself of what you are capable of and challenging yourself to rise to the occasion next time you run into an obstacle.
For extra self-image boosting, try writing a detailed account of each achievement you note.
List 3 Occasions Where You Overcame Adversity
Now, put together a list of situations in which you overcame some kind of adversity. The adversity could be anything from institutional and systemic adversity, like a bias against your gender or racial group, to an intensely personal adversity, like your anxiety or depression.
Write down the details of each of these three occasions and use the written record to remind yourself of your strength, your resilience, and all that you are capable of.
Again, if you can think of more than 3 occasions, keep going until you run out of things to write about.
List 5 People Who Have Helped You
We all need a little help to get by sometimes, and it doesn’t make us any less capable or valuable! In fact, depending on how you look at it, it might mean that you are even more valuable a person than you thought – if others find you worthy enough for their assistance, then there must be something great in you!
For each person, write a detailed account of how they helped you and think about the good they must see in you. Brainstorm some things that these people might have seen in you – like kindness, conscientiousness, or natural talent – and add it to your own image of yourself.
If you can think of more than 5, keep the list going until you run out of people to list!
List 5 People Who You Have Helped
On the flipside, take a few minutes to write down 5 people who you have helped at some point. It doesn’t need to be a giant gesture, just think about all the ways you have helped others—cheering a friend up when he or she was having a bad day, giving some money to a family member who was down on his or her luck or acting as a reference for someone to help them get their dream job or move into a great new place.
Write down what happened, how you helped them, and the ways they benefitted from your help. Think about this important point: the fact that you can help others demonstrates that you are someone with value to offer others.
Add this fact to your mental catalog and your view of yourself – that you have value and you share that value with others when you lend a hand. Keep this in mind as you go forward and continue to help others.
List 50 Things You Appreciate About Your Life
This is a big one, and perhaps the most time- and effort-intensive one as well, but it can have a profound effect on your self-esteem, your worldview, and your view of yourself.
Although gratitude is a great thing to work on experiencing more often, this list goes beyond gratitude to appreciation. Appreciation involves taking the time to understand how you have benefitted from the good things that have happened to you in your life, making it easy and natural to feel grateful and positive about yourself and your life.
An important part of appreciating is to share your appreciation with others. Feel free to share that appreciation with those on your list, and commit to sharing your appreciation more often as you go forward. It will help you realize how lucky you are and how many good things you have in your life, which is an important thing to keep in mind as you build and maintain a more positive self-image.
Of course, if you can think of more than 50 things, keep listing them until you run out!
Each of the “list” exercises above was shared on the Live Your True Story Blog.
How to Help Build a Positive Self-Image in Child Development
If you are raising a child or teaching a classroom full of them, you might be wondering how you can contribute to a healthy, positive self-image in those children. Luckily, there are ways to go about this important task! Try the activities outlined below with your children and watch as they develop a strong, healthy sense of self.
7 Activities for Developing Self-Image in Preschoolers
Jean Merrill from the Strong Kids series on the A Fine Parent website shares 7 activities you can do to help your preschooler build a positive self-image.
- Create a Sense of Belonging to Your Family
This is the most important thing you can do to help your child build a healthy self-image. Without healthy roots, your child will struggle to develop a healthy self-image.
To create this important sense of belonging, try using simple inclusive statements like, “We are the Smiths!” (but substitute your last name for “Smiths”). This helps even very young children understand that they have a safe place in their family.
- Invite Values into Your Family
Build on these inclusive statements by adding a bit more to them. It’s easy to turn them into “value declarations” with a simple expansion. These value declarations reinforce the sense of belonging and help your child understand your family’s most important values, boosting their sense of self.
To do this, turn your statement of inclusion (e.g., “We are the Smiths!”) into a value declaration, like:
- We are the Smiths and we are problem solvers!
- We are the Smiths and we believe community service is important.
- We are proud, even though we are quirky.
- Use Value Declarations to Set Lofty Expectations
You can use declarations like these to set high (but achievable) expectations of your children and your family.
Saying something like “Our family dinners are a chance to decompress with those around who love us” or “We have so many things to be grateful for” will help even the youngest children understand what is important to your family and what is expected of them: to participate in meaningful family moments and to show gratitude for everything they have.
- Get the “Scoop” by Encouraging the “Dish”
As your child ages, you can incorporate more exercises and activities to help them maintain that positive self-image they built.
Encourage your child to share with you, even if others might frown on it. For example, Jean Merrill notes that her children loved to share “who got their card flipped” for bad behavior at school. Although some might think of it as “tattling”, Merrill appreciated that they were willing to share their observations and encouraged them to continue sharing what they saw during their day.
- Take the Teachable Moments
Once your child is sharing these sorts of observations with you, take advantage of the situation and use them as a teachable moment.
First, talk about why the behavior was inappropriate, how the behavior affected the child and the rest of the class, and how your child felt about it.
This invites an opportunity to talk about how certain behaviors are not consistent with family values. Merrill suggests saying something like, “[Classmate] sure is lucky to have you as an example of how to [better behavior].” This lets your child know what is desirable behavior and tells them that they are a good example of this desirable behavior, something they can add to their self-image.
- Use Descriptive Praise
Make sure to help them learn how to have positive self-talk later in life by using descriptive praise.
Rather than saying something generic like “You did good!” tell them exactly what they did and why it was good. For example, you might say, “Wow, you wiped down the table without even being asked. That shows initiative. I love it!”
Using this descriptive praise will help your child know what is good behavior and praiseworthy, and make them feel that being good and praiseworthy is achievable.
- Adopt the “It Takes a Village” Approach
Use any tools available to encourage your child to maintain their positive sense of self and work on continuing to grow in healthy directions.
Continue to affirm values, reinforce positive behavior choices, and help your child differentiate good and bad behavior, and embrace the assistance of anyone around who might be able to help (Merrill, 2016).
How to Help Build a Positive Self-Image in Adolescents
It’s always best to start early, but it’s also never too late to start! If you are raising a teenager or helping to guide a young adult through that precarious time in their lives as a teacher, counselor, family member, or another important adult in their life, keep these activities and resources in mind.
Gratitude Journal: Three Good Things
Encouraging your teenager to build a positive worldview and be more grateful for the things around him or her is also a great way to encourage their positive self-image.
The worksheet is split into seven sections, one per day of the week, and each day has three prompts for good things your teen can write about.
Day 1 has:
- One good thing that happened to me today…
- Something good that I saw someone do…
- Today I had fun when…
Day 2 gives these prompts:
- Something I accomplished today…
- Something funny that happened today…
- Someone I was thankful for today…
Help your teen be a bit more positive and a bit more grateful by having them fill out this worksheet for one week. Their newfound gratitude will help them see the good in themselves, in those around them, and the world in general.
Discovering strengths is a sure way to boost your self-image, especially for teens who may not have as much experience and self-knowledge as you do.
Encourage them to use this worksheet to figure out some of their own strengths.
At the top, the worksheet shares this important point: “Those who know their strengths and use them frequently tend to have more success in several areas. They feel happier, have better self-esteem, and are more likely to accomplish their goals.”
Next, it instructs the user to circle their strengths from the big list below, adding some in the blank spaces if necessary.
The strengths listed include things like:
- Common Sense
Once they have their strengths circled, there are three further pages to the worksheet that they can use to help them figure out where they have used their strengths and where they can use them in the future.
First, they will explore their strengths in Relationships, then in a Profession (school counts here), and then in Personal Fulfillment.
For each section, they will respond to these three prompts:
- List the strengths you possess that help you in your relationships/in your profession/achieve personal fulfillment.
- Describe a specific time your strengths were able to help you in a relationship/your profession/with personal fulfillment.
- Describe two new ways you could use your strengths in relationships/in your professional life/for personal fulfillment.
Completing this worksheet will help your teen discover their strengths, gain some self-knowledge, and plan for the future – all activities that can boost their self-image.