Healthy Self Image: How to Love Yourself For Who You Are
Self image affects your physical and mental well-being. So go ahead... love yourself.
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Making the Journey
Learning to love, respect and value yourself starts in childhood, but for many of us it is a journey that continues throughout life, experts say.
Your parents and your upbringing have an influence on the base that you establish, but other people and experiences matter as well—how you are treated by peers and other adults, what experiences you have, particularly if you have traumatic experiences like sexual abuse. Your personality also affects how you process and respond to your experiences, and different people will respond differently to the same experiences.
“It kind of starts with what we’re given as children, but we have to build on it,” says Todd. “We have to be able to accept our own goodness.”
Stefani Williams, 55, of Frankford, is one woman who learned to accept and love herself as she is. She says she had the inevitable challenges with accepting her body as she was going through puberty, especially since by eighth grade she was already taller and “more voluptuous” than her peers, but she learned early on to embrace herself for who she was.
“The foundation had already been set by the way I was raised, and by the positive reinforcement I received, particularly from my father,” Williams says.
Williams raised her son and daughter to have that the same self-acceptance, and she sought to instill it in others as well during her career as a social worker. She taught her children, the young girls she dealt with as a social worker, and now her granddaughter, “that you are beautiful just the way you are, perfect just the way you are, and that you are capable of anything.”
For Wilmington University senior Mary (Mary is a pseudonym for a source who prefers to keep her identity private), the trigger for self-doubt came the day she turned 18 and had her first panic attack.
“I was a very capable person, intelligent, with a lot of good friends, but once the panic attacks started, I had a hard time accepting that it wasn’t my fault. I began to doubt myself and feel like an outcast,” she says.
She began receiving counseling, and that’s when she started to learn about the importance of accepting your strengths and weaknesses, of setting goals, and congratulating yourself when you achieve those goals.
She began volunteering, which helped instill self-confidence. She started to earn straight As in college and stopped associating with negative people. And when she found a boyfriend who respected her and thought she was great just as she was, she began to believe it herself.
“Because of the panic attacks, I had gotten lost,” Mary says. “I just wasn’t proud of myself. I guess now I really do love myself, and that has enhanced my life in so many ways.”