Good Zeal

Supplies for the Journey: Part 9

Clay artwork by Sister Mary Adrian McLeanSo far on our journey, I have written about many traits that are helpful in our spiritual/life journey. No matter where we are on our journey, we bring with us our self-image and self-esteem. Be that a realistic picture of ourselves or not.

This blog briefly addresses the concepts self-image and self-esteem. Although different, they are closely interrelated for self-esteem is influenced by our self-image.

Both self-image and self-esteem are based on our judgment and perception of ourselves and may not be the objective reality. It is our own inner reality. I may see myself as a poor teacher and a failure. However, students, parents, the principal see me as an excellent and competent teacher.

In this scenario, my perception of the reality is incorrect. However, I can modify my self-perception. Self-image is not static but dynamic. I can change the point of view I have of my self-image based on factors such as my own reflection, and on the encouragement/affirmation of others. The same can be said of my self-esteem.

Seeing an imperfection does not necessarily mean I have a poor self- image. I may recognize that impatience is one of my flaws but that may not have a negative effect on my self-worth.

Factors that influence our self-image and self-esteem:
• Parents and significant others in our childhood are leading factors.
• Friends and family, and various people with whom we interact
• Various media including social media
• Various experiences and situations
• Our own interpretation of life’s experiences

It is important to realize that there is the possibility of misinterpreting the messages we experience from other people and from the many situations we encounter. How we translate these encounters can have an effect on what we think of ourselves. For example if someone keeps yawning in class, do I think, “I must be a boring teacher?” Or do I say, “Maybe, he did not get enough sleep last night.”

Differences between self-image and self-esteem
• Self-image (some call it self-concept and others separate the two) is a mosaic of mental pictures we have of ourselves.
• Self-image is how we perceive ourselves. It includes how we look and behave; the ideas we have concerning our abilities, personality, appearance, etc.
• Self-image is about how we see ourselves and how we believe others see us.

• Self-esteem is the value, worth, self-respect we have of ourselves. It is about how we feel and value ourselves.
• It is our subjective assessment of our own worth. “I am loved”, I am a failure,” “I am worthless,”
“I am beautiful”.
• Self-esteem is the evaluation of each of those mental images we have of ourselves (self-image). A healthy self-esteem is about respecting and valuing ourselves as persons made in the image and likeness of God in spite of our imperfections and flaws.

Private Ponderings
1. Do you believe God treasures you?
Psalm 139:13-14: You are fearfully and wonderfully made
Isaiah 43:1-5: You are precious in God’s eyes
Psalm 8:6: You have been made little less than and god
Genesis 1:27: You are created in God’s image and likeness

2. Who are the people in your life who “build you up” and make you feel worthwhile?
3. Who are the people in your life that you need to “build up” and affirm?

By Sister Marie Leonard, OSB

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