September 5


Self-Image vs Self-Esteem: What’s the Real Deal?

By Joshua Turner

September 5, 2023

Self-image and self-esteem are two concepts often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. Self-image refers to our mental picture of ourselves, including our physical appearance, personality traits, and abilities.

On the other hand, self-esteem is the value we place on ourselves as a result of our self-image, our beliefs, and our experiences.

Understanding the difference between self-image and self-esteem is important because they both significantly affect our mental health and well-being.

A negative self-image can lead to low self-esteem, resulting in feelings of worthlessness, anxiety, and depression. Conversely, a positive self-image can lead to high self-esteem, resulting in feelings of confidence, self-worth, and happiness.

Key Takeaways

  • Self-image and self-esteem are two different concepts that are often used interchangeably.
  • Self-image refers to the mental picture of ourselves, while self-esteem is the value we place on ourselves.
  • Understanding the difference between self-image and self-esteem is important because they both significantly affect our mental health and well-being.

Understanding Self-Esteem

Self-esteem is the overall evaluation of one’s worth or value. It is how you perceive yourself and your abilities. High self-esteem means you have a positive view of yourself, while low self-esteem means you have a negative view of yourself.

Self-esteem is closely related to self-worth, which is the belief that you are valuable and deserving of respect. When you have high self-esteem, you have a strong sense of self-worth and are more likely to be confident and assertive in your interactions with others.

Self-esteem is also related to self-confidence, which is the belief in your abilities and capacity to succeed. High self-esteem makes you more likely to have self-confidence, which can help you achieve your goals and overcome challenges.

Self-compassion is another important aspect of self-esteem. It involves treating yourself with kindness, understanding, and acceptance, even when you make mistakes or experience setbacks. When you have self-compassion, you are less likely to be critical or judgmental of yourself, which can help boost your self-esteem.

Self-esteem is not the same as self-image, which is your mental picture of yourself. Self-image is more focused on your physical appearance and how you think others perceive you. While self-image can influence your self-esteem, it is not the only factor.

A healthy self-esteem level impacts your mental health, relationships, and overall well-being. It can help you feel more confident, capable, and resilient in facing challenges.

The Role of Relationships

Our relationships with others shape our self-image and self-esteem. The feedback we receive from others can influence how we see ourselves.

We may develop a positive self-image and higher self-esteem if we receive positive feedback. On the other hand, negative feedback can lead to a negative self-image and lower self-esteem.

The opinions of others can also impact our self-image and self-esteem. If we place a high value on the opinions of others, we may base our self-worth on their approval or disapproval. This can lead to a fragile self-image and low self-esteem.

Supportive individuals can help in boosting our self-esteem. When we have people who encourage and support us, we may feel more confident in ourselves and our abilities. Their positive responses can help us develop a positive self-image and higher self-esteem.


However, negative responses from others can harm our self-image and self-esteem. If we receive criticism or rejection, it can reinforce negative beliefs about ourselves and lead to a lower self-image and self-esteem.

Impact of Age and Health

Age and health can significantly impact an individual’s self-image and self-esteem. Adolescents are more prone to developing negative self-image and low self-esteem due to the physical changes they experience during puberty.

Mental health also shapes one’s self-image and self-esteem. Individuals struggling with depression, anxiety, and eating disorders are likelier to have a negative self-image and low self-esteem.

As individuals age, their physical appearance changes, affecting their self-image. For example, wrinkles, age spots, and other signs of aging can make individuals feel less attractive and lower their self-esteem.

Health issues such as chronic pain, disability, and illness can also impact self-image and self-esteem. Individuals with chronic pain or disability may feel less capable and less confident in their abilities, leading to a negative self-image and low self-esteem.

The Influence of Appearance

Physical appearance influences how we perceive ourselves. Our self-image is shaped by how we look, and this, in turn, affects our self-esteem. It’s no secret that people who are comfortable with their physical appearance tend to have higher self-esteem than those who are not.

Body image is closely tied to our self-image and self-esteem. It refers to how we see ourselves physically and believe others see us. A negative body image can lead to low self-esteem, impacting various aspects of our lives, including relationships, work, and mental health.

Weight is a common factor that affects body image and self-esteem. Many people struggle with weight issues, leading to negative self-image and self-esteem. However, it’s vital to remember that weight is just one aspect of physical appearance and does not define a person’s worth or value.

Physical characteristics such as height, skin color, and facial features can influence self-image and self-esteem. People unhappy with their physical characteristics may feel self-conscious and struggle with low self-esteem. It’s vital to remember that physical characteristics do not define a person’s worth or value.

The Power of Success and Value

Success and value are two critical components of self-esteem and self-image. Success is the achievement of goals and objectives, while value is the importance or worth that one places on oneself. When individuals achieve their goals and objectives, they feel a sense of accomplishment, which boosts their self-esteem.

Value, on the other hand, is about recognizing one’s self-worth and importance. When individuals value themselves, they are more likely to set high standards and strive to achieve them. This, in turn, leads to more success, which further boosts their self-esteem.

Achievements and successes are critical for building self-esteem and self-image. They give individuals a sense of purpose and direction and help reinforce their self-worth. When individuals achieve their goals, they feel a sense of pride and accomplishment, which helps to build their self-esteem.

Performance is another critical factor in building self-esteem and self-image. When individuals perform well, they feel a sense of satisfaction and pride, which boosts their self-esteem. However, when individuals do not perform well, it can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.


Values also helps self-esteem and self-image. Individuals with strong values are more likely to make decisions that align with their beliefs and principles. This, in turn, leads to a sense of integrity and self-respect, which helps to build their self-esteem.

Beliefs and Perceptions

Beliefs and perceptions help in shaping our self-image and self-esteem. Our beliefs are the ideas and attitudes we hold to be true about ourselves, while our perceptions are how we interpret and make sense of the world around us.

Various factors, including our upbringing, experiences, and cultural background can influence our beliefs and perceptions. For example, if we were raised in a constantly criticized environment, we may develop negative beliefs about ourselves that can impact our self-esteem.

Similarly, our perceptions of ourselves can also impact our self-image and self-esteem. If we have a mental picture of ourselves as being unattractive or unsuccessful, this can negatively impact our self-esteem. On the other hand, having a positive perception of ourselves can boost our self-esteem and help us feel more confident in our abilities.

Recognizing that our beliefs and perceptions may not always align with reality is important. For example, we may have an ideal self that we aspire to be, but this may not be a realistic representation of who we are. Having realistic expectations and acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses is of great importance.

Abilities and Behaviors

Abilities and behaviors are closely related to both self-image and self-esteem. Someone with high self-esteem is more likely to have a positive outlook on their abilities and behaviors, while someone with low self-esteem may have a negative view of themselves in these areas.

A positive self-image can lead to a greater sense of confidence in one’s abilities, which can lead to greater success in achieving goals. On the other hand, a negative self-image can lead to self-doubt and a lack of motivation to try new things or pursue goals.

Note that self-esteem and self-image are not the only factors influencing abilities and behaviors. Personality traits, such as openness to experience and conscientiousness, can also play a role in determining how someone approaches tasks and challenges.

Resilience and Coping

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from setbacks and failures and cope with obstacles and challenges. It is a component of self-esteem and self-image, as it helps individuals develop a positive outlook on their potential and abilities.

Coping mechanisms are the strategies that individuals use to deal with stress and adversity. These mechanisms can be healthy or unhealthy, and it is important to develop healthy coping mechanisms to build resilience.

Healthy coping mechanisms include setting boundaries, seeking social support, and practicing self-care. Setting boundaries involves recognizing and respecting personal limits, and communicating them to others.

Seeking social support involves reaching out to friends, family, or a therapist for emotional support and guidance. Self-care involves engaging in activities that promote physical and mental well-being, such as exercise, meditation, or hobbies.

On the other hand, unhealthy coping mechanisms can include substance abuse, avoidance, and self-harm. These mechanisms may temporarily relieve stress but can ultimately lead to further setbacks and difficulties.


Recognize that setbacks and failures are a natural part of life, and that resilience can be developed over time. By practicing healthy coping mechanisms and building a positive self-image and self-esteem, individuals can develop the resilience necessary to overcome obstacles and reach their potential.

Role of External Factors

External factors such as the environment and social comparison significantly shape one’s self-image and self-esteem. The environment in which a person grows up can influence how they perceive themselves and their worth.

For example, if a child grows up in a household constantly criticized and belittled, they may develop a negative self-image and low self-esteem.

Social comparison also affects self-image and self-esteem. When individuals compare themselves to others they perceive as more successful or attractive, they may feel inadequate and develop a negative self-image. On the other hand, comparing oneself to the less fortunate can boost self-esteem.

External factors can also affect self-esteem through the messages that individuals receive from society. For example, media messages emphasizing physical beauty and material wealth can lead to unrealistic expectations and feelings of inadequacy.

Professional Help

If you’re struggling with your self-image or self-esteem, seeking professional help from a psychologist, therapist, or counselor can be incredibly beneficial. These professionals have the training and expertise to help you identify and address the root causes of your negative self-image or low self-esteem.

Psychotherapy, in particular, can be an effective tool for improving your self-image and self-esteem. During therapy sessions, you’ll work with a trained professional to explore your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and develop strategies for improving your self-perception.

Seeking professional help doesn’t mean you’re weak or incapable of handling your problems alone. It takes great strength and courage to reach out for help and take steps toward improving your mental health and well-being.

Ultimately, whether you choose to work with a psychologist, therapist, or counselor, the most important thing is that you take action to address your negative self-image or low self-esteem. With the right support and guidance, you can learn to see yourself in a more positive light and build the confidence and self-esteem you need to thrive.


In conclusion, self-image and self-esteem are two distinct concepts in shaping an individual’s personality. While self-image refers to how an individual perceives themselves physically and mentally, self-esteem is the overall evaluation of one’s worth and value. Both concepts are closely related and can influence each other.

Individuals must have a positive self-image and high self-esteem as it can lead to better mental health, improved relationships, and increased confidence. However, it is essential to understand that self-image and self-esteem are not fixed and can change over time based on various factors such as life experiences, social interactions, and personal growth.

Therefore, continuously improving self-image and self-esteem is crucial. This can be achieved through various methods such as practicing self-care, seeking therapy, setting realistic goals, and surrounding oneself with positive and supportive individuals.

Understanding the difference between self-image and self-esteem is crucial for individuals to lead a more fulfilling and confident life. By improving both concepts, individuals can achieve their full potential and lead a happier life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions about this topic.

What are some examples of how self-image and self-esteem can differ?

Self-image refers to how people see themselves physically and believe others perceive them. Self-esteem, on the other hand, is how a person feels about themselves as a whole. For example, someone may have a negative self-image due to their weight but still have high self-esteem because they value themselves beyond their appearance.

What factors can impact a person’s self-esteem?

Several factors can impact a person’s self-esteem, including childhood experiences, relationships, societal pressures, and personal achievements. Negative experiences or feedback can lower self-esteem, while positive experiences can boost it.

How do individuals with healthy self-esteem typically respond to challenges and disappointments?

Individuals with healthy self-esteem tend to view challenges and disappointments as opportunities for growth and learning. They are more likely to see setbacks as temporary and believe in their ability to overcome them.

What is the difference between healthy self-esteem and low self-esteem?

A positive sense of self-worth, confidence, and self-respect characterizes healthy self-esteem. Low self-esteem, on the other hand, is characterized by negative self-talk, self-doubt, and feelings of inadequacy.

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