Negative Self-Image. “Am I pathetic, or what?”

What do you say we talk about negative self-image? Surely it’s a “hit-home” topic for most depression, anxiety, and chronic stress sufferers. The man in the image is 19th Century American writer and philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson. And he hit the nail right on the head when he said, “Man is what he thinks all day long.”

So where does all this self-brutality comes from? Well, the psychoanalysts would, no doubt, trace the roots of negative self-image to infancy, childhood, and adolescence. And the culprit would be trauma or intense distress during one or more psychosexual stage of development; which, without resolution, has festered throughout the lifespan. And the interaction of the id, ego, and superego would be brought forth as well.

Interestingly, some have proposed the superego, our internal guide to social appropriateness, can actually have a personality of its own. And a tough-as-nails superego sets the stage for an individual constantly having to seek shelter from insurmountable waves of guilt. The futility of it all leads to buckets of shame, making any attempts to settle accounts nearly impossible. And chronic self-disapproval and self-assassination ensue.

The cognitivists out there would claim that this negative self-image business is the result of genetics, environmental history, learning, and poor self-management skills. Indeed, they would submit that all thinking, feeling, and behavioral responses, including negative self-image, are based in acute and chronic misperception and misinterpretation.

Okay, enough of the slicing and dicing.

Is there really any wonder why someone dealing with depression, anxiety, and chronic-stress might just have a rock-bottom self-image? Needless to say, given what we’ve experienced in our lives, and often endure on a daily basis, we aren’t likely to think a whole lot of ourselves. And these feelings compound on a daily basis.

Over many years, the catastrophic impact of negative self-image ran rough-shod over my life, and the fallout becomes more and more obvious to me, even to this very day. Because of all that’s gone on, and my inability to identify, understand, and manage it over the many years, I came to believe I wasn’t much of a person – wasn’t much of a man. Sadder still, I really didn’t see how that was ever going to change. And each panic attack, moment of melancholy, and perceived failure were yet more humiliating slaps in the face.

Well, let’s put the brakes on part one. Believe me, much more to come about negative self-image and negative self-talk tomorrow.

What are you feelings and thoughts thus far? Why not share some of your experiences with negative self-image with us in a comment?


  • karen February 25, 2010, 10:50 am

    very interesting and timely for me today. the entire internet wouldn’t be big enough for me to list negative self image issues and instances……..let’s just say they are worse when i “start” all or nothing thinking, and let other people’s criteria be my guidelines. but many of the issues that cause the negative image are real–ie foreclosure, not being able to pass a necessary test, no job………etc. never mind the underlying issues as expained in your post……thoughts?

    • Bill February 25, 2010, 2:05 pm

      Well, first of all, good hearing from you. I know you’ve had a very stressful past two days…on top of the months/years of lead-in. I agree, so much of the underlying hodge-podge is more supplement. Bottom-line is, we are who we are…so what are we going to do about it. Send me an email and tell me how it went.