Self-image (aka self-concept) buds in infancy, blossoms in toddlerhood, explodes in the tweens, blooms again in the teens, and tends to settle down in adulthood.
· Definition—Self-image is the mental and spiritual ‘picture’ a person has of Self. Who he is in life and how he fits in his world.
· It identifies us to us. From it, we know who we are, how we mix with our world, what we can and can’t do. When fully developed, it tends to restrict us to doing what’s ‘normal’ for Self.
· The roots lie in cooing, crying, smiling, and whatever else produces feedback to the infant. Added to genetic hardwiring, loving care and encouragement program the subconscious mind about its ability to affect its world, to influence its surroundings.
· Toddlerhood opens the door to testing the world, examining realities, and programming the subconscious with a steady stream of new abilities—new ways to view Self. The greater the exploratory and adventurist nature of a toddler, the broader and deeper spreads his self-image.
· Development of self-image explodes in the tweens. Kids face new pressures, social structures, and experiences outside the home. Greater accomplishments and varied experiences morph into a much enlarged self-image.
· Puberty inflicts temporary damage that may turn permanent. Self-image undergoes doubts and confirmations to make Self fit into a world rocked with hormonal hurricanes. But, it didn’t come to stay, it came to pass.
· Self-image blooms again in adolescence. It’s a growth period. Boys expand their search for independence and significance. Girls expand their search for involvement and meaning. Self-image grows with successes, narrows with failures, and steadies out with acceptance of Self as the third decade of life arrives.
As with adults, self-image sets boundaries on our behavior, which we usually observe. When we don’t, we take corrective action or rationalize to explain or excuse it to ourselves and others. Our self-image keeps us on the track we imagine as right for our life.