Self-image is the perception an individual holds of themselves. Having a positive self-image can lead to healthy relationships and a general sense of well-being. However, a negative view of oneself often leads to self-defeating or self-destructive behaviors. One of these negative results is substance use disorder (SUD).
When being treated for SUD, it can be important to address the way you see yourself and find ways to improve your self-image. Working on building your self-image toward a more positive one can lead to improvements in mental health and a better chance at recovery.
To get an idea of your self-image, it can help to assess parts of your life and ask how your view of yourself plays into it.
Self-Image and the Past
Much of your self-image is related to memories and experiences. For example, if you had to do public speaking for a school project and did poorly, in the future you may be anxious during a similar assignment. This is due to your self-image concerning this act. You now perceive yourself as a sub-par public speaker, even if you may have improved over time.
Something as simple as this may be easy to overcome with some practice, although traumatic experiences have a much more drastic effect.
SAMHSA describes individual trauma as coming from “an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.” They also state that trauma is common in the lives of those with mental and substance use disorders and that treating it is an integral part of the healing and recovery process.
For those who have gone through trauma and developed SUD, your self-image is often damaged. Unresolved trauma can often make you feel vulnerable and in distress far more often than others, which can lead to substance use.
Even if what once caused harm is no longer a part of your life, the vulnerable self-image remains. This is why when receiving treatment or in recovery, it is so vital to address your mental health and self-image. You may find that you make tremendous progress, yet you do not appreciate it because you still see yourself as the same person as when you experienced your trauma.
You can read more about trauma and how it affects substance use disorder here.
Self-Image and Relationships
Another factor that can affect your self-image is how others in your life treat you. At times, you might make a lot of progress, and the people around you do not treat us differently. When you make an important change such as getting sober, and friends or family do not give you the recognition we deserve, it can be hurtful. This can lead you to not appreciate who you have become because you rely on social cues to define your self-image.
Having a mindset reliant on external validation can prevent you from growing and seeing the reality of the new, stronger person you have become.
There is also the possibility that those around you do not want you to change and improve because they would feel the need to as well. This kind of behavior can be toxic, even if the person is not doing it intentionally. At times like this, setting boundaries or limiting communication in unhealthy relationships may be necessary. If you want to learn more about being sober when your friends are not, there is an informative article here.
Forming a Positive Self-Image
Having a negative self-image can be harmful to your mental health; however, change is possible. Many people who have been through dark times end up recovering through therapy and other forms of support. A broken bone has the potential to heal and become stronger than ever, and this can happen with your personality too.
Your self-image can change from feeling weak and vulnerable to a strong-willed survivor who overcame many challenges. Some tools to achieve this include therapy, SUD treatment, meditation, and developing healthy habits such as exercise.
Although negative relationships can be harmful, positive relationships have the power to strengthen your self-image. If you have people in your life who are loving and supportive, think about how they behave towards you. Realizing that others care about you can be a powerful tool in changing your mindset.
You may often be too blinded by your self-image to see how important you are to others and how much they do for you. Talking to a friend or family member about your relationship may be very eye-opening and change your perspective on yourself.
Our self-image certainly has a significant impact on our mental health and behavior. Despite a negative self-image being harmful, it also offers an opportunity for growth. Through seeking help and treatment, we have the potential to turn our lives around and develop a positive self-image that can withstand life’s many challenges. When seeking help for substance use disorder, treating our mental health alongside our addiction is vital. At Everlast Recovery Centers, we understand this very well. Our committed staff seeks to heal both addiction and mental health to give our clients the best chances of recovery. At our southern California-based facilities, we offer treatment programs and various therapies tailored to each of our client’s specific needs. If you or a loved one is seeking treatment for SUD, we are here to help. Contact us at (866) 338-6925 today to learn about our mission and what we can do for you.