There are certain qualities that everyone desires in themselves, whether they realize it or not: They want to be confident and happy, with a sense of belonging in their community. Anyone—including you—can achieve these qualities, regardless of your background, talent, income, or past struggles. But first you must realize the importance of creating a positive self-image; of surrounding yourself with positive core values. In order to love others, you must first love yourself!
A positive self-image affects every part of your life, and it gives your leadership ability a boost. Think about great leaders you’ve studied and the role models in your life. They most likely demonstrate a high level of confidence in themselves and respect from others, and when they make a mistake, they recover quickly and learn from it.
Now, think about yourself: What does a positive self-image feel like? It might be …
- Seeing the good in yourself
- Believing in yourself, even if you don’t do well at first (like in a new relationship or with a new subject at school)
- Having a sense of pride in what you do
- Feeling liked and accepted by others, who you also like and respect
- Accepting yourself, even if you make a mistake
When you know what a positive self-image feels like, it’s much easier to build daily habits that support it! And in addition to habits, it’s important to recognize that the way you feel about yourself is also affected by your friends. Did you know that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with? Your friends are a powerful influence on you, just as you are to them. There is a great deal of impact to be considered when you think about the five people you profoundly influence plus the five people they influence, and so on!
One of the ways you can develop your own positive self-image and your impact on others is by adopting a “win-win” mentality. This is the attitude that everyone can benefit (or win) from a situation. It shows you care about people and want them to succeed, even though you want to succeed too. It also helps you understand the way others impact you. Win-win thinking is truly a way of life, and it starts with feeling secure in yourself, with the understanding that no one is superior to anyone else. We are all humans, and there is room for everyone’s success.
Because we live in a digital world, it’s also crucial to understand that social media plays a role in this mentality, your interactions with others, and your self-image. While social media has many benefits, like allowing us to share opinions, tell stories, connect with others, and innovate new technology, it can also have negative effects if it’s used too frequently or in the wrong way. To keep social media from impacting your self-image in a negative way, try remembering these facts:
There’s plenty of happiness, beauty, and success to go around. Just because you see a great snapshot of someone else’s life, that doesn’t mean your life isn’t great. There’s room for everyone’s greatness, whether it’s posted on social media or not!
Inspiration will serve you better than self-criticism. Use what you see as fuel for your passions, instead of fuel for comparisons. Be inspired by someone else’s effort, style, skill, or kindness. Lift up your own goals and dreams by what you see on your feed.
Social media posts are the highlight reel, not the behind-the-scenes. Remember that people post what they want others to see; it’s not the whole picture of their lives. If you find yourself comparing or obsessing over a post, it’s time to take a break from your phone!
Another thing to keep in mind? You can use your own social media to project a positive, humble self-image of leadership: to encourage others around you and spread messages of kindness. As you develop your leadership skills, you will discover that the impact you have on others comes from every facet of your life—including your digital presence. That’s definitely win-win!
Creating a positive self-image takes intentional effort, and even with a win-win attitude, you won’t be surprised to know that many teens encounter anxiety as they grow this new “muscle” of confidence. Maybe you’ve even experienced some anxiety yourself, and the feelings produced by that anxiety have hindered your self-image because you are worried about what others think. You might have also felt fearful or nervous, or had trouble concentrating.
One of the best ways to counteract those feelings is by reflecting on them, and choosing to be more mindful. By acknowledging how you feel, you are taking the first step to helping yourself through it. After you’ve recognized the feelings, then make a point to tap into these three skills:
- Be present. Be in the “now” with the people you are with. Listen to understand.
- Be selfless. Practice putting your ego aside to give time and energy to others.
- Be compassionate. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Show care and kindness.
In other words, your self-image is not just built from your thoughts about yourself or from your social media presence. It’s built from your feelings, and how you react to them—especially when those feelings are challenging. Your behavior influences your confidence, and your confidence influences your behavior!
Being a leader means that many times, you “go first” among your friends. You step forward, and with your words and your actions, you demonstrate what a positive self-image looks like. While this isn’t always easy, it is incredibly important. With positivity and confidence, you have the power to reach unlimited potential, and to empower those around you to do the same.