Many mindset experts will tell you that your self-image is a construct of the thoughts you think. By constantly thinking negative opinions about yourself, you create a poor self-image. While that is definitely true, I wish that these experts would also help people understand the roots of their negative opinions.

Studies show that much of what we think about ourselves is based on ideas planted in childhood. Children who are fed negative opinions about themselves or who don’t get the emotional support they need, learn early in life that they’re not important. Their five, six, and seven-year-old selves will internalize and believe these ideas.

If the roots of your poor self-image were planted in childhood, it can be helpful to know that. It would explain why you believed these negative opinions and still carry them around with you.

Today, I want to share what I believe are three major forces that shaped your poor self-image. It’s my hope that sharing these will help you identify the roots of your negative opinions about yourself so you can root them out.


1. Family and Friends

You may have heard the saying that babies’ brains are like sponges – they absorb everything! It’s more than a saying, it’s a scientific fact and is based on the theory of what’s called, the absorbent mind.

Family is the first place where subconscious opinions about ourselves and the world are formed. In psychology, we learn that a critical period of forming subconscious beliefs is from birth to age 6.

If you come from a family that is very protective and sheltering, you may be a more anxious adult. On the flip side, if you were raised in a family that was encouraging and gave you the space to explore the world around you, you are more likely to become a self-confident adult.

There is also the impact that friends can have on our opinions about ourselves. Fiends have a huge influence on the way we see ourselves. You may have heard the saying, ‘You are the average of the 5 people that you spend the most time with.” Consider how your friends today and from your past shaped the opinions you have about yourself.


2. Culture

Culture dictates what’s “normal,” acceptable, and desirable in a society. As you can imagine, those values and opinions will influence how most of us see ourselves.

The French culture has fairly healthy attitudes about beauty. As a consequence, we see that French women prefer low-maintenance chic and don’t struggle so much with aging. Also, not long ago, France was one of the first countries to pass laws banning models that are “too thin.”

A couple of Asian cultures have very different attitudes – and some very toxic opinions about beauty. According to a BuzzFeed article, one-third of South Korean women between the ages of 19 and 29 polled, said they had undergone cosmetic surgery. It’s a culture that considers women above 110 pounds chubby. This 2019 Lifestyle Inquirer‘s profile of a young woman named Park I Seul shared something encouraging about South Korean women: that they are beginning to resist the intense beauty pressures of their culture. But as it stands, what effects do you think South Korean attitudes about beauty have on its young female population?

Another example of how culture influences our self-image can be found in what’s called collectivist cultures. When you think about how disconnected many people feel these days, there is something very appealing about the way in which collective cultures look out for each other, so I don’t want to appear to dismiss it entirely.  But when caring for your family is expected to come before taking care of your dreams and wellbeing, it can contribute to a negative self-image.


3. The media’s effect on poor self-image

We’re not just what we eat. We are also what we consume by way of movies, TV, and other forms of media.

In “The Social Dilemma,” we learned how social media uses algorithms that contribute to users becoming addicted to these apps. The documentary also revealed that  97% of young users were on social media ALL THE TIME. Other studies reveal that 90% of teen social media users’ number one ambition in life is to become famous. If 97% are on social media all the time, do you suppose there is a connection? Of course, there is!

When the contents of magazines, movies, and TV are added to the mix, the media’s influence is even more pervasive. Societies’ toxic messages about various groups of people affect how these groups see themselves – as less attractive, less deserving, less protected, and unequal.

These three forces – friends and family, culture, and social media – might be at the root of how you see yourself. If so, it explains why your poor self-image might not be so easy to overcome.

So how do you change? You need to work with someone or join a support group of some kind. A coach who does subconscious reprogramming work might use hypnosis, writing exercises, and other tools to help you. And meeting with others with shared experiences can help you see how you came to have the poor self-image you do. Knowing you are not alone can be the support and encouragement you need to work on your poor self-image.

About Author

Zehra Kamani is a Toronto-based freelance writer and first-time mother of a vivacious little girl. She has a Master's in Psychology and has worked with children with disabilities and anxiety disorders. When she is not writing or at the park with her daughter, you can find her savoring a cup of chai and dreaming about traveling the world. Zehra loves to listen to others’ unique stories and learn about their experiences. Follow her on Instagram @xy.zee and read more of her work at

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