The concept of internalised self dislike is often only associated with gay and lesbian individuals who experienced internalised homophobia or with other minority groups who have been the subject of prejudice. Homophobia and internalised homophobia are dealt with later on this page. Internalised negative self-image may be most obvious amongst easily identifiable minorities such as the black and asian communities. However, it is important to be aware that we all, to a greater or lesser extent, internalise negative self-images about ourselves as a result of societal or family attitudes taken. We are often unaware of the negative self-image despite the fact that it may affect our everyday actions and behaviours.
For example, we may have grown up in a predominantly working class neighbourhood but have had the opportunity of further education and followed a financially successful career. Despite all that we may still see ourselves as working class and subconsciouslydenigrate ourselves for that – as a result we may sabotage our career in subtle (or even not so subtle) ways e.g. by delaying an application for promotion beyond the closing date etc.
Negative self image may be as “simple” as having a core belief that “real men don’t cry” which could result in the suppression of all or most emotions by or towards men. Another common core belief (which is not often acknowledged) is that “women should be passive” – that may result in a men treating women badly or may result in women not being assertive. Negative self image can be very subtle but the effects are often devastating. Psychotherapy and counselling enable the individual to acknowledge and address those issues within a confidential setting.
Almost all of us dispute that we dislike ourselves or that we hold a negative self-image. Unfortunately the evidence is that most of us do dislike ourselves and as a result often inflict pain on ourselves unnecessarily. Psychotherapy can assist in uncovering those negative attitudes towards oneself and afford a secure environment in which to resolve the conflicts that have arisen internally. Once those issues have been addressed it is then possible to move forward in a more constructive way.
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