What's your problem with self-image

Self & external image | Effect & impact

How do i feel How do I appear to others? And why is this question so important in working life?

Have you ever wondered why the other person simply does not perceive you as you are?

When you have asked yourself this question, you must have been asked how you affect or want to affect others and whether you affect others differently than you perceive yourself?

And did you notice that these questions have a significant influence on your well-being? And thus also contributes significantly to (dissatisfaction) in private, professional or business life?

How do I appear to others?

To answer the question of how you affect others, we can ask it ourselves or have a third party answer it. If we ask ourselves the question, we maintain our self-image. If we ask the question to a third party, we receive a foreign image of ourselves.

How is my self-image created?

Our self-image is based on self-awareness; the external image on how third parties perceive us from the outside. The self-image is also measured by how someone would like to be (desired self-image or ideal image) and is subject to constant change.

Which self-image we have of ourselves depends on several factors: on our character, our values ​​and our strengths and weaknesses. The self-image arises from the feedback or what feedback we have received in the past and are currently receiving from our environment.

The reason for this is that we are not autonomous, but social beings. We are part of society and interact with others. Our self-image is essentially based on the effect that we have triggered or trigger in others.

This can have positive effects: praise and criticism, respect, appreciation and love or sympathy. Often, however, it is also about negative feedback to us, which then also, and usually very massively, contribute to our self-image.

As a result, self-image largely depends on the type of feedback we receive. Therefore, feedback should be positive and constructive.

And that this dependence on feedback can lead to our self-image deviating from our external image.

Our self-image is important because it controls our thinking, feeling and behavior. And our behavior, in turn, is essential for our image of others. This closes the circle and often leads to the fact that others perceive ourselves as completely wrong.

How does a foreign image of me come about?

An external image is the summary of all perceptions, feelings and evaluationswho third of us have. Third parties already known to us automatically link us to previous experiences they have had with us and to the feelings and evaluations resulting from this link.

The image that others have of us, in turn, shapes their expectations towards us. It follows that the external image is feedback to us and therefore makes a significant contribution to how we feel. The external image thus has a significant influence on how we deal with one another.

Factors that influence our self-image and our image of others:

Image of oneself and others in the so-called Johari window[1]

The perspective in which our self-image and image of others emerges can be graphically represented on the so-called Johari window:

The following conclusions can be drawn from this assignment:

  • others perceive behaviors (unconscious habits, prejudices or affections) in me that I am not aware of
  • the bigger the "blind spot", the more insecure my behavior
  • Feedback increases my “public person” and my “blind spot” is reduced accordingly. In this way, the awareness of how I affect others can be expanded, i.e. the self-image can be adapted to the external image.

Why do the self-image and the external image often do not match?

Not everyone is aware that their own assessment often deviates enormously from the point of view, assessment and opinion of their fellow human beings. In psychology one speaks of self-image-external image incongruence.

The clearer the self-image is and the better it corresponds to the images of others, the more we can control our behavior. This enables us to encourage appropriate interaction with others. And the better we know our self-image, the more clearly we can shape our desired self-image.

Why is the question of how I affect others so important in work life?

In order to answer the question, we can imagine what happens when the self-image and the image of others differ significantly from each other.

A wrong self-image can lead to wrong behavior. And this often leads to problems, conflicts and misunderstandings, the cause of which we usually attribute to something completely different (other people, circumstances, coincidence, etc.).

As a result, you may underestimate yourself. Then you don't trust yourself to do things that you could actually do.

It is also possible that you are overestimating yourself. Then you may do things that are not your strengths.

In either case, it can be assumed that you have behaviors that you are not aware of. And that you do not recognize or do not perceive certain behaviors. In working life this can mean that you have not yet found the field of activity which brings you joy, satisfaction and success and which corresponds to your strengths.

In order to find this field of activity, it can be advantageous to deal with the question of your own image of yourself and others. Also read my blog on Power Link here.

How do you maintain your self-image or your external image and how can a self-image that deviates from the external image be dealt with?

First of all, it is crucial to analyze how you see yourself. Experience has shown that this can be achieved by taking the time to think about it and writing down your thoughts.

In the next step, it can then be determined how you are perceived by third parties. To do this, you can ask third parties you know and trust for feedback. However, it is important that you receive honest, high-quality feedback. But that is exactly what is missing most of the time. Social conventions (courtesy, respect, etc.) or commercial intentions (customer acquisition, customer advice, sales, competition, etc.) prohibit giving honest and possibly critical feedback.

Thus, the procedure of receiving high-quality feedback from someone you know is often not feasible, especially in working life. Therefore, it may be advisable to seek feedback from an expert. Business coaches, for example, are suitable for this. You will see: it is often very surprising how others see us or "open our eyes".

Feedback is therefore an opportunity to get to know your external image. You now have the opportunity to design your self-image in such a way that it corresponds to your desired image. So it is of crucial importance, especially in working life, how you work and how you can influence this effect.

However, it is just as important that your self-image aligns with your values. You can ask yourself which values ​​are important to you and in what form you want to represent or embody them.

This can change your behavior or your entire appearance and thus your external image, towards a perception based on your values.

What significance does the self, the ideal and the external image have for conflict resolution?

Since mediation deals with conflicts, i.e. with topics that arise from dissatisfaction in certain areas of life, the question of perception of oneself and others plays an essential role.

As already shown, our self-image controls our thinking, feeling and our behavior towards others. And the others then make a corresponding assessment of us.

These opinions (e.g. competent or incompetent) and feelings (e.g. sympathetic or unsympathetic) can contribute significantly to conflicts. The bigger our "blind spot" is, the higher our uncertainty and the higher the probability of triggering or getting into conflict.

An inconsistent self-image thus increases the risk of getting into conflict.

For companies, this risk is increased by the number of employees involved.

Mediators work with insights into the self-image or the image of others by mirroring the situation of the other party to the conflicting parties. In the mediation talks, mediators focus on whether and, if so, which needs of the other party have become more clearly aware of those involved in the conflict.

Conflicting parties receive high quality feedback in mediation. As a rule, it increases the willingness of those involved in the conflict to give or accept feedback themselves. Addressing anger and conflicts while recognizing criticism as an opportunity is an essential goal of mediation. And by the way, it also means that the self-image of those involved corresponds better with their image of others.


The match of Self-image and image of others are essential prerequisites for being able to deal with others appropriately.

This is particularly important in the world of work. In order to match the self-image with the image of others, it is helpful to have high-quality,constructive Get feedback. Support from an experienced feedback provider e.g. a business coach.

In mediation, too, the self-image and the external image are determined and brought into harmony. Mediation is therefore suitable for acute conflict management. Another lasting effect of mediation is that the self-image and the external image of the conflict parties are changed in such a way that they better match.

And when your self-image largely corresponds to your external image, you know how you appear to others. And you will immediately find out why this is so important in working life!

Part 2 of the article can be found here!


Ulrich Schmezer
www.schmezer-consulting.de ALL blog posts can be found here.

The Johari window was named after the first names of its inventors Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham.

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