In simplest form, self-perception is how we view ourselves. Our self-perception, also referred to as self-concept, can influence our judgment, mood, and behaviors. If we have a positive perception of ourselves, we will most likely have more positive thoughts and beliefs about the world overall, which in turn can lead to more frequent positive behaviors.
We can think of self-perception as the lens through which we view ourselves and the world. And since our self-concept contributes to our sense of identity over time, it’s important to note that it may shift in accordance with various life changes. Brittany Bate, PhD, founder of Be BOLD Psychology and Consulting, explains for example, if an employee gets a raise or promotion, their self-perception regarding their competencies and overall self-worth will likely trend upwards. It’s the fluid basis for how we navigate through life.
Read more: 20 Signs You’re Too Self-Critical at Work
Why positive self-perception is important
Positive self-perception helps us cope with inevitable workplace situations like rejection and failure in a healthy way. Bate says that usually, people with a more positive self-perception have more positive “core beliefs,” unconscious beliefs about oneself—like feeling competent and worthy. When they engage in positive self-talk, they’ll be more likely to internalize that positivity and cope with negative feelings.
A negative self-perception may include core beliefs like feeling damaged or worthless. A person with a negative self-perception views themselves and others more negatively, resulting in consequences:
Emotionally: higher levels of depression and anxiety, lower self-esteem
Behaviorally: declining invitations to social gatherings, not applying for a job or promotion
Interpersonally: difficulty maintaining friendships, engaging in self-sabotage in relationships
A "self-perception in the workplace" example for perspective
Let’s add texture to understand the differences psychologically. Consider two women in the same position, who receive the exact same workplace evaluation: Above average or excellent in eight out of 10 categories, and below average in two categories.
Bate says, “A person with a positive self-perception, who views themselves as a strong, valuable employee may have a positive overall response to this evaluation. They likely have positive core beliefs like, ‘I am valuable, capable, and smart,’ which affects how they view the evaluation:”
Emotionally: feeling happy, proud, and motivated
On the other hand, let’s imagine how a person with a more negative self-perception would react to that exact same evaluation. “If this person already has more negative core beliefs like, ‘I am incompetent, and I don’t deserve this job,’ they may only focus on the two categories where they were below average, negating the other eight categories where they were clearly excelling,” says Bate. This will affect them:
Emotionally: feeling anxious, sad, frustrated, and embarrassed, believing “I can never do anything right, and I am one mistake away from being fired”
Behaviorally: becoming more distracted at work, avoiding their manager or colleagues, calling out of work more often, not applying for a promotion
As you can see, self-perception can lead two people to view the exact same situation very differently, and can ultimately contribute to very different emotional and behavioral outcomes. Since you are the owner of your self-perception, it’s important to check-in with yourself in order to unleash your highest potential.
Read more: How to Become More Self-Aware
11 psychology-based traits associated with positive self-perception
1. Not dwelling on the past
Focusing on all of your past mistakes or regrets is a recipe for disaster. People with positive self-perception focus on the current moment and on moving forward. Whenever you find yourself overthinking situations from the past, ask yourself why those thoughts are holding you back from your goals for the future.
2. Reframing self-talk language
We all experience negative emotions. Instead of internalizing negative thoughts as true statements, people with positive self-perception alter their self-talk to recognize emotions for what they are in the heat of the moment. Instead of saying, “I’m a horrible employee, I’ll never stop making mistakes,” they say, “I made a mistake at work that affected my performance and happiness. I’m going to learn from this experience and use it to improve going forward.”
3. Welcoming all types of feedback
Bate says people with positive self-perception tend to respond better to critique and feedback. They’re able to focus on the positive aspects of any given situation and listen intently to others’ perspectives without getting defensive.
4. Firmly trusting personal judgment
“People with positive self-concepts tend to have more positive, healthy interpersonal relationships,” says Bate. They are, however, comfortable voicing their own opinion and don’t feel guilty about their choices if someone doesn’t agree. March to the beat of your own drum!
5. Viewing themselves as smart, capable, and valuable
Bate says, “People with a positive self-perception tend to move through the world with these qualities at the front and center of their interactions, resulting in more positive interpersonal, occupational, and emotional outcomes.” If a person views themselves as capable, they will feel more able to effectively cope with challenges and be more resilient when experiencing setbacks.
6. Celebrating small wins
People with positive self-perception celebrate their small wins and don’t live by the standards of anyone else but themselves. They champion their successes to remind themselves that they’re constantly making progress. Always be your own biggest cheerleader.
7. Not comparing themselves to others
Build up positive self-perception by focusing on your unique strengths instead of where you fall short compared to colleagues or friends. If you feel amazing after completing a big work presentation, focus on that feeling of accomplishment instead of replaying your colleague’s presentation in your head to compare.
8. Knowing that perfect is the enemy of good
When you aim for perfection, you’re aiming for unattainable standards that’ll only result in headaches and frustration. You’ll never take a first step if you’re paralyzed by indecision from the get-go.
9. Being driven by tangible truths
Negative self-perception is often driven by how we believe others are perceiving us. And it’s all down to psychology—cultivation theory argues that until we come to an authentic conclusion about who we are, we are only a reflection of the opinions of other people. So, the next time you have negative thoughts about yourself or your performance, stop for a second and think: Are you feeling this way because of someone else’s opinion or a tangible truth?
10. Having a growth mindset
Having a growth mindset means that you acknowledge and embrace weaknesses instead of shying away from them, prioritize learning over seeking approval, and understand failures as opportunities to grow. Want to visualize your goals and growth in a tangible way? Create a vision board.
11. Constantly striving for positive self-perception
Positive self-perception is an intentional, learned behavior. Recognize when negative thoughts are creeping in and repeat a mantra to remind yourself of your purpose and confidence.
About our source
Brittany Bate, Ph.D., has a doctorate in Clinical Psychology, with an emphasis in forensic psychology and assessment, from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. Dr. Bate has significant experience providing court-ordered assessment and therapeutic services at the state and federal level and is comfortable in the provision of expert testimony. At present, Dr. Bate is the Founder/Owner of Be BOLD Psychology and Consulting, offering clinical and forensic services throughout North Carolina via a telehealth platform. Dr. Bate works with folx of all ages, and provides individual, group, family, and relationship therapy. Dr. Bate enjoys working with folx from the gender-diverse and/or queer communities and specializes in providing treatment for trauma, grief, loss, and addiction. You can learn more about Dr. Bate at https://beboldpsychnc.com.