How our psychological wounds affect our self-image

We all develop some psychological wounds as we go through our childhood and teenage years. Even if parents, teachers and other caregivers did their best to raise a child in healthy circumstances, still there are some inescapable societal influences that pummel the mind of an individual.

Childhood and teenage are crucial periods in the psychological development of a person. It’s primarily during this time that one gets to develop one’s self-concept and identity. It’s during this time that one’s psyche gets loaded with emotional wounds as a result of the experiences that one goes through.

When a person steps out of his teenage years, the kind of personality that he develops largely helps him cover up/compensate/heal these psychological wounds.

In other words, he develops a personality that helps him to move away from the identity that he hates. He projects that identity to the world which is a polar opposite of the identity that he hates; he projects that identity to the world which helps him hide his psychological wounds.

The mind and its associations

Our mind associates our negative traits with our looks. This is an important fact to remember because it explains why some people dislike their looks. Media and societal stereotyping also play a key role in this. We all have developed prejudices about certain types of appearances that make us judge ourselves and others.

When we meet someone for the first time, we make snap judgements about their character and personality that may turn out to be false later on, as we get to know them better.

For example, if you saw a guy on the street wearing chains, leather jacket and khaki pants and has tattoos all over his body, you might assume that he’s a rockstar, a rapper or a gangster. You won’t develop the same impression about a guy who’s wearing specs and a black suit.

“He is a sales executive or a CEO or a stockbroker”, you might think. Thing is, it’s not only clothes that let us form such impressions but also the facial features and body types. For example, if you saw a really big guy with large muscles, you might assume that he’s a wrestler, a gym addict or a rugby player.

These snap judgements help us make quick decisions about the people we meet, so that we may easily distinguish potential enemies from potential friends.

If snap judgements matter so much and a person is trying to get rid of an identity, he’ll do his best to project the opposite identity. But what if his looks keep reminding him of his loathed identity? What if his looks expose the very wounds he wants to hide?

Obviously, he won’t like his looks, specifically those aspects of his looks that are associated with the identity that he’s trying to get rid of.

A couple of examples

Ahmed was the topper in his class for almost the entire period of his school life. Everyone thought of him as a nerd and no one, except a couple of other nerds, liked to hang out with him because all he talked about was studying, studying and studying.

He wore round spectacles, so peculiar to nerds. Ahmed’s mind associated the criticisms that he received to the way he looked, especially with his peculiar spectacles.

When he got out of school and joined college, Ahmed knew that it was a chance to make new friends and improve his social life because no one here was familiar with his repulsive, nerd identity.

It was at this point of time that he started to dislike his looks. He hated his round spectacles because they always reminded him of his nerd identity, an old wound that he so badly wanted to hide. Eventually, he got rid of his spectacles and started a new life in college. 

psychological wounds

Mayank was always teased in school for having a chubby face. He was always bullied by his classmates who often called him ‘baby-face’. As a result, Mayank developed low self-esteem and believed that he was as weak as a baby.

Consequently, he developed a strong need to become physically strong (see subconscious goals). Fast forward to his early twenties…

Mayank was one day working out in the gym. While checking out his big muscles in the mirror, his friend playfully remarked, “Dude, great body! I only wish you could do something about that baby face, haha”. Mayank became furious and shouted at his friend, warned him and left the place.