The importance of reflected appraisal (& a good self-image)

The importance of reflected appraisal (& a good self-image)

In this article, we explain both the importance of reflected appraisal and a good self-image. We answer questions such as:  Why do we compare ourselves with others? Why does the opinion of others about ourselves matter? And where does our self-image come from?

What does Reflected Appraisal mean?

The reflected appraisal is considered one of the key factors in the development of the self-concept. The term refers to a process where we imagine how people see us. In many cases, the way we think others perceive us is the way we perceive ourselves. 

Charles Horton Cooley (1902) spoke of the concept and called it “reflection of the self“. Cooley said that we always imagine what others think of us and the result influences our own evaluation.

Self-image influences our behaviours. When you have a good self-image you can achieve your goals because a good self-image gives you the enthusiasm, energy and determination necessary for this and the obstacles are perceived as challenges that must be overcome to achieve the goals. 

The importance of reflected appraisal (& a good self-image)

A well-reflected appraisal or psychological capital makes you relate harmoniously with others, by achieving goals you can have professional performance, social success, etc.

A negative reflected appraisal makes you lose your motivation or even annihilates it by lack of self-confidence (“what’s the point of trying any way I won’t succeed”, “it’s hard”, “I’m not able” etc.) leading, further, to avoidance behaviours (“I don’t go to the interview because I’m not good enough, so it doesn’t make sense …”).

Notice that a negative self-image is able to create a vicious circle from which it is difficult for the person to get out: he does not do certain things because he does not believe in his ability and after giving up doing those things he blames himself and criticizes himself. even stronger, thus strengthening his negative beliefs about himself and fueling negative inner dialogue.

In conclusion: when you give yourself enough value, you reach your goals more easily because you have self-confidence, in your own strength it makes you mobilize exactly the resources you need to overcome obstacles and go in the desired direction; when you don’t give yourself enough value, you negotiate weaker, you communicate harder, you act with more fear or you avoid acting and “you put yourself on wheels”. When you don’t value yourself, you annihilate the resources you would need to do something.

One should value themselves, but they shouldn’t overestimate themselves neither think of themselves as superior to others. When one thinks this way, it is called Dunning-Kruger Effect.

Why do we compare ourselves with others?

We have an intense need to evaluate ourselves and for it, we must compare ourselves with others (Festinger, 1954). Social comparison is something we should or should not do, in a controlled and rational way, in order to arrive at an objective evaluation of our personal qualities.

We compare ourselves to others for various reasons and often interpret information about others in a biased way to feel good. We make comparisons for the better, by knowing how others do better or how they deal with difficult circumstances, we are more likely to do better ourselves. 

Another reason we compare ourselves with others is to favour ourselves; that is, when comparing ourselves with people that do not perform well, we define ourselves better by contrast.

The importance of reflected appraisal (& a good self-image)

Reflected appraisal contributes to the evaluation of reality

When you have a good self-image you can say: “I can do this or at least I can try” when you have a negative self-image you say: “I can’t do this is too hard, I won’t be able to“.

The difference is that the one with a good self-image will have the opportunity to prove whether he can or not, developing realistic beliefs about himself through a correct perception of abilities and weaknesses. The one with the negative self-image will only have the opportunity to close in the vicious circle described above, thus strengthening his negative beliefs.

Why does the opinion of others matter?

Although the self-image is our reflection in our own consciousness (self-reflection), being logical to have an internal reference, the self-image is often supported or sabotaged by external factors.

The question “Why do the opinions of others matter” would be more logical in the form “For whom does the opinion of others matter?” 

The answer is simple: the opinion of others matters for those who have not consolidated their self-image and, specifically, for those who, basically, do not have a good self-image, constantly needing to relate to the outside. 

When they are successful they feel good but for a short time, become addicted to success in order to feel good and when they fail they blame themselves excessively. They live in permanent uncertainty and anxiety, being always vulnerable because their self-image is dependent on external factors. 

This explains the different “trends” that affect adolescents: if the external reality requires you to be weak and you are uncertain about your self-image, you will understand that you are good and accepted if you are weak, but that never fully satisfies you. because being basically dissatisfied with yourself or uncertain about you, you will never be weak enough.

The importance of reflected appraisal (& a good self-image)

Where does our self-image come from?

The basics of how we perceive ourselves come from childhood when we still do not have a value system to refer to. We only have the opinion of the parents towards our documents. 

Parents are the first people who can appreciate us for what we do or penalize us for the wrong things. For example, an extremely critical attitude of the parents makes the child understand that he is not good enough, that “he is not perfect”.

An extremely permissive attitude with exaggerated praise and lack of penalties makes the future “man” have an extremely good self-opinion but the exaggerated and unrealistic fact that will be “severely penalized” in his future relationships, as mentioned above.

These are just two extreme parental attitudes that can orient the self-image in one direction or another, there are others but again they are not the subject of this material.

In conclusion: the balance between criticism and praise is primarily the responsibility of parents, so children and future adults will know to maintain it.

Parents are also the first to plant inside their children the basics of the value system to which they will relate, being adults, when they will shape their self-image.

A child when he is born does not have the notion of good or bad, it is good what the mother appreciates and bad what he criticizes and, yes, the quoted person is right in a way: it is not necessary for the mother to verbally criticize an action of the child but to make it clear to her that she is stupid (the same abuse manifested in another way).

Of course, children will have to be “clarified” about what is good and bad, but otherwise, in addition, this is the age at which the foundations of self-esteem and self-image are laid (0 – 3 years), when, I repeat the child being a purely emotional entity cannot reason right/wrong only after the reactions of the parents. 

The importance of reflected appraisal (& a good self-image)

What can we do about it?

If the inner dialogue mentioned above “sabotages” us, we can ask ourselves in our inner forum: “in fact, whose inner voice is it: of the mother, of the father, of another person important to us in childhood?” This is an absolutely necessary first step but not enough. 

It is recommended for an effective result to explore these questions and answers with the help of a specialist, a psychotherapist because self-esteem is not built suddenly, it is not an easy process especially if the self-image is severely affected, but represents a complex and long process, in which the fundamental element is the desire and ability to take care of oneself.

But until you decide to turn to a specialist there are a few things you can do:

  • make a list of your achievements so far; 
  • analyze objectively what qualities you used to achieve them; 
  • “celebrate” any success, praise yourself for accomplishing anything, turn failure; into feedback: rather than blaming yourself for failing, better analyze what went wrong and you can improve in the future or what you did wrong and not repeat in the future. 
  • start with small steps, big steps can unbalance you.

If you are the kind of person who avoids acting for fear of not failing and postpones things for the same reason, I suggest you make a daily list of some easy-to-achieve goals, then at the end of the day analyze what went well and what didn’t, taking thus, decisions accordingly for the next day.

After a month of such practice, set bigger and longer-term goals. Be patient and persevere in this technique, you will take small but safe and stable steps. Achieving personal goals, no matter how small, contributes to strengthening self-esteem and improving self-image, thus your reflected appraisal. 

The importance of reflected appraisal (& a good self-image)

FAQ about the reflected appraisal

What does a reflected appraisal mean?

A reflected appraisal is considered one of the key factors in the development of the self-concept. The term refers to a process where we imagine how people see us. In many cases, the way we think others perceive us is the way we perceive ourselves. 

What is self-concept in psychology?

The concept of self is generally thought of as individual perceptions of our unique behaviour, abilities, and characteristics. It is essentially a mental picture of who you are as a person. For example, beliefs such as “I am a good friend” or “I am a good person” are part of a general concept of self.

What is a positive self-concept?

A positive self-concept means a good self-image. You can easily achieve your goals because a good self-image gives you the enthusiasm, energy and determination necessary for this and the obstacles are perceived as challenges that must be overcome to achieve the goals. 

What are the types of self-concept?

The types of self-concept, according to Carl Rogers are self-image, self-esteem and the ideal self. 

Conclusions

In this article, we explained both the importance of reflected appraisal and a good self-image. We answered questions such as:  Why do we compare ourselves with others? Why does the opinion of others about ourselves matter? And where does our self-image come from?

Self-image influences our behaviours. When you have a good self-image you can achieve your goals because a good self-image gives you the enthusiasm, energy and determination necessary for this and the obstacles are perceived as challenges that must be overcome to achieve the goals. 

A well-reflected appraisal makes you relate harmoniously with others, by achieving goals you can have professional performance, social success, etc.

In conclusions, social comparison is something we should or should not do, in a controlled and rational way, in order to arrive at an objective evaluation of our personal qualities.

If you have any comments or questions on the content, please let us know!

Further reading

Concepts of the Self (Key Concepts), by Anthony Elliott

Self-Concept: Developmental, Social, and Clinical Considerations (Wiley Series on Personality Processes), by Bracken 

The Therapist’S Use Of Self (Core Concepts in Therapy), by John Rowan  

Overcoming Low Self-Esteem, 2nd Edition: A self-help guide using cognitive behavioural techniques (Overcoming Books), by Dr Melanie Fennell 

References

Verywellmind.com – Reflected Appraisal Process and Self Concept

Psycnet.apa.org -Reflected appraisal through a 21st-century looking glass.

Jstor.org – Reflected Appraisals and Self-Esteem

The importance of reflected appraisal (& a good self-image)

Nadejda Romanciuc

Nadejda Romanciuc holds a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and a diploma in Addiction studies. She is part of the Romanian Association of Integrative Psychotherapy as a psychotherapist under supervision. She's practicing online counselling for over two years and is a strong advocate for mental health.