Small study, big resultsAs part of my life coaching course I was asked to create a questionnaire to test self-perception in terms of how this impacts on life satisfaction. The questionnaire had to have 20 statements and a scoring system for each statement from ‘strongly agree’ to ‘strongly disagree’. I then had to send out the questionnaire to five or more people and analyse the results.
I was a bit sceptical at first. Surely, in creating such a questionnaire one would need to do a certain amount of research beforehand, in order to develop questions that really focus on the area you wish to test? I felt like I was coming up with my statements pretty much at random and I wondered if they would work. Some of my question statements were:
- When I have to do something in front of other people, I mess up.
- A person should be able to figure out their own problems and not have to ask for help.
- Some people are simply better off alone.
- I’m nothing special, I don’t have much to offer someone.
- When you reach a certain age, there’s not much you can do to change your life.
- If you’re not born with natural talent, there really isn’t much point in trying to learn a new skill.
- In the end, it really comes down to luck, whether you succeed in life.
Unexpected resultsI was actually amazed by the results. I sent the questionnaire to friends and family, so I know the people who responded.
The thing that really struck me was, how those persons with the strong self-perceptions seemed to correlate directly with their personalities – the more extroverted and outgoing, the stronger the self-perception. Those with the lowest scores were the quiet, sensitive introverts. Even in this small sample it is evident that there is definite a link between personality/temperament/sensitivity and self-perception. The important note to make here, is that having a quiet/introvert/sensitive personality does not cause low self-image. The link I am pointing out, is the influence that, believing one has the 'wrong' personality type, has on self-image.
There have been many studies that show that those with introvert personalities, in an extroverted society tend to have a lower self-image. It is commonly known. Perhaps what surprised me, however, is just how strong this link is. I wasn’t expecting to see the parallel so evident in such a small sample. And this little exercise has turned out to be quite profound and serves to reinforce my reasons for writing this blog and for wanting to become a life coach to help introverts and highly sensitive people break their conditioning and see themselves as truly valid and valuable people.
Society influences self-imageSelf-image comes from how one perceives oneself and how others perceive one. If the majority perceives an individual as weak, of low worth and flawed, then despite the individual’s inner self-esteem they may feel forced to lower their own self-image and this in turn becomes conditioned. So that even when others’ perception of them may have changed, they will still perceive themselves as weak, of low worth and flawed.
Our society is biased towards, praises and encourages the extroverts, the outgoing types, the A-type personalities and undervalues, belittles and even bullies the quiet, introverted minority. It’s no surprise then, that introverts/sensitives tend to have a lower self-image.
You can change your self-image with self-understanding – ‘different’ does not mean ‘not normal’I completed my survey myself, just out of interest and as a ‘control’ study and was interested to see that my self-perception score was 73 – 21 being the lowest possible score and 105 being the highest. This was interesting because I consider myself as an ultra-introvert and highly sensitive person, so I would expect my score to have been much lower in line with the other introverts in my sample – if I had done the questionnaire in my teens/early twenties, it certainly would have been. However, I have spent the last 20 years essentially ‘self-coaching’ myself through reading about personality types, temperament and sensitivity and in the process came to understand why I’m different and improved my own self-perception in that I see myself as quite normal and not inferior or flawed.
It’s all just a matter of opinionEleanor Roosevelt said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." I struggled with this statement when I was a teen – I tried to withhold my consent, but when everyone tells you that you’re inferior, it’s hard not to believe them. So let me say this, "Inferiority is a matter of opinion, and opinion is exactly that – an opinion; there is no right or wrong opinion. Don’t let the opinion of others define you, no matter how many share that opinion."
The danger of believing the opinions of othersNot only am I an introvert and highly sensitive, but I also have a condition that causes me to suffer from headaches. I went all through my childhood and teens complaining about the headaches to my parents, teachers and various family doctors. They were always brushed off as 'just stress', 'hormone changes' 'being unfit' and simply 'all in the head'. And so I became conditioned to believe that I was over-reacting, that what I was experiencing was nothing out of the ordinary since 'everyone gets headaches', and so by the time I reached adulthood I stopped complaining and simply accepted chronic pain as normal.
Finally, when I was 35 after a particularly hard bang to the head when I knocked against a shelf, my headaches intensified to excruciating and I visited yet another doctor who finally took me seriously and sent me off to a specialist. I was quickly diagnosed and underwent minor brain surgery several months later. This condition is usually picked up in childhood, but because I was seen an 'overly sensitive' child, my pleas for help were seen as dramatic ploys for attention. So, again, I reiterate - believe in yourself - believing the opinions of others may not only damage your self-worth but may even put your health at risk.