Dealing with problems of self-esteem and self-image is common for most addicts of all sorts. How you think and feel about yourself is what is involved in your self-image. It is closely tied to your self-esteem. How you feel about your looks, your talents, and your abilities is part of your self-image.

You get the foundation for your self-image from people in your family of origin, usually your parents. They should validate your worth, your feelings, your thoughts, and be models for how to deal effectively with life’s problems and for how to enjoy life’s pleasures. Addicts usually uncover some deficits when looking honestly at these sources for their self-image. One reason is addiction in parents or other family members.

When you are genetically predisposed to addiction, and you have these deficits, you are a sitting duck for something that initially makes you feel better, like alcohol, drugs, eating, or relationships. But the alcohol or drugs soon begin to cause problems in relationships. Weight gain or other problems with bingeing, purging, or starving degrade your feelings about your body and your worth as a person. The loss of control and increasing shame and fear only call attention to your already fragile sense of worth. Dealing with your problems with self-image and self-esteem becomes an integral part of your recovery.


An accurate assessment of your strengths and your areas that need improvement can be a valuable tool in recovery. Every aspect of your life, physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual, will affect your self-image.


Many recovery activities, like working on shame and guilt, sorting out emotional issues, dealing with abuse and incest, and codependency recovery, can help with self-image.


Many addicts find the use of affirmations very helpful in improving self-image. Accepting compliments graciously, not putting yourself down, and behaving in a way that is self-loving and self-affirming -- all these are important.


If you are not already, you need to begin choosing to have relationships with people who will treat you with respect and love. Being around people who criticize or put you down makes it hard to feel good about yourself.

Body Image

For many addicts, especially eating and sex addicts, body image improvement can help with self-image. See the Body Image module.


Identifying problems in the area of self-image can be a part of your Fourth Step Inventory. Then you have the tools of Steps Six and Seven to use for improvement. A better self-image will be the natural consequence of using the Twelve Steps in your life.

Self-image, see also: Abuse, Acceptance, Adolescents, Al-Anon & Alateen, Amends, Anorexia nervosa, Assertiveness, Behavior, Body image, Children of addicts, Codependency, Dichotomous thinking, Disease concept, Emotional aspects, Enabling, Family, Family of origin, Forgiveness, Guilt & shame, Humility, Humor & fun, Incest, Intimacy, Obsession, Prayer & meditation, Recovery, Relationships, Resentments, Spiritual aspects, Survival roles.

Updated 7 Sep 2015

Creative Commons License
Addictionary 2 by Jan & Judy Wilson

is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.